Theoretical Consistence Between Goffman and Luhmann

Friday, July 18, 2014: 9:00 AM
Room: Harbor Lounge A
Oral Presentation
Hsiao-Mei JUAN , Department of Sociology, Sun Yat-sen University, Kaohsiung 80424, Taiwan
At first glance, it could cause doubts when one tries to put Erving Goffman and Niklas Luhmann together. Their thoughts will probably be treated as two different, even opposing approaches. This article attempts to offer another perspective by pointing out the theoretical consistence between Goffman and Luhmann. Furthermore, it hopes to make Goffman and Luhmann more understandable by cross-referencing to each other.

In a short journal article “Die Form Person” (The form person), Luhmann defined person as a form with two sides which through regulating the actions offers a solution to the problem of double contingency (Luhmann 1995: 152). After some explanation, Luhmann wrote: if you want to learn more, you have to read Goffman (Luhmann ebd.: 151). For a closer investigation of the theoretical consistence between these two sociologists, this article will develop its arguments according to the following guidelines:


  1. Foreword
  2. George Herbert Mead as a point of reflection: Both Goffman and Luhman are unsatisfied with Meads’ explanation as to the process of self-formation.
  3. Double contingency as a chance: Unlike Parsons, both Goffman and Luhmann do not treat double contingency as an communicative obstacle needed to be overcome through common culture normality, but as a chance or a pressure to set dynamic practices in motion.
  4. Person/non-Person: Both of them pay attention to the possible qualities and attributes of self-identity which are temporarily excluded from the side of non-person, but could potentially be ascribed as the self-identity. This may explain why one would behave so cautiously in the social interactions to maintain the civilian self.
  5. Conclusion: Inspired by the above discussion about the theoretical consistency between Goffman and Luhmann, I would like to suggest, as the conclusion of this article, a practical perspective of a “self” that refuses the ontological existence of a pre-social self.