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Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious thinking.

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Erving Goffman and the performed self

2 minutes

If, as Shakespeare suggested, all the world’s a stage, do we have a ‘true self’?

The 20th-century Canadian-American sociologist Erving Goffman believed that we adapt to roles – lover, customer, worker – based on circumstance, and are constantly concerned with how we’re appearing to others. This short animation explains why Goffman’s view of humanity left no room for a ‘true self’ – an actor behind all the roles we play.

Video by BBC Radio 4

Script: Nigel Warburton

Animation: Andrew Park

Support Aeon

Ideas can change the world

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.

But we can’t do it without you.

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious thinking.

No ads, no paywall, no clickbait – just thought-provoking ideas from the world’s leading thinkers, free to all. But we can’t do it without you.

Become a Friend for $5 a month or Make a one-off donation

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