Tuesday, April 21, 2009

UTEP as a society

Anthony Guiddens talks about the duality of structure and how all social structures are mediums and outcomes they organize. For example, Applerouth (2008) uses Language as a medium and outcome; explaining how at the same time we follow the rules of grammar and language we are creating them (the rules). However, this can be applied to any sociological structure, any society or anything that we can possibly think of. For another example I will mention UTEP is a society that is both creating rules and is creating a medium to follow these rules. So, at the time we are following what we think of as set rules and regulations we are also making either new rules and regulations or the same rules we are following. A constant creation of structure is always happening. In order to fully understand this concept I believe we must participate and create a discussion so my question today is, how and what social structures do you create and/or participate in that you can think of that is both creating and regulating preexisting norms. What structure is both the medium and outcome of itself?

Giddens, Bourdieu, and the Future

The work of these two theorists is useful in that they give us a line of thought that is not positivist in claiming that structure causes behavior nor is it strictly subjective and unable to produce generalized knowledge. This flexibility is both intellectually satisfying and manageable. One problem that arises however is that these two pieces of work are more model and situated interpretable paradigm than a theory that can be used to project. While the simultaneous creation and recreation of Giddens is interesting in explaining how societies perpetuate and change, but it is lacking in the manner of Weber’s iron cage or Marx’s revolution. Similarly Bourdieu’s field, habitus, and capitals can be useful for examining classes, groups, and positions but to looking into the future, it has less utility.

Do the work of these theorists possess utility when speculating into the future?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Chafetz and Collins

Janet Chafetz and Patricia Hill Collins are on the poles of a balance since the first thinks people unwilling conform to social arrangements. The former believes living oppression has made black women especially aware. Chafetz feels attitudes exist that tend to perpetuate gender disparity, “Gender inequality usually functions without coercion. This implies that women cooperate in their own oppression… ‘People of both genders tend to make choices that conform to the dictates of the gender system status quo’” (Allan 2008). Chafetz’s affirmation makes the oppressed responsible for the oppressor’s actions. Collins recognizes there are intersecting oppressions making it difficult for people to think about the alternatives. She considers once people become aware of inequalities they develop a skeptical view about the status quo.

Is experiencing oppression a way to conform to social norms or a way to become aware of them?

Existentialism and Sociology

I found the section on Cornell West extremely interesting. It is clear his values and position were imperative to his theoretical writings. What is less clear is how well his existentialist ideas mix with sociology. Existentialist philosophy argues that there is no fundamental essence of humanity, but rather individuals’ essence is created through the lives they lead (Sartre, 1985). It seems though, most theorists, including Marx whom is imperative to critical theorists, claims that there is something fundamental to being human. This contradiction has bothered me personally as an existentialist and sociologist and seems that there must be a compromise between the two. It was somewhat comforting to know that there is another person who deals with ideas similar to mine, but I wonder:

Just how compatible is a school of philosophy that assumes there is nothing is fundamentally human and a study that often makes assumptions of human nature?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Genuine Self

Erving Goffman introduced the idea of dramaturgy. In dramaturgy, Goffman presented the idea that social interaction is much like the theater. There is a front, backstage, setting, audience, performance, performer and character (Appelrouth & Edles, 2008). In this concept, people are seen as performers who are primarily concerned with their performance and the presentation of their character to the audience (Allan, 2008). Everything that the audience sees of the character is prepared in the backstage while the performance takes place in the front (Appelrouth & Edles, 2008). Through these steps, the individual presents themselves to their audience and the audience is then assumed to rely on how the individual performs his character to determine what is true of the individual’s self.
In the introduction to Goffman’s “Presentation of Self in Everyday Life,” Appelrouth and Edles (2008, pp. 491), state “In a sense, his book is an analysis of the familiar saying ‘actions speak louder than words,’ but after reading Goffman you will never be able to adjust the volume again.” I found this statement to be as profound as it was true. As I read Goffman, I found it very easy to picture situations in which I could clearly define each step in the process of presenting my character to a particular audience. However, I felt that Goffman left little room for the individual to be genuine. He, instead, places more emphasis on the “convincing performance” over the genuine sincerity of the individual performer (Appelrouth & Edles, 2008). I also have difficulty agreeing with his idea that, in order for a performance to work, the individual is expected to “…suppress his immediate heartfelt feelings, conveying a view of the situation which he feels the others will be able to find at least temporarily acceptable.” (Goffman, 1959 as cited in Appelrouth & Edles, 2008, pp. 496). It has been my experience that genuine, honest “performance” in a social setting is valued over being agreeable.

Are there any situations where you feel as if you are portraying your genuine self? How are these situations different from the one's in which you perceive yourself to be portraying a self that is not genuine? Can you tell the difference?

Life is a Stage

Erving Goffman's concept of Dramaturgy provides a logical analogy to the nature of human interaction that society consists of. People participate in social interactions from the time they first understand that other people exist. During each encounter, a certain understanding of the significance or meaning of the interaction is observed and exchanged which provide the basis for the meaning of future interactions. Individuals assume various roles in the interactions that they are acting in the same way a theatrical stage actor might approach a role depicted in a play. The clothing or attire individuals wear serve the same purpose a thespian wears a costume, to project a believable persona or self to the audience. Individuals will choose a setting that is conducive to the goal of an interaction which provides the setting that will cause a successful outcome to a given performance. Mannerisms provide individuals with visual cues that help actors portray their "selves" to the persons they are trying to communicate with. Individual actors may be sincere or deceiving in the the performance given during social interactions.
Are you consciously aware of yourself performing like an actor in everyday societal interactions?

In Yo' Face!

Throughout Goffman's work we continue on hearing this idea that our impressions need to be managed and that we present or have different kinds of selves. Dramaturgy is the understanding or an attempt to understand how social encounters can be compared to as a dramatic stage (Allan, 2007). We have different identities and everywhere but in the privacy of our home we are always acting. Goffman claims that we although may come real close to a loved one (as in the case of marriage) we still put on a face when in presense of them. We are only our true selves when we are alone at home. This idea sets me up to question, If I am alone right now at home, I am working on this blog for a letter grade.... am I my true self or am I simply using a specific face that allows me to write so "eloquently" (this is a joke by the way) in this language to induce your responses? And you, taking the time to read and complete your duty as a student, at home, "alone", are you wearing a mask or is it your true self?