Embarrassment and Social Order Date What role does embarrassment play in social order? Your answer must take reference to the sociology of Erving Goffman. Inarguably, social order is one of the fundamental areas of sociology…
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Their exploration is founded on the very fact that the actions and presence of others influences how individuals act and how they think of themselves (Goffman, 1956, p. 264). Human behaviour is very fundamental in social order as it sustains the society in fundamental ways. It has been argued that social order does not occur in a vacuum as there are several aspects that play an important role in the maintenance of social order. Sociologists such as Goffman have argued that embarrassment plays a pivotal role in the maintenance of social order (Billig, 2001, p. 23). It is in the light of this assertion by Goffman that it is important to understand what role does embarrassment play in social order. According to Tom (2002, p. 19), Goffman is of the view that understanding of social order lies not so much on the macro-sociological structures level but rather at the interaction level. Goffman beliefs that the interactional order is the largely unspoken and invisible rituals and norms such as greetings that members of a particular society follow in face-to-face situations called co-presence. Interactions by individuals are not driven by their intentions and motives but by their management of invisible rituals and norms and the impact of these rituals and norms on a particular individual (Schudson, 1984, p. ...
So, what is the role of embarrassment as part of the interaction level structure in social order? Goffman believes that embarrassment serves to maintain social order in the society as it manages invisible situational norms and present impact of these norms on individuals (Billig, 2001, p. 24). In general terms, embarrassment is a behaviour that inadvertently or accidentally violates a social rule thereby leading to a negative sense of self. For example, if one spills a drink or exaggerates attention they receive inadvertent attention from others. Tom (2002, p. 56) notes that embarrassment has several essential components which include the feeling that one has made a bad or wrong impression, the presence of other people, and an act which violates social consensus. Embarrassment tends to make someone suffer from a relatively higher level of self-awareness. Embarrassment can be expressed through a downward or averted gaze, occasional blushing, touching face, nervous laugh, or a forced smile. Several sociologists have discussed certain ways that disrupt or promote social order. In particular, Erving Goffman was the first to discuss the key role of embarrassment in promoting and maintaining social order and functioning (Schudson, 1984, p. 637). According to Goffman, showing embarrassment is an indication that a person desires to maintain the norms and rituals of the society. Showing of embarrassment by an individual is some sort of declaration that he or she is aware of a certain unpleasant conduct and is regretting it and is committed to observing these norms in the future. Goffman believes that people live in the presence of others and are very dependent on the way others perceive them. As such, they are willing to do anything within their
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