Erving Goffman’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life
, published in 1959, provides a detailed descriptive approach to the analysis of the status of the “self” in the society and the meaning in worldly interaction. Being a proponent of symbolic interactionism of Chicago School, basically led by Mead, Blumer and Goffman, he analyzes the component parts of the interactive process. In the other chapters of the book, he explores the group relations discussing the teams in which the audience and performer comes together in common grounds, the impact of environment to the individual identity and the flow of interactive information. This paper attempts to evaluate the first chapter of his book called “Performances”.Symbolic interactionism basically argues that the self is social and the social arises from the interaction of individuals. Goffman follows Mead’s discrepancy between the ‘I’ and ‘me’, the former being the spontaneous self, and the latter being the social constraints within the self, naming this as the discrepancy between the “all-too-human selves and our socialized selves” (1959: 56). Based on his “dramaturgical approach”, he sees the world as a stage, a theatre where the individuals are taking various kinds of roles determined by different situations, and mostly shaped by the interaction with each other.
Then the mode of presentation employed by the actor in relation to the broader social context becomes the central point. What he called as performances
take place in daily lives of performers in order to justify themselves as selves
before the others whom he regards as the audience. Actors can only be actors if there appears the audience who watch and clap them or do not like their performances. Self also, can be made only through the existence of the others in mundane interaction. Going back to simple argument of sociology, human beings are social beings so they can’t live without communication or interaction, performance is shaped by environment and audience constructed to provide impressions
that are consonant with the desired goals of the performer. This interaction and socialization process led the individual to construct his/her own social identity and serves as a self-making process.