To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

Reconstructing the Self: A Goffmanian Perspective

Reconstructing Social Theory, History and Practice

ISBN: 978-1-78635-470-9, eISBN: 978-1-78635-469-3

ISSN: 0278-1204

Publication date: 22 November 2016



In his influential study The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1971 [1959]), Erving Goffman provides an insightful account of the formation of social selves. Goffman’s work has been extensively discussed in the sociological literature. Yet, the presuppositional underpinnings, let alone the socio-ontological implications, of his conception of personhood have not been rigorously scrutinized.


The main reason for the lack of methodical engagement with the principal assumptions that lie at the heart of Goffman’s theory of the self is that his approach is widely regarded as an eclectic narrative that, while drawing on different sociological traditions, does not make any claim to universal validity.


The persuasiveness of the contention that Goffman’s analysis of the self cannot be reduced to a general theory of human personhood appears to be confirmed by the fact that both supporters and detractors of his sociological project tend to agree that it would be erroneous to deduce a foundational framework of investigation from his numerous studies concerned with the interaction between self and society.

Research limitations/implications

Attention will be drawn to several controversial issues that arise when faced with the task of assessing both the strengths and the weaknesses of Goffman’s understanding of the self.


The aim of this paper is to challenge the aforementioned contention by demonstrating that Goffman provides a fairly systematic account of human personhood. More significantly, this enquiry suggests that a fine-grained examination of his key concepts permits us to propose an outline of a general theory of the human self.



Susen, S. (2016), "Reconstructing the Self: A Goffmanian Perspective", Reconstructing Social Theory, History and Practice (Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Vol. 35), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 111-143.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017 Emerald Group Publishing Limited