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Social Order (Foucault And Goffman) Essay

1651 words - 7 pages

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 social interactions, whereas for Foucault, individuals are a result of patterns emerging from history.
Erving Goffman is interested in human relations on a micro-social level. In his investigations, he draws on observations of people in a context of their surroundings and mutual encounters. According to him, social order develops through people themselves. Silva argues that his approach views society as 'nothing other than people living their lives', and as 'a construction produced by the actions and interactions of many individuals' (Silva, 2009, p. 316). Thus, social order is based on myriad situations, creating patterns through clashes, cooperation, communication, avoidance and any other type of human expressions. Goffman (1971, 1972) assesses social order from an observer point of view. Thus, his study is personalised, showing how face-to-face meetings and projections of behaviour build society and its orderliness. This ethnographic method allows him to apply an intuitive and empathic approach, while preserving a scientific merit.
In contrast, Michel Foucault applies a macro-social approach, observing historical processes that form social order through established power structures and knowledge. In The Archaeology of...

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