Lecture 3 (C. Morais)

Estimated Reading Time 00:08:00

Notes by Camilla Morais

Soc 103 – Lecture 3

Roles, Networks, and Organizations

Dramaturgical Approach

  • Thinking of social life as a theatrical production
  • Social Scripts: Particular ways in which we are expected to act and expect others to act in particular social settings
  • Every social situation has its own set of expectations
  • Don’t give us the details

Scripts, Roles, and Identities

  • Roles: sets of actions expected of us
  • Scripts: lines or behaviours we are supposed to follow
  • Identities: things that our going on inside our head
    • People have different ways of organizing their identities
    • You can’t really guess what one’s identity is because its so personal
    • People’s identities are a result of the roles they play (not necessarily true at all times)
    • Every approach is metaphorical
  • We don’t have scripts that cover every eventuality – i.e. if while on a date someone spills out their life scars on you
  • Problem: Dramaturgical Approach only explains general situations
  • We know that there are scripts because there are things that happen that aren’t supposed to do and people don’t know what to do (when you hit an unscripted event and its unpleasant)

The Link Between Roles and Identities

  • How to roles become identities (it does not happen from the inside out)
  • One approach: Labeling Theory
  • We learn whether we are socially, sexually attractive, intelligent, stupid etc. by how others react towards you (looking glass self)
  • We infer from what they say, what they do how we should evaluate ourselves

Labeling is a Two-Sided Sword

  • When we get many negative labels we can become incapacitated
  • It can diminish us, or empower
  • At the extreme it can have long term effects on people’s behaviour
  • Primary Deviance: Any kind of behaviour that breaks any rule
  • Secondary Deviance: Behaviour that responds to sanctions that one gets for primary deviance (may include a career in rule-breaking)
  • If someone is labeled in a negative way, this can affect their self concept and can change their group affiliation

How We Position Ourselves in Roles: Embracement Versus Distance

  • Role Embracement: A person willingly accepts both the social role and the identity associated with it (After the age one is obliged to be a student, he continues to pursue that)
  • Role Distance: Sometimes a person takes on the role but signals separation from the values associated with that role (i.e. child distances himself from parents in front of friends)

Roles Become Identities Through Internalization

  • Identities are based on the social roles we place
  • We internalize the role we play o they become central parts of our identity

Learning Roles is a Lifelong Effort

  • One leaves a role and becomes something else (i.e. Student à Full Time Worker à Wife à Mother etc.)
  • Role-taking is a dynamic process
  • We leave and enter roles throughout life
  • Some departures are hard: e.g., the military widow, the closet gay guy
  • Military wives lead very little roles

Role-Making Versus Role-Taking

  • All of us in our lives, in our interactions with one another take scripts but also invent stuff
  • People agree to invent new social roles together
  • i.e. to break rules of dress or behaviour together
    • Subcultures
    • However this agreement does not bind the rest of society
    • To survive, a social script must become widely known and accepted in the population
    • Subcultures are places where people can create new roles that exist outside the mainstream

The Influence of Peers in Taking and Making New Identities

  • Different kind of people influence us to different degrees throughout our lives
  • The strongest influences on an adolescent’s self-concept are peers

Problems in Playing Roles:

(1) Role Conflict

  • Role conflict occur when a person has to satisfy the demands of two or more incompatible or contradictory roles
    • Playing one role necessarily undermines or prevents the other
    • i.e. being a good friend versus being a good student

(2) Role Strain

  • Occurs when two behaviours associated with the same role are incompatible
  • i.e. being a successful student without appearing to be nerdy, uncool, or overcommitted

Dealing With Role Conflict

  • 1. Prioritize Social Roles (placing priority on some roles and less on others)
  • 2. Adopt Master Role (taking one role and making it supreme)
  • 3. Compartmentalization (keeping social groups separate to avoid humiliation)


  • Another way of dealing with conflict
  • George Simmer was the first sociologist to study secrecy
  • Our “first world” is the recognized world of socially acceptable activities
  • Our “second world” includes usually hidden deviant activities others cannot see most of he time (i.e. sexual affairs)

Primary and Secondary Groups: Where We Play Many of Our Roles

  • Primary Groups are characterized by small size and emotional intimacy between members
    • i.e. family
    • Secondary Groups are medium-to-large in size and may not always command our primary social allegiance

Consider Teams Bands and Gangs

  • Even though they have different social purposes and different kind of membership, the differences don’t matter sociologically given the similarities
  • They all enforce rules that are created and known by its members
    • The all offer energy, excitement, loyalty, community, pleasure, fun, creativity, innovation – which is why people voluntarily join and stay

The “Glue”: Peer Pressure

  • People what to win (and keep) the esteem of their friends
  • Social acceptance

The Value of Organization and Leadership

  • Any team/band/community etc. has some organization
  • i.e. division of labour, roles, expectations etc.
  • Every group has external problems and internal conflicts/differences that occur inevitably when you have a number of people together
  • Leadership is valuable
  • Splitting roles into manageable parts (the right roles)
  • Rewarding good performance

Social Networks

  • Not groups
  • Groups
  • A network is a group of people who are directly or indirectly connected to one another
  • Direct Connections: links f kinship, friendship and acquaintance among all 20 people
    • Within this set of 20 people there can be 190 different paired connections
    • Mathematically expressed as [20(19)]/2 =190]
    • Even in a small number of people there can be a large number of links
    • The complexity grows very rapidly with the size of the network

The Value of Weak Ties

  • Getting a job by having acquaintances
  • Job information moves through weakly tied networks
  • Weakly tied networks have a huge outreach
  • Information moving through weakly tied people has a vast outreach

Strong Ties Versus Weak Ties

  • Strong ties have the merit of emotional intensity
  • Needed when important favours are needed

Weak Ties Over-Estimated?

  • According to recent research weak ties and strong ties are nearly equal in providing career advice
  • In other respects, strong ties are superior

How Closely Are We All Connected to One Another?

  • Stanley Milgram (1967) Small Worlds Study
  • In his study the average link was 5.5-6 (degree of separation)
  • “Six degrees phenomenon”
  • Different people have different numbers of links
  • Density of links
  • Diverse
  • Weakly tied networks
  • Dense networks (hearing the same thing over and over again / trapped in a cycle)
  • Higher social status = more information
    • Information is a resource

Stars, Brokers, and Small Worlds

  • People are indirectly tied to everyone else at a few removes (“six degrees of separation”)
  • Clique=self-aware clumps within networks
  • Typically friends, have a leader, tend to circulate the same information over and over again
  • There are cliques in every  organization

Formal Organizations (Rule-Based Communities) and Bureaucracies

  • Organization: a group of people who are coordinated by communication and leadership to achieve a common goal i.e. a basketball team
  • Formal Organization: Same are the above plus written rules i.e. a government
  • Bureaucracies are the most powerful social units
    • enforcing written rules
    • you can think about it as networks
    • i.e. a set of people who have links to one another
    • A formal organization has a hierarchy of command but you cannot say who is the most powerful in network, no power-structure
  • Formal organizations tend to be powerful and long lasting
  • The Roman Catholic Church (2000 years old)
  • Accumulate resources, create alliances, exercise power
  • In order to preserve the organization – the main priority is survival

Weber’s Ideal-Type bureaucracy: The Most-Developed Formal Organization

  • Max Weber identified seven essential characteristics of bureaucracyHiring and promotion based on technical merit
    • Division of Labour
    • Hierarchy of Positions
    • A formal system of rules
    • A reliance on written documents
    • A separation of the person from the office
      • Everybody in the organization relates to the office not the officeholder
  • The protection of careers
  • His theory of bureaucracy made specific reference to many features of organization but not to be satisfied
  • It’s designed to survive and be predictable

Formal Organizations Are Completely Scripted Social Forms

  • Serve to promote efficiency
  • Very predictable, persistent
  • Formal Organizations = Formality

Problems With Bureaucratic Organization

  • Sheer size of bureaucracies introduces irrationalities
  • No one knows all the rules
  • Rule by offices tends to undermine personal responsibility
    • people don’t take moral responsibility for their decisions
    • Become largely immoral mechanisms
    • The danger is it works well – sometimes, too well
    • Bureaucracy is the most powerful force for enslavement known to humanity
    • But also the most powerful force for good known to humanity: creates job, economic development etc.
    • Total Institutions as Ultimate Bureaucracies
      • based on principles of efficiency and procedural rigidity
      • Negate the value of democratic participation
      • Objectify human beings
      • Teach inmates to get around d the rules
      • Make inmates more able to survive inside the institution rather than outside it

Erving Goffman’ Asylums

  • How do organizations control us and change our identities?
  • Examined mental institutions from the perspective of the patient
  • Total Institutions (TI) exert total control over their inmates
    • Include mental hospitals, prisons, barracks, residential schools, covenants, etc.
    • All interested in changing who you are

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