Goffman’s sociological approach

Sociology is the study of social behavior and the diversity and commonality of characteristics in individuals. It also entails investigating social activities, experiences, and patterns to establish a theory that describes how things operate (Adam, 2001). The problems and details that the idea is supposed to explain and the complexity of the approach. Macro-level views, also known as grand theories, are concerned with broad-scale issues and large numbers of individuals, and they attempt to understand how societies shape and evolve. On the other hand, micro-level theories try to explain how small groups and individuals interact (Turner, 1991). These famous social theorists mainly focused on understanding the new social world(Durkheim, 1984). Their sociological approaches were mainly concerned with large scale, macro sociology and structured social phenomena. The methods were developed in the late 19th and early 20th century, a period when the social world was transforming into a modern, urban, secular and industrial society.

Macro-level theories have two theoretical and philosophical frameworks that are used in the formulation of its theories; these are structural functionalism and conflict theory.Functionalism dealt with how the different inter-related parts of the society work together to meet the biological and social needs of the society as a whole(Farganis, 1993). In contrast, conflict theory focuses on the difference and inequalities of individual and how the contribute to social differences.

Each of the three sociology theorists had his unique approach, but the all had a common perspective that made sociology an academic discipline. Emile Durkheim, a French sociologist, studied the functionalism theory and used it to explain how societies change and survive over time(Durkheim, 1984).Emile also considered the social factors that affected suicide although in many cases suicide was deemed an individual phenomenon. Marx and Webber identified with the conflict theory perceptive. Marx perceived the society as being made up of individual who must compete for resources due to their economic inequalities. Webber agreed with Marx but also believed that political differences exist in addition to the economic disparities.

During the same period, late 19th century and early 20th century, the sociologist in North American had a different perspective from that of macro sociology. These social theorists focused on understanding the basis of social interaction among individuals claiming that these interactions were the heart of the social world and social structure that created and maintained societies (Goffman, 1958). Irving Goffman, a Canadian sociologist also shared this interaction perspective also referred to as micro-sociological perspective which examined meaning, action and interaction of individuals at the micro level.

Goffman together with his fellow sociologists like Herbert Blumer and George Hebert focused symbolic interactionism, a micro level theory. Their perspective saw people as active participants in shaping the social world rather than merely being acted upon(Goffman, 1958).Goffman develops a technique called the dramaturgical analysis that used theatre as a depiction of social interaction. Symbolic interactionism used quantitative research methods with the aim of better understanding the symbolic world.

The two perspectives, macro and micro-level theory, have a clear difference but they both play a significant part in sociology.

References

Adams, B. N., and Sydie R. A.(2001). Sociological Theory. Thousand Oaks, California: Pine Forge Press.

Durkheim, E. (1984). The Division of Labor in Society.New York: Free Press

Farganis, J. (1993). Readings in Social Theory: the classic Tradition to Post- Modernism. New york: McGraw-Hill Press.

Goffman, E. (1958). The Presentation of Self in Everyday life .Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh, Social Science Research Centre.

Turner, T. T. (1991). The Structure of Sociological Theory. Wadsworth, California

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