A Critical Analysis Of Goffman's Stigma

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Goffman’s Stigma (1963) outlines that if the stigmatised person actively and consciously realigns themselves with society, discredited identity is redeemed. Once Horsley learnt that rule breaking and deviant behaviour received attention (Shahrad 2010), he continued to engage in nonconformist acts to support his narcissistic identity. Horsley made failed attempts at rehabilitation, but was unable to go through the mortification of the self process that Goffman outlines (1961, 1963) because he did not consider himself to have a problem: “The problem with problems is that they imply solutions. And there aren’t any solutions” (Horsley 2007:242). Refusal to engage in a moral career trajectory contributed to the formation of a subjectively
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Social interaction enables people to understand themselves and Horsley learnt who he was not through intimate everyday relationships, but through interaction with a constituted other formed largely of strangers and a public audience. Reflexivity which enables individuals to understand the perspective others have of them is reliant on social interaction and therefore forms bonds between the individual and society. A lack of intimate personal relationships might have caused Horsley’s lack of moral reflection and subsequent inability to align his norms and values with society.

The socialisation of norms as a child explain Horsley’s morality as an adult, he describes his family home as a “lunatic asylum” (2007:36). The internalised value system and role model of his unreliable, drunk, extravagant mother and father formed the points of reference for his view of acceptable behaviour as an adult. The criticism Horsley received for his degenerate behaviour did not cause personal stigmatisation, he was “used to being criticised and sneered at” (Shahrad 2010), but his family background did.
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Furthermore, Horsley’s text reveals non-existent career trajectory, which suggests that reflexivity is perhaps socialisation to moral conformity and identity types. Horsley’s ontology of the self can be related to Hankiss’s theoretical typology of “Self-Absolutory”, of having a bad past and a bad present (1981: 203 – 209). Horsley considers himself in view of how he thinks his family and class background perceive him, by taking the “attitudes of the given social group to which they [he] belong[s]” (Mead [1934] 1967:156). Throughout the autobiography, Horsley discusses himself in negative terms and focusses on negative events in the construction of identity through narrative. Eakin (1999: 87) found that a disrupted family bond causes a narrative of repair, but Horsley used his narrative to justify his choices rather than resolve the past. Furthermore, he satirised his family, undermining their significance in his life. Horsley revealed his mother’s drink driving car accidents and subsequent attempt to drive a lawnmower to an off licence (2007:32), to critique and shame her against the expected social role of mother. In doing so highlighting how

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