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(2011) Crime, governance and existential predicaments, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.

Goffman, existentialism and criminology

James Hardie-Bick , Phil Hadfield

pp. 15-35

This chapter considers how the work of Goffman can be understood in terms of its affinity with certain tenets of existentialist thought, notably in the work of Sartre. Sartre's descriptions of "Bad Faith" speak of personal identity as being constructed through forms of performativity that have certain parallels with Goffman's dramaturgical model of social interaction. On the other hand, Goffman departs from the existentialists in offering an account of the ways in which social interactions are patterned or structured, as constituents of a social order that is constructed through ritualised exchanges. Goffman applied this approach to his studies of breakdowns in the ritual order; occasions in which failure to respect informal codes and social expectations often overlap with legally defined categories of crime, anti-social activity, and mental illness. In Criminology, subsequent scholarship influenced by his work has considered how key concepts such as "face-work" and key themes such as "bystander intervention" remain central to our understanding of the micro-level choreography of crime events and people's responses to them. At the same time, a resurgence of interest in the emotionality and identity-work involved in criminal risk-taking has raised the profile of both Goffman's canon and that of the existentialists, while tending to overlook connections and departures between both bodies of work.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1057/9780230343184_2

Full citation:

Hardie-Bick, J. , Hadfield, P. (2011)., Goffman, existentialism and criminology, in J. Hardie-Bick & R. Lippens (eds.), Crime, governance and existential predicaments, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 15-35.

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