Social Privilege as Skillful Impression Management

Let me put it differently. The difference then lies in certain criminals functioning from an upper-class, dominant habitus which entitles them to a better – read "non-criminal" – social perception. Their cultural and social capital allows them to be viewed as upstanding individuals.

This is really no different than arguing, as Bourdieu and Passeron argued in La Reproduction, that white-collar criminals – such as Madoff – possess a dominant habitus and forms of capital that make them more at ease within social settings from which they will commit their crimes, just like upper-class kids have a habitus that match more closely the cultural expectations of the educational system (manners, speech patterns, etc.) which makes them more at home within the system and creates a more peer-like relationship with the teachers.

In the case of white-collar criminals, their upper-class habitus is basically a guarantee of initial non-criminal perception. In this sense, social privilege turns into a form of interactive skill: the capacity to produce effective impression management.

It is partly this possession of a habitus that is more homologous to that of members of the criminal justice system (especially the judicial part of it) that explains the kid globe glove (thanks, Jay!) treatment white-collar and corporate criminals receive, compared to the punishment handed down to the riff-raff who commit less socially costly crimes, but have the misfortune of a subordinate habitus that endowed them with less social and cultural capital, more at odds with the norms of the criminal justice system.

And as Todd Krohn notes, not only do upper-class criminals get treated significantly more leniently than street criminals, they also get to not be entirely blamed for the crimes they have committed. Indeed, regarding street criminals, one will often invoke "don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time" motto, whereas for white-collar criminals like Madoff

It’s actually a two-fer: Madoff gets some exoneration and the system also escapes blame as responsibility for the current troubles gets redirected from political and structural considerations to moral ones attributed to people lower on the social ladder.

Fighting The Stigma – Tanzanian Albinos

I have already posted about the horrific treatment that some Albinos are receiving at the hands of their compatriots in the name of folk medicine. Well, they’re fighting back, and for a stigmatized group, it is never easy:

This is truly a story of stigma, in the Goffmanian sense. A physical marker is used to denigrate an entire category of the population, pollute their identity and make their social participation difficult if not downright dangerous.

This also illustrates the fact that the process of stigmatization can latch on to any type of physical marker. And it seems that numerical status does make a difference when it comes to the symbolic meanings attached to the stigma (here: their ritual sacrifice for the sake of wealth, not really different from killing rhinos for their horns).

It is indeed the job of the government to protect the albinos and to start campaigning against these ridiculous beliefs that have harmed them.

Basic Sociology – Social Interaction

Social Interaction

In this first section, we explore human behavior from a microsociological perspective – the view from below. The very fact of being in the presence of others influences what we do and how we think of ourselves in profound ways. In other words, the sociological approach described here focuses on the architecture of everyday life : these aspects of life that we take for granted and are often invisible to us because they are so familiar but that sustain society in fundamental ways.

Dramaturgy – Interaction Order

Goffman Erving Goffman (1922-1982) was one of the most astute sociological observers of the dynamics of everyday life and his contribution to microsociology is immense. Goffman (1982) was interested in what he called the “interaction order, ” a more specific part of the “social order.” In exploring the interactional order, Goffman tried to answer the basic sociological question initially raised by Emile Durkheim: what makes society possible?

For Goffman, the answer does not lie at the level of macrosociological structures but at the interaction level. The interactional order is the largely invisible and unspoken norms and rituals (such as greetings and salutations) that members of society follow while in situation of what Goffman calls co-presence (face-to-face situations between two or more people). For Goffman, these norms constitute the grammar of interaction so that interactions are not driven by social actors’ individual motives and intentions but by their management of invisible situational norms and the impact of these norms on the self.

Because our social identities are shaped by our status and role sets, Goffman (1959) uses the metaphor of the theater to analyze social life as dramaturgy – the fact that members of society are comparable to actors playing roles on stage. Since most of our behavior takes place in the presence of others, we are indeed constantly performing roles for an audience. The script we are enacting may have been written by society but a believable and competent performance involves more than just going through the motions. For instance, all teachers are acutely aware of the performing character of their job and they know their performance is assessed by different audiences (such as students, administrators, and parents). Being in the classroom is being on stage.

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