Asylums by Erving Goffman

Essay by madalina1987A, January 2008

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Alteration of Inner Self- based on Asylums by Erving Goffman. The essay contains the author's research, my opinion and Thomas Scheff's writings related to this theme.

The nature of the humankind is extremely vulnerable to external factors and it develops different ways to protect its integrity. The image of 'self' is considered to be, to a certain extent, a result of the interactions with other people. Having its roots in the kind of behavior others adopt when relating to an individual, self-concepts can be easily challenged or even changed.

Erving Goffman presents the effects which take place when a person is excluded from the society and the consequences over his or her ego in 'Asylums'. The four essays which compound his book represent an analysis of the way mental patients and other inmates manage to adapt themselves to the life in 'total institutions'. The author describes their social situation, which suffers dramatic changes when meeting different conditions of living, focusing on the relationship between the patient and the institution.

The second part of the essay entitled 'The Moral Career of Mental Patient' is a presentation of 'the inmate phase' which points out the effects of the setting over the person's character and her reactions to the social statute given. This chapter reflects the image of the whole process of the hospitalization, starting with the moment when the inmate comes into contact with the staff of the institution. Traditionally the term career has been reserved for those who enjoy the opportunities offered by a respectable profession, but Goffman uses it with another sense. Moral career consists in the series of progressive changes that occur in a person's self-concept as a result of moving through several positions, roles, and life-styles. Interactions with others in different socially structured situations shape...