Compare and Contrast Two Social Science Views about the Odering of Social Life

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Without knowing it, social order is very important in everyday life. As Elizabeth Silva says ‘social order is a key principle of living together’ (Reflections on Ordered Lives, 2009, Audio). The ordering of social life can be looked at in many ways. However, two theories stand out when looking at the making of social order, that of Erving Goffman and Michel Foucault. Both of these theories are concerned with how society is produced and, more specifically, how social order is made and remade. While the two theories aim to understand a broad picture of understanding society, they do so in very different ways. They both split the big questions down into smaller ones, Goffman looks at how an individual creates order, and Foucault looks at how discourse does. The two theories are both very different yet similar in many ways. This makes them interesting to compare and contrast, something this essay will aim to do. Erving Goffman (1959, 1971 and 1972) developed several theories that aim to understand how social order is created. His main interest was with how people’s everyday interactions connected to the creating of social order. (Silva, 2009, p.316). Michel Foucault (1972, 1977 and 1978) was also interested in the making of social order; however he focused on the people who have what he called ‘authoritative knowledge’, and the people who put this knowledge to work in social institutions. Each of these theories attempts to answer their questions, they use the evidence they gathered to make claims and develop concepts and theories to understand how order is made in society. (Silva, 2009, p.319). The questions that Goffman is concerned with are how people intuit the roles that they and others have to play, how do they know that in ... ... middle of paper ... ...order as a whole. Works Cited ‘Reflections on Ordered Lives’ (2009) DD101 Introducing the Social Sciences. [online]. Available at (Accessed May 2014). Silva, E.B. (2009) ‘Making Social Order’ in Taylor, S., Hinchcliffe, S., Clarke, J. and Bromley, S. (eds), Making Social Lives. Milton Keynes, The Open University. Staples, M., Meegan, J., Jeffries, E. and Bromley S. (2012) ‘Learning Companion 2’, Introducing the Social Sciences, Milton Keynes, The Open University. The Open University (2009) DD101 Introducing the Social Sciences, ‘Online Activity 23 – Constructing a social science argument: the circuit of knowledge 4.’ [online]. Available at (Accessed May 2014).
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