Critical appreciation: Erving Goffman; The presentation of self in everyday life.
Erving Goffman was one of the most important Sociologists in the 20th century who focussed his study on aspects of social life. It is often argued that Goffman was “one of the twentieth century’s most remarkable practitioners of social science” (Smith, 2006:1). He was born on the 11th June 1922 in Alberta, Canada. His parents were Jewish and part of the group of Ukrainians who moved to Canada before the beginning of the First World War. Initially Goffman studied Chemistry before moving to the University of Toronto to study Anthropology and Sociology where he gained an understanding in Durkheim, Warner, Freud and Parsons. Goffman’s wife killed herself
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Also Talcott Parsons whose work on stratification may have inspired him to focus on social interaction. Parsons was a structural functionalist and part of his worked looked at how a system adapted to its environment. As we know Presentation of self in everyday life looks at how individuals adapt in different scenarios of social interaction so he may have gained some inspiration from Parsons in that aspect. Emile Durkheim is one of the founders of Sociology and someone Goffman would have looked up to. Goffman makes it clear there are a set of standards which individuals are expected to follow which he describes similarly to how Durkheim did to religion; “as an expressive rejuvenation and reaffirmation of the moral values of the community”. There are links in their work particular around the concept of “spontaneity” which is to be spontaneous but to come from natural feelings. Within The presentation of self “spontaneity” is brought up by Goffman as an element of the “performance” to make it seem life-life and real, not entirely artificial. In Durkheim’s The division of labour in society he looks at a model of spontaneity although it is about labour it looks at a type of social interaction "finely articulated organisation in which each social value...is appreciated at its true worth" (Durkheim) implying each individual has to conform within the social