Social Order (Foucault and Goffman) Essay

Social Order (Foucault and Goffman) Essay

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Social order derives from an interpretation of a net of relations, symbols and social codes. It creates 'a sense of how individuals all fit together in shared spaces' (Silva, 2009, p. 308), and thus relies on encoding of human behaviour in physical spaces as well as among various individuals. In any society, people must acquire knowledge of how to relate to one another and their environment. Order is then established by a normalisation and standardisation of this knowledge. This essay will examine two views on social order, applied to social sciences, and embodied in everyday life. It will compare and contrast a Canadian sociologist, Erving Goffman, and a French philosopher, Michel Foucault. Through an analysis of these two figures, the text will present different ways of looking at social ordering and individuals' place in a human society. Firstly, it will be shown how Goffman and Foucault approach the subject of social order, finding patterns of behaviour in micro and macro-social realities. Secondly, the essay will explore Goffman's and Foucault's views on underlying characteristics of social order, one drawing on performances, and the other on a reinforced adaptation. Finally, it will be argued that each theorist comments on a perception of the self, and its authenticity as a result of social ordering. In conclusion, it will be clear that order is a set of linked social structures, which cannot be reduced to one single theory.

Micro and macro-social approaches
Goffman and Foucault view social order as a result of socially constructed patterns. However, each thinker derives to these pattern in a distinct way. In other words, both authors identify an invisible social order. For Goffman, this order is a result of s...

... middle of paper ...

...oucault, M. (1972). The Archaeology of Knowledge. New York: Vintage Books.
Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Foucault, M. (1978). The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction. New York: Vintage Books.
Glaskin, M. (2004). ‘Innovation: the end of the white line’, Sunday Times, 22 August [online], (Accessed 12 February 2009).
Goffman, E. (1959). The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York. Anchor Books.
Goffman, E. (1971). Relations in Public. London. Allen Lane.
Goffman, E. (1972). Interaction Ritual. London. Allen Lane.
Silva, E. B. (2009). Chapter 7. Making Social Order. In: Taylor, S., Hinchliffe, S.,Clarke, J. and Bromley, S. (eds.) (2009). Introducing the Social Sciences. Making Social Lives. Milton Keynes: The Open University.

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