Relations in Public

Goffman, Erving

This book is a phenomenally insightful analysis of human interaction and social mores. Lucidly written, it is shocking and unsettling - because it provides the rare experience of examining ourselves objectively. Studying and understanding our own behavior is perhaps the greatest challenge we can face. We have trouble seeing the forest because we are ourselves the trees. The reader of this book is prompted to wonder how Goffman was able to achieve enough distance from the fabric of his own society to enable him to describe our ordinary day-to-day interactions with such crystalline detachment. He brings to the study of humanity the same kind of clearsightedness that other scientifically gifted observers bring to the study of animals. His observations prompt a variety of insights. For example, his section on "the remedial interchange," focusing on boundary violations and their correction, helps us to understand the immense importance of our societally-supported boundary system, and the basis and purpose of our entire legal system.

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