Peter Berger's Society as Drama


In Peter Berger's Invitation to Sociology, he brings up Erving Goffman's interesting idea of society being a drama. In this theory, Goffman says that humans are only characters (with specific roles based on their group) that society has dealt them. For instance, a doctor is meant to have the role of a healer. But if we look deeper into society, we can see that it also hands out the roles of the scary thug black man or the obedient wife with great kitchen skills. For Berger, he believes that we have to use this knowledge to escape the "tyranny of society."

But how do we gain access to this tool? Berger says we must first understand the concepts of "role distance" and "ecstasy."

Role distance is the act of playing our societal roles with an ulterior motive. Basically, we continue to play the roles that society has given us, only now, we are able to distance it from who we actually are. By doing this, we are able to be conscious of our daily patterns of life, and thus are able to realize why we are behaving the way that we are.

Now with full consciousness, we are able to be ecstatic, or in ecstasy.

How it feels to be in ecstasy or ecstatic


When you are on "ecstasy," you step out and stand on the edges of the routines of society and view it from the outside in. You will begin to see behaviors and ideologies differently; you will begin to question why certain things are the way that they are; you will begin to analyze yourself (why am I behaving this way and why do I believe these things?).

This tool is very important to the budding sociologist as it allows him/her to approach society (and them self) with a keen eye on flaws; he/she must try to understand society without using comfortable answers.

An example of a person who is fully conscious and ecstatic would be a person who has spent all of their working life trying to climb the corporate ladder, and then realizing (maybe through reading Berger's book) that this is not what he wants -- this is something that the social institutions want, and they've been planting this ideology in him since he was a young boy. With this realization, he is able to step out of his social realm to see that the majority of humans have this seed planted in them. As well, he is able to understand why society wants to create masses of corporate ladder climbers. But his ecstasy isn't just limited to that -- he is able to observe all of society through a critical lens.

What are your thoughts on Berger illustrating society as a drama? Share them below.

If you want to read Berger's Invitation to Sociology, you can buy it from Amazon here.

Just to be totally transparent with you, this article includes affiliate links. What this basically means is that if you decided to use the provided links to buy the product, I will get a small kickback from your purchase, at no extra cost to you.

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