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Constructivisn: Foucault and Goffman

The difference between constructivist theories such as those of Erving Goffman, and a constructivist such as Foucault is primarily one of focus. Erving Goffman analyzed implicit social rules governing nonverbal interactions by individuals to develop his theories. Goffman demonstrated that the most casual actions, such as posture, and body and eye movements that people make, are performances aimed toward communicating a positive impression for an audience. Throughout a substantial body of work, Goffman focused on the self and self-presentation. He preferred to study individuals. Goffman's minute descriptions of individuals face-to-face interactions formed the large body of his work and were his greatest interest.

In contrast, Michael Foucault preferred to analyze the entire society. He examined the ways in which societies operated and the principles of exclusion societies developed to define themselves through the writings of the time. Foucault did not conduct the type of first-hand and intensive field work characteristic of the development of Goffman's theories. Foucault's theories on history and the self were more impersonal and global in focus. They centered on how societies interpreted and implemented their definitions of sane and insane, innocent and criminal, and insider and outsider.

Goffman looks at the way individuals present themselves and their activities to others, using the theater as a framework. In his theory of impression management, Goffman explores how people control and manipulate the impressions others form of them. He uses the term performance to refer to individuals' activities which occur during a period marked by continuous presence before a particular set of observers (audience), and which has some influence on the observers (22). Goffman's observations focused on how ordinary people acted out their daily roles on the stage of life. His theories were based on how individuals manage to ...

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