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Goffman’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life Essay

Goffman’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life considers how people act in daily life and in different circumstances. He employs the language of theatre to show how humans are ‘social actors’ who take on different roles in different situations and circumstances. Actors have the ability to choose roles and are aware of an audience. Chapter 2 focuses on ‘Teams’. Goffman suggests that people will form teams to support how they present themselves. Like actors on a stage, it is difficult to act alone and to fulfil a desired goal. So people incorporate performance teams.

A team is “a set of individuals who co-operate in staging a single routine” (69). There are 2 kinds of relationships in teams: one is that of reciprocal dependency where each member must depend on the other to achieve their goal or stage their ‘show’ and the other is that of reciprocal familiarity where ‘members are in the know’ and they work together to ‘maintain’ the appearance. A team therefore is not necessarily an organisation or social structure but a group of performers coming together to sustain a definition of a situation which tries to claim what ‘reality’ is (e. g. political parties for an upcoming election).

In order to achieve something, all members must observe a ‘principle of unanimity’. Interaction between groups is always about who ‘performs’ and controls the ‘scene’; the other team becomes the ‘audience’. Thus there is always an issue of power – dramatic and directive dominance. Dramatic power is power that is visible but has little reality because somebody else is directing that actor. This person who directs someone else with dramatic power has directive dominance (e. g. Queen of England has dramatic power but no directive power; the Prime Minister has directive dominance).

Sometimes a performer can hold both kinds of power. Questions: 1. Provide some examples of ‘Teams’ that you observe in the everday. Ans: Political parties, business organisations, college fraternities, fan clubs 2. In those examples, what are they ‘staging’ (i. e. what is their task / goal)? Who holds dramatic power? Who has directive dominance? Ans: College fraternities: staging masculinities, teenage identities Business organisations: usually profit gain through transactions Ans: Apple’s Steve Jobs – has both dramatic power and directive dominance


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