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The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  4,741 ratings  ·  230 reviews
A notable contribution to our understanding of ourselves. This book explores the realm of human behavior in social situations and the way that we appear to others. Dr. Goffman uses the metaphor of theatrical performance as a framework. Each person in everyday social intercourse presents himself and his activity to others, attempts to guide and control the impressions they ...more
Paperback, 259 pages
Published May 20th 1959 by Anchor Books
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Trevor
Dec 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: social-theory
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
Rachel
Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
explains in 250 pages why parties are terrible

five stars now, five stars forever
Cat
Aug 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Roy Lotz
Jun 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: misanthropology
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
Anthony Buckley
Feb 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: anthropology
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
Jun 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Friedrich Mencken
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
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
Fred R
Aug 28, 2011 rated it liked it
I have met people who didn't seem to have a "backstage." ...more
Gavin
Feb 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Queering the fake/authentic binary
Billie Pritchett
Apr 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: sociology, self
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
Alexandra
Jul 27, 2010 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Joe Juarez
Dec 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Shagun Tripathi
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sociology
Goffman’s profound influence on micro-sociology originates from this book in which he advances ideas from his doctoral dissertation. He is credited for the birth of “dramaturgical analysis” which observes human interactions in context of their time, place and audience. The focal theme of this reading section is the “dramaturgical act”: a social act that is designed to be seen by others, aimed at improving one’s image, gaining success if the audience believes that the character they see actually ...more
Sam
Nov 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
I hated every second reading this
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
Liz
Jan 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Greg
Apr 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
Nana
Jun 15, 2009 rated it liked it
my handbook when I finished my thesis.
this book is kind of manual of life.
Ben
May 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
An excellent look at social interactions, bringing us the notion of dramaturgical analysis. All the world is a stage, as Shakespeare wrote.
Harry Beckwith
Sep 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Nothing to add except to give him another five,
to boost his rating; he deserves it.
A classic.
Fred Grün
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author, using theatrical performances as an analogy throughout the book, analyses everyday social interactions and the complex relationship between performers and their audience committed in various ways to the smooth unfolding of the human show.

I found this book very insightful and it made me aware of many things which are definitely an essential part of human interactions but which are usually not given much conscious attention to. For example, everyone knows about tact, but what about bei
...more
Alina
Jul 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psyc-cogsci
Goffman analyzes impression management, as a fundamental dimension of social interaction, which connects to the nature of our subjectivity and of social institutions. Goffman argues that whenever two or more people come together, their expressions and responses are guided by a mutual understanding of the type of situation that is at hand. Giving an impression of the kind of person (e.g., her social class, professional or practical role, etc.) each is amounts to providing critical, public informa ...more
K. Fitzgerald
Jun 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What can I say... the devil is in the detail, and Goffman is the master of the detail. Life is a theatre stage, social interaction is a performance, and the individual is a social construct… this explains selfie culture :)
BellaGBear
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Interesting book about why people act the way they do in different social settings.
G
Feb 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
A dense, brilliant book. The central thesis has pervaded thinking so much since it was written.
Ellie
Jan 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
One of my favorite texts from the long-gone days of thesis writing.
Skylar
Jan 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Not necessarily new information, but then the book is close to 69 years old and Goffman himself points out that the concept is well known. Occasionally racist, with repeated simplified views of Chinese and Indian life and a few iffy comments about other minority cultures.

My main interest in this book is that it seems to be a clear and interesting starting point to much of contemporary identity theory, with some of the most interesting commentary in the conclusion. Some of his commentary sounds l
...more
EvaLovesYA
Jul 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Also posted on Eva Lucias blog

Erving Goffman’s sociological theory is important to mention, when one talks about the impact of social media. The focus of theory is social interaction; how the individuals portray themselves, and ‘the part of social life that occurs whenever two or more individuals are in one another’s response presence’ (Stones, 2008). Furthermore, Goffman presents a close analysis of ‘what people do when they [are] in the company of others, and of how those doings are understood
...more
Chris
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
I enjoyed this book and read it all the way through, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, and I've given it a low rating because it was enjoyable but not great.

I like older academic books that haven't reached the mainstream because I think there's likely to be interesting stuff there that I haven't heard before. This book fits that description - it's one of the top 20~ sociology books of all time, but didn't make so much of an impact that its ideas are a part of the cultural consciousness I d
...more
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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 Presen
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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.” 76 likes
“The self, then, as a performed character, is not an organic thing that has a specific location, whose fundamental fate is to be born, to mature, and to die; it is a dramatic effect arising diffusely from a scene that is presented, and the characteristic issue, the crucial concern, is whether it will be credited or discredited.” 9 likes
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