The Sociological Approach Of Self And Identity Essay

The sociological approach of self and identity begins with the assumption that there is a reciprocal relationship between the self and society. The Self influences society through the actions of individuals thereby creating groups, organizations, networks, and institutions. And, reciprocally, society influences the self through its shared language and meanings that enable a person to take the role of the other, engage in social interaction, and reflect upon oneself as an object. The latter process of reflexivity constitutes the core of selfhood (McCall & Simmons, 1978; Mead, 1934).

Because the self emerges from social interaction and it is reflective of society, the sociological approach to understanding the self and identity means that we must also understand the society in which the self is acting, and keep in mind that the self is always acting in a social context in which other people selves exist. The identity in which individuals portrays defines the type of self they are reflecting. There are only two types of identity spoken of by the micro-sociologist which are social identity and personal identity.

Social identity refers to the characteristics attributed to an individual by others like student, mother or father, doctor, manager. Personal identity is said to be a set of values, ideas, philosophy’s and beliefs about one’s self that consist of factors such as educational performance, gender roles and sexuality, racial identity Multiple social identities and Personal identity reflects on Individuals type of self. The Symbolic Interactionist George Herbert Mead’s philosophy of the “Self involves that individual selves are products of social interaction and not the logical and biological preconditions of that interaction.

Mead contrasts his social theory of the self with individualistic theories of the self (that is, theories that presuppose the priority of selves to social process). “The self is something which has a development; it is not initially there, at birth, but arises in the process of social experience and activity, that is, develops in the given individual as a result of his relations to that process as a whole and to other individuals within that process” (Mind, Self and Society135). Mead’s model of society is an organic model in which individuals are related to the social process as bodily parts are related to bodies.

The self is a reflective process — i. e. , “it is an object to itself. ” For Mead, it is the reflexivity of the self that “distinguishes it from other objects and from the body. ” For the body and other objects are not objects to themselves as the self is. Irving Goffman created the “Dramaturgical Approach” where social perspective views all social life as a series of dramatic performances akin to those performed in the theater and people in everyday life to actors on a stage, each individual playing a variety of roles.

Goffman analyses his assumptions into the front stage, the back stage, and the off stage or outside. According to Goffman, stage drama, as in everyday interactions is divided into three stages, each which have an effect on an individual’s performance differently: front stage, back stage, and off-stage. The front stage is that part of a dramaturgical performance that generally functions in rather fixed and general ways to define the situation for those who observe the performance. The actor knows he or she is being watched and acts accordingly.

While the back stage is where facts suppressed in the front stage or various kinds of informal actions may appear, this is where the individual truly gets to be himself or herself and get rid of the roles that he or she play when they are in front of other people. Finally, the off-stage is neither front nor back; literally outside the realm of the performance. Specific performances may be given when the audience is segmented as such, the audience consists of other individuals who observe the role-playing and react to the performances.

The data was collected in a religious setting (the church) which consists of different age group, ethnicity and sex. The large of percentage of the people present are females ranging from ages of 20-35. Participant observation is the method used to retrieve the data and information needed. Age Group 5-15 16-30 31 – 50 51 – 70 Numbers in percentage 10% 55% 20% 15% The data collected shows that different social setting and social interaction produces a different sense of identity each individual portrays which is what Goffman calls the “modification of self”.

In a social setting like the Church everybody tries as much as possible to demonstrate Goffman’s impression management. For the pastor of the church who happens to be identified as a religious leader by the members of the church (social identity), displays a particular type of self only on Sundays. Even though the pastor had three bottles of beer before coming to church on Sunday; that’s his own offstage, the church altar is the front stage where he must impress his audience.

For example a sociologist who specializes in the Sociology of Science & Religion, who happens to be a guest lecturer and also lectures a class for the first time, he had two audience: the professor and the students and wanted to impress his audience. He wanted to validate his role as an expert in the Sociology of Religion to the professor and also to validate his newfound role as a worthwhile guest lecturer in a university class to both the professor and the students, in an attempt of impression management.

He won’t be able to act has two different identity at the same time because he tried to display a multiple self. Also relating the audience in the church to meads concept of “Me”, because of the church is a very strict religious setting everyone tries as much as possible to act holy and listen to what the pastor has to offer them and forget about their old ways and unholy life. The fact is an individual cannot portray two different social identities and act has a different self.