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The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life
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The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  2,159 ratings  ·  90 reviews
A study of human behavior in social situations and the way we appear to others. Dr. Goffman has employed as a framework the metaphor of theatrical performance. Discussions of social techniques are based upon detailed research and observation of social customs in many regions.
Paperback, 259 pages
Published May 20th 1959 by Anchor Books (first published January 1st 1959)
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Community Reviews

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Trevor
I’m probably going to say something a little daft about this book – but I do think two things: Goffman really didn’t need to be quite so squeamish about his central metaphor of ‘all the world’s a stage’ and he should have started with something he said in his conclusion and worked out from there. That is, that there are five ways you can come to understand an enterprise: technically (what’s it trying to achieve and how does it go about achieving it?), politically (who has power and how do they g ...more
Cat
Aug 23, 2007 Cat rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: students of human behavior.
I'm not a student of sociology or psychology, but I can't seem to stay away from the work of Erving Goffman. This is the third book by Goffman that I've read (others: Stigma, Asylums). In this book, Goffman elucidates a "dramaturgical" theory of self, which he claims is an additional method of explaining human action.
First caveat, I've not read any books by Talcott Parsons, or Manheim, and there were several sections in this book that were heavy enough in theory to make me give up. Despite thes
...more
Hadrian
"All the world's a stage,
and all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts."
-Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII

Goffman is saying here what Jacques said in Shakespeare, except in more technical language and with more examples. Jacques goes on about the Seven Ages of Man, but Goffman continues the extended metaphor of the theater, describing human social interaction as comprised of roles, and human identity as b
...more
Heidy
Great book for those interested in social interactions. After reading it, it will force you to consciously consider why people behave the way they do, or why you yourself do. Be forewarned, it will disappoint your view of mankind as well. You come to recognize that humans are often limited by how they believe others perceive of them. It's definitely a book that will leave you seeking a higher reason for living, which in the end is a pretty good thing. :)
Anthony D Buckley
I always felt that the reason so few sociologists took up Goffman's ideas was that they (the sociologists)were not good enough. I certainly felt this myself for about twenty years, and even when I did begin to use his ideas, it was in fear and trembling. Goffman was a phenomenon. The Presentation of Self is particular book was a real tour de force, probably his best book, though the later ones are wonderful too. Its central theme is familiar enough from Shakespeare - "All the world's a stage" - ...more
Krista Danis
Contrary to many of the reviews listed, I think Goffman's examination of social interaction as presentation is increasingly relevant in the consumer/citizen, capitalist culture we have created for ourselves in the Western, developed world. The performances we offer now are less representative and more detatched from a possible truth than the more romanticized presentations considered by Goffman.

Influenced, in part, by the work of Simone De Beauvoir, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life draw
...more
Oleg Kagan
I may be ignorant, but it seems to me that The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life was the very first book to propose, in social science at the very least, the examination of behavior using the dramaturgical metaphor. And Erving Goffman presents the idea with gusto, structuring, breaking down, and presenting our roles as individuals, in teams, and everywhere in between. I intend, for my own edification, to outline The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, but it is enough to say at this point ...more
Andy Oram
I read this classic sociological text at the recommendation of a
friend, because I was researching identity online. The book was quite
useful to provide some frameworks for understanding the presentation
of self online. But it's a rather distasteful work: personally, I
don't see my entire life as a performance and everyone around me as an
audience as he wants me to do (he calls this attitude his
"dramaturgical perspective"). Furthermore, the book was published in
1959, just before the social revolution
...more
dsneaks
I had to read this for my Contemporary Social Theory course. I didn't enjoy this book as much as everyone was making it sound like I would. I went into reading this book with huge expectations, about loving this book and how he relates things. I enjoyed how he makes things relatable to life with his examples. It makes the concepts he talks about easier to understand and conceptualize.
Joe Juarez
I think this book served as a huge reminder that people act in different ways depending on the audience. The audience could be friends, family members, classmates, teachers, or coworkers. Each audience changes, meaning that the performer has to change too.
Alexandra
This is a highly insightful book on the performative nature of social interactions. It also reveals the severe restrictions on acceptable middle class behavior in the 1950s. Accessible and engaging and you don't have to be a sociology nerd to enjoy it.
Liz
I was assigned this in a drama class and although I dropped out of the class, hung onto the book as a "to-be-read". Finished it late in life and kicked myself for it. Offers invaluable insight on behaviour and perception.
Ben
An excellent look at social interactions, bringing us the notion of dramaturgical analysis. All the world is a stage, as Shakespeare wrote.
Greg
Apr 18, 2007 Greg rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Great book on how people create images of who they are, and how interpersonal communication is inherently dramatic in form.
James Pickles
I thought this was a very good read. I love the metaphor of a theatre to symbolise everyday social interaction; Goffman's dramaturgical analysis made sense and had me relaying many experiences of my own life as patterned performances.

I don't think this is very accessible to lay educated audiences though. Goffman isn't the clearest of writers and I think he can become incredibly convoluted in parts often resulting in my reading several pages and having to re-read them in order to grasp at what he
...more
Kevin Flynn
I think this is a great book to explain the way that people carry themselves in the world. This book is the great grand daddy to Daniel Pink, Chuck Klosterman, Malcolm Gladwell and many other social-esque authors. This book explains wonderfully how perception is a mask we wear, a color we paint in, a lock box we hide our true selves in. People see only what we allow them to see. I wrote my Senior Seminar dissertation on this book. It was a great read....might be re reading it soon with the way F ...more
Tyler
Dec 02, 2014 Tyler rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: High-status Persons
Recommended to Tyler by: Book's Reputation
Shelves: non-fiction
This characterization of our self-presentation as analogous to a theatrical performance has a few interesting points to make, but the examples are dated and the social situations depicted often no longer occur or take place in a context of refinement not ordinarily encountered.

People who like this book might also like a literary treatment of exactly the same subject. For them I recommend The Damnation of Theron Ware: Or Illumination.
Nana
my handbook when I finished my thesis.
this book is kind of manual of life.
Fred R
I have met people who didn't seem to have a "backstage."
Billie Pritchett
Perhaps the reason TV and film depicting human drama is so appealing is because these depictions are in idealized form imitations of certain impression that people wish to convey in everyday life. Erving Goffman's Presentation of Self in Everyday Life explores the idea that even though dramatic TV and film might be cases of art imitating life, it might be helpful thinking of ourselves as actors on a social stage with respect to our jobs and public lives. To varying degrees, we are trying to mana ...more
Rlotz
My favorite part of this book is the cover. The presentation of the book in everyday life.

My second favorite part of this book is the author’s name, which is fun to say repeatedly in foreign accents.

My third favorite part of this book was the body of the work itself, which is, indeed, brilliant, and contains innumerable insightful gems for the social scientist or layman. The book is propelled along by an array of interesting examples taken from sociology, ethnography, literature, and philosophy.
...more
Nicholas
I'm not sure I learned anything new here,or just had what I already knew presented to me in a semi-academic fashion,reinforced by some amusing situational references and quotes from obscure sources regarding etiquette.The main subject of the book deals with the study of face to face human interaction presented as a performer to audience relationship.The complexities of teamwork are considered,as well as concepts such as 'front' and 'backstage' and how impressions are communicated that foster id ...more
Karel Inamsterdam
This classic is a real eye opener. It is always pleasant to find a book in which the author manages to explain a complex matter in an easy to comprehend fashion. I would strongly recommend this book which can have a huge impact on how you interact and view interaction in general in your daily life.
Michael Tabman
The title of this book says it all. We all present ourselves in public to reflect the image we wish for others to see. As an armchair social-psychologist, I enjoyed Goffman's unraveling of our human nature. To understand your opponent's "act" is to be able to guess his next move - the very essence of game theory. As this was written circa 1959, the data, studies and even writing style is a bit outdated, making it a little difficult to stay engaged at times.

If you enjoyed this, you should enjoy
...more
Oxy
Structuralist extremism that rejects the very existence of self.
Identifies the equivalent of self as the total mass of masks worn in the different roles played throughout life i.e. the sum of social encounters one has had thus far. This also means the self is in a state of perpetual change depending on the “casting” of life or in other words the social situations creates the very essence of man and thus conceptualizes his being “through the eyes of the other”. It is impossible according to Goffm
...more
Stephen
READ AUG 2011

Excellent work on the social interaction between individuals and how "activity is transformed into a show" (p. 34). Goffman describes how individuals take on roles, perform behaviors, and manage the impressions others have of them. Best quote, "whatever it is that generates the human want for social contact and for companionship, the effect seems to take two forms: a need for an audience before which to try out one's vaunted selves, and a need for teammates with whom to enter into c
...more
Paul
The pioneering work in dramaturgical sociology
Tom
I've wanted to read this book since I discovered Goffman as a student at Sheffield and so when I finally managed to get hold of the book I had high expectations. I must admit that I was a little disappointed. I thought the book would give me some kind of deep understanding into the psychology of public interaction but in fact it is a very sociological study. Goffman simply lists people's behaviours and then attempts to explain them.

Having said that, I would recommend this book to anyone with an
...more
Erin Reilly-Sanders
I like the idea of the metaphor of presenting self as acting a part upon a stage and Goffman's extension of this metaphor but it eventually breaks down and applies only well only to institutions. It's ideas are also very dated so I would recommend reading scholars who have built upon Goffman's work rather than Goffman. As an alternative to struggling through this thing, the wikipedia page on dramaturgy is pretty good and links to http://ssr1.uchicago.edu/NEWPRE/CULT9... which is an excellent sum ...more
Jeremy
Feels a bit dated and sexist by current standards, but Goffman's theatrical metaphor of symbolic interaction is still fascinating. Sure, it lacks the hard quantitative evidence that would really cement it as an idea, but when have symbolic interactionists ever cared about data sets? Goffman's writing is theoretical, but could easily be understood by a layman (which I most definitely am). Much of the individual observations will seem rather self-evident, but hey, someone had to codify how it work ...more
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This BOOK IS AWESOME!!! 2 48 Oct 24, 2013 12:24PM  
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Erving Goffman (June 11, 1922 – November 19, 1982) was a Canadian-born sociologist and writer.

Considered "the most influential American sociologist of the twentieth century" (Fine, Manning, and Smith 2000:ix), as a subjective analyst, Goffman's greatest contribution to social theory is his study of symbolic interaction in the form of dramaturgical analysis that began with his 1959 book The Present
...more
More about Erving Goffman...
Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates Interaction Ritual - Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience Behavior in Public Places

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“And to the degree that the individual maintains a show before others that he himself does not believe, he can come to experience a special kind of alienation from self and a special kind of wariness of others.” 28 likes
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