Goffman and Foucault: Framing the micro-physics of power
(2022) The Routledge International Handbook of Goffman Studies
Edited By Michael Hviid Jacobsen, Greg Smithpp, Routledge, 349-360.
The works of Erving Goffman and Michel Foucault are theoretically and practically complementary in many ways. First, I review areas of overlap between Goffman and Foucault’s perspectives and methods. Second, I describe several higher-order concepts – order, episteme, regime, framing, agonism, and containment – which for both thinkers describe the relations between individuals and institutions. Third, I develop their connection through Foucault’s disciplinary power – highlighting concepts of territory, visibility, documentation, mortification, and looping – which describe the primary techniques of analysing space and controlling the distribution and interaction of bodies within it. Fourth, I argue that their analyses are also complementary under what Foucault calls security power. I establish this by analysing Foucault’s 1978 lectures, Security, Territory, Population (2007), alongside Goffman’s Strategic Interaction (1969). From Foucault, I focus on the concepts of risk, population, and danger, which describe how governments aim to keep all individual choices within an acceptable range. I propose a new figure of selfhood arising through population management, the ‘statistical self’, which describes the risks inherent in one’s demographic identity. From Goffman, I draw concepts of strategic interaction and gameworthiness, and I propose the concept of the ‘security self’, the existential object of an individual’s experience within a security milieu.