Symbolic interactionism and Psycho analytical theories:

Compare and contrast Goffman’s Symbolic Interactionism theory with Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalytic theory as related to the interaction of an individual in society.
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1.Goffman’s theory of Symbolic Interactionism:
Erving Goffman was one of the most important sociologists in the twentieth century. His theory of Symbolic Interactionsim revolves around central themes such as Management of stigma, dramaturgy, impression management and interaction order.
(1) Management of stigma:Goffman has analyzed the interpersonal management of stigma. Goffman defines a “stigma” as a ‘deeply discrediting’ attribute in the context of a set of relationships (1963:3). He distinguished three typesof stigmas such as: abominations of the body, blemishes of character and tribal stigmata (1963:4). The focus of his analysis was primarily the stigmatized person’s techniques of ‘information control’ by which discrediting, undisclosed, information could be managed. Goffman recognizes that we try to manage any potentially damaging information that is critical for three aspects of our identity namely, the ‘personal’, the ‘social’ and the ‘ego’. Each of us are unique individuals due to our personal identity; it consists of ‘identity pegs’ (such as fingerprints) and life histories (1963:57). Our social identity is what we reflect about ourselves to others through the nature of groups to which we belong. Our ego identity refers to what we think about ourselves. Goffman introduced the term ‘identity politics’ to characterize the interactions between the stigmatized, the ‘normals’ and the ‘own’ (who understand the world of the stigmatized without being stigmatized themselves). Goffman opines that we are all, to a certain extent, stigmatized. We are ‘discreditable’ if we are not already ‘discredited’. Thus, there exists a continuum between normals and the stigmatized. Among the stigmatized are ‘normal deviants’ who share the perspectives of normals and ‘social deviants’ who rebel against conventions. Thus, as human beings, we try to manage our stigma and reflect a completely different picture of ourselves to the world around us in order to gain and maintain a social identity. People who fail to do so, end up to become social deviants, who are not accepted by the society as they deviate from its set norms and relationships.

(2) Dramaturgy: According to Dramaturgical theory, people make use of concepts that are similar to those of stage performances such as roles, props, scenes, etc. in the course of their day to day interactions. We project images of ourselves on a social stage to be seen in particular ways and to achieve particular ends as a part and parcel of our daily life. In The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959), Goffman has provided a conceptual framework in which any occasion of face-to-face interaction of people can be interpreted as a theatrical performance. On the basis of the ideas of Kenneth Burke, who pioneered a ‘dramatistic’ approach, Goffman developed his own ‘dramaturgical’ investigations based on six themes namely, the performance, the team, the region, discrepant roles, communication out of character and impression management. The Presentation of Self offers re-descriptions of familiar events in which there is a heightened sense of suspicion. According to Goffman’s dramaturgical world, nothing is in accordance of what it seems to be. Dramaturgy potraits all human beings as performers enacting rehearsed lines and roles in places that are carefully constructed in order to maximize the potential for deception. Thus, Goffman opines that we constantly keep trying to deceive others with whom we interact in our daily lives through the process of role play and dramatization.

(3)Impression Management: The main focus of this theme, according to Goffman, is to manage the impressions regarding ourselves in the eyes of others. We as humans use this theme to control the way in which we are perceieved by others. Impression management is a form of motivation for us to avoid shame or embarassment. It comprises of two main aspects namely, front stage versus back stage. They result in turning our public behaviour into a performance. Goffman opines that we knowingly ‘give’ and unwittingly ‘give off’ impressions. All of us are skilled in the arts of impression management. Thus, we monitor all aspects of the behavior of the people we encounter. We as actors try to deceive others, while seeing through the deceptive practices of others. Goffman’s dramaturgical world leads to the opinion that human behavior in general is to be viewed with suspicion. Thus, he says that all human are well versed with impression management and feel threatened in the face of losing the impression regarding ourselves in the eyes of others. This theme is an extension of Dramaturgy.

(4) The Interaction Order: This theme investigates the face-to-face interaction, which occurs among indivuduals who are primarily unacquainted with one another. It is a conceptual map that we have during every occasion of face-to-face interaction. It covers the behavior that occurs among individuals in places such as restaurants, elevators, stadiums and dinner parties. Infact, all face-to-face interactions need the ‘co-presence’ of participants. During such interactions, people sense that others are close enough to them to be able to register whatever they are doing. Thus, Goffman distinguished three types of co-presence …