With Garth Massey,
University of Wyoming


Distributed as part of the TRANSFORMING SOCIOLOGY SERIES of The Red Feather Institute, 8085 Essex, Weidman, Michigan, 48893.

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     While the writings of Erving Goffman have illuminated the
     dramaturgical components of face-to-face interaction,  the
     task of developing a thoroughgoing substantive and theoretical
     explication of the dramaturgical society remains.  This paper
     expands the dramaturgical analysis to the macro-societal.  The
     character of a dramaturgical society is discussed in the first
     section.  The origins of a critical dramaturgy are presented
     in the next section.  
     The conditions of social organization which give birth to a
     dramaturgical society are set forth in the next sections, and
     the potential of dramaturgy for a self-directed society are
     weighed in the final section.

For purposes of this essay, a dramaturgical society
is defined as one in which the combined technologies of
social science, mass communication, theatre and the arts are used
to manage attitudes, behaviors, and feelings of the population in
modern mass society.  These conjoined technologies are used in the
marketplace, industry, political life and the university to provide
images of service, images of quality, images of accountability, and
other images which shape the needs and understandings of
individuals while bolstering the self-images of the corporation,
the politician, and the administrator. 
     In a dramaturgical society as we find it today, a range of
technological and artistic devices are used in the process of mass
communication to project manufactured images in commercial and
public service advertisements, press releases and news items,
political declarations and documentaries to audiences of millions.
     We emphasize that there is no necessary connection between
dramaturgy and the sociology of fraud produced in these times by
the managers of social better times, the magic of make
believe, what if, suppose and never was could be put to enlarge and
enhance the human project.  We caution one to keep this analysis in
perspective...most people, most of the time organize their behavior
innocently and without guile.  Most groups are transparent; they
are pretty much what they claim to be.  We limit this analysis to
the more strategic efforts of large scale organizations to manage
the social environment in which they operate to the private
advantage of an economic or political elite. 
     Throughout the Western industrialized societies and especially
in the United States, the services of expert technicians, research
institutes doing surveys, polls and samples, theatrical people, and
mass communications are disproportionately available to large-scale
organizations.  Huge corporations, major universities, the military
services, government bureaus and agencies, labor unions, as well as
the major political parties hire specialized sets of functionaries. 
Their task is to use the accouterments of theatre, the findings of
social science, and the facilities of mass media to generate an
"in.formed" public...formed in the image of the purchaser of such
     These public relations, management science and communications
professionals are the ".  . . tribal magicians (who) have come to
life in urban guise as publicists" (Duncan, 1965:xxii).  As with
all tribal magicians, these specialists come to control the process
by which social reality is constructed however they are paid to
apply their control in the  service of a class/elite organized
     In sum, the dramaturgical society is one in which the
interaction between an atomized mass of people and the major
institutions and largest organizations is deliberately managed,
marked by the images of service, quality, or agency, and the 
projection of these upon the population for whose benefit these
organizations and institutions are ostensibly acting.
     This cultural hegemony of organizations can be understood in
terms of a critical dramaturgical analysis, in so far as life in
mass society is increasingly taking on the trappings of theatre. 
It is theatre of a most serious sort.  Contained within the one-
sided use of dramaturgical technology is the systematic evasion of
     The most general consequences for a social order in which this
technology is used in the evasion of reciprocity is the
exacerbation of political and material inequality; inequality in
social honor, in wealth and in the forms of power.  Such cultural
hegemony creates, in the long run, instability, resistance and
revolution of a most serious sort.
     Perhaps the most serious fault of the dramaturgical sciety is
the attendant exacerbation of inequality which accrues with the
unrestrained use of dramaturgy in business and political life.  Use
of dramaturgy to create markets for capital intensive, high-profit
items in the marketplace or to create a market for secondary
political issues (see Mauler, 1973:94) jeopardizes the political
and material well-being of the society.  
     Large-scale organizations are capable of consolidating
positions of privilege, while the general public increasingly
experiences reduced participation in the  creation of authentic
culture.  At the same time, material, ideological, and political
cultural forms lose their function of constructing a situationally
meaningful social-life world created by intending, reciprocating
               It is the position of the authors that there are
               specific conditions of social organization in
               Western industrial societies, and particularly in
               the United States, which converge to create a
               dramaturgy alienated from the human project.
     The impoverishment of public opinion and the lack of
understanding in formulating societal goals are products of the
dramaturgical society.  The lack of a coherent public discourse in
the general population and between its experts and leaders,
fostered by the strength and resources of organizations which
prefer to foist deceptive and narrowly defined images of service,
accountability, and quality on the public, provides a major
obstacle to a free and rational society.  
     A major facet of the distorted communication that Jurgen
Habermas (1970a) has so skillfully begun to examine lies in the
production of images by organizations which legitimate the
distorted reciprocity between these organizations and the public. 
In such a society, the assumptions of functional analysis and
functional interchange become invalid.  
     A conflict model replaces the functional model as the
appropriate intellectual tool with which to contribute to the self-
knowledge of a society.   A social order requiring individuals and
organizations engaged in serious fundamental interaction to deal so
heavily in images and stagings is also inimical to the conditions
of human freedom.  
     By illuminating those conditions in modern society which
enable organizations to create non-reciprocal, unchallengeable
images of "reality" and which concomitantly require people to adopt
temporary identities having little permanent relation to the self
system, one may be able to see a prelude to the political task of
changing those conditions, of turning them in the direction of a
rationally creative, reciprocal dramaturgy in social life.                 
     In the 1988 election, the Bush-Qualye team defined crime,
abortion, a pledge of allegiance and military might as the central
issues in the presidential campaign.  A better set of issues upon
which to spend public energy and public funds might be the
continued bifurcation of the health care system; the continued
deterioration of housing; the increase in poverty among women and
dependant children; the national debt and its mortgaging of the
future as well as the overspending on exotic weapons systems in a
world too full of death and violence.
     In the present fiscal crises, solutions to capital
accumulation or political legitimacy call for more than the
dramaturgical facsimile of value and accountability; they call for
the most serious political and economic transformation yet
considered by the general public in Western societies.  The
invasion of Grenada or the funereal spectacle of national mourning
over the death of Astronauts does create a thin and short-term
solidarity among the diverse, conflicting sectors of society...but
when the troops come home or when the flag is lowered for the last
time, the supply of solidarity runs low. 
     Drama and the technology of theatre might be useful to the
human condition in a number of ways.  In the celebration of human
events, in separating the social world from the natural, in rites
of transition, in making visible the flaws of life, dramaturgy is
a powerful instrument and a valuable adjunct to the construction of
a social reality imbued with vitality and wisdom.  A critical
dramaturgical analysis always combines these functions.   
Toward a Critical Dramaturgy 
 A dramaturgical analysis of society
 involves a recognition, not only of
the nature of symbolic communication, but also of the class-based
uses of dramaturgical devices that prevent reciprocal
communication, which prevent the emergence of authentic self-
structures and cultural forms, and which obstruct the collective
establishment of societal goals which reflect the needs and
interests of the entire population.
     Many writers juxtapose the presentments and interpretations
(e.g., Ichheiser's (1970) "expressions" and "impressions") of
social reality to a "real" world.  In doing so they do not
necessarily derogate the as-if reality as an inferior facsimile,
but generally attempt to make socially constructed reality as
accurate a reflection of some objective reality as possible. 
     Marx and Freud explored the distance between things as they
appear and things are they are.  Both were concerned to make
visible the mystifications of life and to help create a more
authentic, a more innocent, a more human drama.  Marx assumed that
duality could be replaced by a unity of thought and being were
social conditions right.  Freud assumed that the duality between
conscious and unconscious could be minimized were psychological
traumas removed.  
     Also in opposition to the postulate of duality, the
forerunners to and early exponents of symbolic interactionism--
Dewey, James, Mead, W. I. Thomas, and Cooley--made major
contributions in bridging the "gap" between subjective social
worlds and objective reality.  They have pointed out and analyzed
the fundamentally symbolic reality of human life, thus minimizing
the duality of phenomenon on the one hand and ontologically (in-
itself) reality forms on the other.
On Mystification    For Symbolic Interactionists, reality is                    
created through the subjective activity of the participants. 
Situations are defined as real by words, body talk, costumes and
runs of behavior.  The sharedness of symbols helps create the
social occasion and the social actor in the same moment.  Thus,
mind in the form of expressed thoughts, self in the form of
embodied social identities, and society in the form of social
others and social occasions are produced in the same instant by the
acting, sharing individuals in a social frame.  When dramaturgy is
in the service of the sociology of fraud, that unity of self and
society is rent asunder.
               If the symbolic interactional processes are
               undistorted by power, dramaturgical deceptions, or
               by secrecy, then the discrepancy between social
               reality and human understanding; between noumena
               and phenomena, is minimal.
     An occasion defined as a family reunion becomes in the
consequence a real family reunion as people are defined as and act
as though they were cousins, brothers, grandparents and wives. 
This form of reality is as real as an atom, or a molecule, or a
rock or a mountain.  The difference is that the parts intend to be
parts in social reality...and may cease to be such
parts...remarkable but valid.
      Dramaturgy has developed from this perspective, in both its
depoliticized and in its critical approaches.  Kenneth Burke's
classic analyses of the dramaturgical nature of social life has
been taken by many as an acceptance of the analogy of dramaturgy as
an accurate portrayal of life:     Life and politics, in this
sense, is drama.  People do not relate toward one another as if
engaged in dramatic performances.  They are caught up in a drama: 
they become the person whom they and others expect them to be.
     But Burke intends no naive and unquestioned approach to the
dramaturgical nature of social reality, as his analysis of "The
dialectic Constitutions" in A Grammar of Motives makes apparent. 
Both Burke and Hugh Duncan have been well aware of the
"mystifications" (cf. Duncan, 1962) that are created and sustained
through the hierarchical control of mass communication. 
     Joseph Gusfield's (1963) analysis of the Temperance Movement
exhibits both the managerial and the emancipatory uses of
dramaturgy.  His work provides much insight into the process by
which the symbolic meaning of temperance took on a far broader
meaning than mere abstinence from alcohol.  It reveals how the
resulting political action pushed a broad range of conservative and
reactionary interests.  However, a critical analysis must go beyond
the general position that groups in a democracy sometimes use
symbols that mean more than their exponents openly reveal.   
     Murray Edelman's (1964) analysis of the manipulation of
symbolic events, encounters, and identities in politics falls more
within the critical tradition.  He notes that such uses, rather
than stimulating political debate and reasoned consensus, divert
attention, ". . . from cognitive and rational analysis." Thus, ".
. . every individual (becomes) an instrument of the common interest
rather than a cognitive and empirical manipulator of reality"
(Combes and Mansfield, 1976:350).  
     Equally within the critical perspective is Mueller's (1973)
analysis of the conditions promoting and facilitating constrained
communication, where extraneous "noise" is systematically
introduced and the audience ". . . has little control over the
selection of information or the quality of interpretations
transmitted" (Mueller, 1973:100). 
     This research and more adds to the theoretical point that
reality and human understanding need not be alien to each other. 
It is possible for meaning to flow clearly and cleanly between two
people; between two peoples; between generations.  The symbolic
interactional processes can be designed to mystify or to clarify
human understanding.  To help create the social conditions under
which such meaning processes can develop is the task of the
critical social psychologist and the clinical psychologist.
Dramaturgy and Society   Under the conditions of social                         
organization which constitute contemporary Western society, an
analyst such as Goffman has special, but limited, relevance.  His
mode of social analysis presents a careful examination of the way
individuals and organizations are trying not only to do but to be
identified, in which identification is often a prerequisite to, and
of equal or greater importance than, doing.  
     In Goffman's work the presentation of self identity must have
adequate dramaturgical direction and expression in order to be
credible.  These dramaturgical techniques become part of the diet
of socialization in the family, in peer groups, and in the schools,
as well as what one sees and incorporates from the media.  In
analyzing the dramaturgical society one must ask:  What are the
reasons that a dramaturgy is suborned to the sociology of fraud; 
when is such an analysis appropriate for a given society?
     In order to extend dramaturgical analysis to macro-societal
levels, one must conceptually do two things.  First, one must go
beyond the boundaries of what Goffman calls the "situated activity
system" in his micro-analytic focus (Goffman, 1961a).  It is
necessary to locate such micro-analyses within the larger economic
framework in which it is found.
     The situated activity system must also be given greater
temporal boundaries than is the case in intimate interaction.  It
must be located in its historical setting.  The dimensions of time
are essential the analysis of events.  A political campaign, an
energy crisis, a campaign to sell a new product, the mobilization
of support for war, or a public relations campaign may involve
weeks or months of interaction between an organization or a group
of organizations.  The audience for such information sets may be
subjected to the resulting symbol/product for seconds or for
                    Macroanalysis requires that each dramaturgic
                    event be placed in the larger social and
                    historical context in which it is located.
     A dramaturgical creation may be located in still longer runs
of time.  As an economic system rises or falls on a 30 or 50 year
Kondratieff wave, the use of dramaturgy to protect profits and to
generate markets replaces the impetus to use quality and price to
share in market.  The increase or decrease in the sociology of
fraud follows such economic transformations.
Magnitudes of Dramaturgy      In this historical epoch, the advent
                             of the transnational corporation with
multi-billion dollar budgets produces a cataclysmic change in the
fraudulent use of dramaturgy.  The relative equality that may exist
among individuals has no parallel vis-a-vis the corporation or the
state agency using dramaturgy to its own purpose.  
     Control over the knowledge process by the rich and powerful
means increased power disparity as between organizations on the one
hand and the isolated individuals of mass society.  In the analysis
of interaction between large scale, formal organizations and
individuals this fact becomes more important, for it indicates the
necessity to recognize that presentations will not be based on
     Assumptions of parity in the marketplace; of contracts freely
made between equal parties are utterly false in a fully developed
sociology of fraud.  Access to dramaturgical resources by the
private or public corporation; access to media; access to research
findings in social science all give the Multinational corporation
a position of power that even nation-states find daunting.
     In societies which use dramaturgy as a marketing or managerial
strategy, it is not the self-system that mediates behavior nor a
set of significant others as most social psychologists teach their
students.  Experts from management science; from depth psychology,
from public relations are employed to circumvent the self-system. 
Needs, urges, dispositions, fears and prejudices are generated by
effective advertising.  Bits of behavioral knowledge are used to
link products directly to human anxieties about sex, status,
identity quest and the like.  
     Such behavioral scientists and practitioners unscrupulously
avoid generating specific social identities that can subject
messages to personal scrutiny and group critique.  When social
identities (housewife, mother, doctor, male, or other) anchored in
the self-system through the socialization process are the focus of
advertising, it is to exploit or to mobilize such "selves" to serve
the corporate goal.  
     Even religious identities can be used to expand markets. 
Xerox uses monks to tout its duplicating machines.  The
Encyclopedia Britannica uses the voice-over of God to encourage
people to find Truth in its pages.
     While a dramaturgical society is likely to arise in any
society that contains ruling elites, dramaturgy finds its most
favorable milieu in the capitalist societies.  The existence of
surplus production, together with an ever-increasing surplus
population, serves as an impetus for corporate directors to use
dramaturgy to generate mass markets for ever increasing
productivity.  If production were for use or followed social needs
generated by a free, rather than manipulated, public discourse,
there would be little need to generate a market for a commodity.  
     The United States has one special attribute which accounts for
its being the leader in the fraudulent use of dramaturgy.  Given
the value it places on democratic forms as well as law and order,
together with its tradition of an open society, the recourse to
purely coercive technologies in public life is awkward and
frequently counter-productive.  Coercion has been used to generate
markets, restrain workers, control minorities, and manage political
unrest in this and other societies, but corporate liberalism in the
United States has found dramaturgy more advantageous than coercion. 
     In America, the image industry is a trillion dollar
enterprize; advertizing alone rakes in more than 100 billion
dollars yearly from the sale of audiences to corporations in these
     In Europe, especially in Great Britain, the crown sold
franchises to companies for monopolies in a wide variety of
products...and used the King's law and the King's men to enforce
the monopoly.  In Latin America, monopolies are maintained by death
squads and political torture to this day.  In Japan, the government
coordinates the corporate world.  But in the USA, the trust busting
of T. R. Roosevelt, the New Deal of F. D. R., the labor unions
struggles in Flint, Detroit, and elsewhere in the 30s, the consumer
movement lead by the Nader Bunch, the Environmental Protection
movement, the Civil Rights movements, and the United Farmworkers
lead by Cesar Chavez...all converge to render direct physical and
economic coercion outside the pale for most corporate strategies.
     Dramaturgical society today is one in which large-scale
organizations, employing scientific and artistic communities to
create images and purchasing time on mass media with which to
disseminate their images, generates power which far outweighs the
ability of even moderately organized consumer organizations, public
interest groups, and leftist political organizations to counter and
to refute such images.  
     Whether there will be countervailing sources of information in
the Dramaturgical Society of the 21st Century with which to control
and constrain the mystifications of Public Relations, Scientific
Management, Advertizing and other dramaturgical technologies is an
open question.  While critical social psychology can help demystify
interactional processes, still meaningful emancipation requires a
social base rather larger than the academic community.  
Protective Structures    While large-scale organizations,                       
especially profit oriented ones, try to create a mass-consumption
markets and to use theatre, social science, and sophisticated
communication technologies to generate a receptive audience for
their surplus production, there are still protective structures to
counter that effort.  
     Societies in which social structures of tribe, kin, friends or
community exist to mediate behavior quickly neutralize the
information content of messages broadcast by large-scale
organizations and greatly increase the "problem of order' for those
                    Wherever there is friendship, kinship, or
                    other forms of solidarity, there are
                    significant and sensible others available to
                    warn off the innocent buyer of goods, services
                    and politics. 
     Arnold Rose wrote of the importance of voluntary associations
and other intervening structures to mediate between the managerial
impulses of state and corporation.  In a conflict ridden society,
that is good advice indeed.  Each oppressed interest group: women,
minorities, workers, the elderly, patients, and customers need a
watchdog team acting on its behalf.  There are problems with a
society organized around interest groups however.
     1.   There is no social agent acting on behalf of collective
          interests; of the common good.  Each group is the enemy
          of all others and tries to advance special interest at
          the expense of those who have few or incompetent
          protective agencies.
     2.   In the competition for the services of the image
          specialists, the weak and the poor are left out of the
          game.  The concept of community; the concept of
          brotherhood/sistership; the very web of social life is
          tattered and shredded.
     3.   The prepolitical activities of those who can't afford to
          purchase the services of dramaturgical specialist return
          to subvert the interests of all.
     4.   In a fully developed dramaturgical society...oriented to
          private profit or to political control, the substance of
          service; the substance of value; the substance of
          performance is replaced by the image of service, value
          and performance.  Image is everything; content counts for
          little; there is always another customer, another group
          of voters, another disenchanted audience still looking,
          still hoping, still trusting in the spoken word.
     5.   The prophetic vision of William Butler Yeats joins the
          voices of the old testament prophets to warn:
                   Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world
                      the blood dimmed tide is loosed,
                               and everywhere
                   the ceremony of innocence is drowned;
                        The best lack all conviction
                              while the worst
                      are full of passionate intensity.
     Only in a society composed of atomized millions can such
organizations succeed in generating markets with the techniques of
theatre, television and social science.  Only in a society with
false economics and false politics can the major institutions:
school, religion and play become so deformed and unequal.  Only in
a massified, depersonalized, soliptic society can the wedge between
self and society grow to such proportions that individuals are led
to seek and adopt privatized sources of self.     
The Norm of Anonymity    In the dramaturgical society role                      
performances are often short, episodic, historical, and seldom bear
a permanent relationship to one's own self-structure.  This makes
appropriate the term "short-take society" (Young, 1972) to describe
a central aspect of the dramaturgical handling of one's self and of
others (see also Helmer, 1970).  Mall culture offers a vision of
social relatedness for the 1990's.  For those who want a short
course in the social psychology of thoroughly dramatized society,
one may observe the way in which people, businesses, schools,
professionals, and politicians present themselves there.  
     Fairs, carnivals, holidays, and tourist spots also foretell of
the structure of social relations.  While these folk dramas could
contribute to the logics of surprise, delight, and a sense of the
holy, in their alienated form, they are uncertain interludes in a
strange and anonymous world.
     The norm of anonymity is a necessary adjunct to this short-
take society wherein one goes from one short-take role to another. 
Between social takes, one must be accorded civil inattention and
encouraged quickly to change roles unencumbered by the need to
express or the desire to sustain social relationships (cf. 
Gouldner, 1970:378-380).  
     Since Weber's (1946) analysis of the characteristics of
bureaucratic organization, it has been taken as a commonplace of
such social forms that personal relations shall be essentially
without serious emotional or intimate involvement.  This is part of
the demands of the formal rationality (Israel, 1971:100-101) that
now pervades relations among those persons within bureaucracies and
between those contacting such organizations.  This style is now to
be found throughout interactions inside and outside the structure
of bureaucratic organization.
     Anonymity takes the bumps and distractions out of contact with
others.  It relieves each from the burden of responsibility for
others' feelings and problems.  This norm of anonymity makes
strangers of us all as it comes to pervade nearly all formal social
relations.  Its location is not, however, in human nature but
rather in the structural features of mass, bureaucratic social
     Anonymity requires that there be an intricate and extensive
set of visual and behavioral presentations which inform us of just
who is accessible and to what degree, as well as to whom we must
accord, and of whom we may demand, civil attention in the public
sector of social discourse (cf., Perinbanayagam, 1975:7).  Thompson
(1966) has insightfully analyzed aspects of this dramaturgical
process within formalized and hierarchical role systems of
bureaucracies and between subordinates and authority figures.  
     This norm of anonymity applies at both the individual and the
societal level, as groups and organizations hide behind a shield of
anonymity.  They express and elicit only those cues, those images,
which serve their privately designed purposes and functions.  The
norm of anonymity affords even requires opportunity to manage
impressions in that an intimate understanding of persons, products,
and services varies from being merely difficult to being forbidden. 
When one is unknown, one must quickly make others know who one
is...dramatics serve to cue us how to take and be taken in
anonymous situations.
     In the emptiness of social relations, the opportunities for
the sociology of fraud abounds at all levels of society.  The need
for more and more regulatory; more and more compensatory; more and
more therapeutic services press upon us.  The resources of the
state are strained to the breaking point in such a self-serving,
soliptic society.  The social sources of morality shrink to
encompass only one's immediate family and very closest of friends. 
Even those are in jeopardy of stagings, theatrics, and professional
     Social workers, police, teachers, clerks, bosses and doctors
are required to be impersonal instruments of bureaucratic
rationality.  When they do evil, they retreat behind the rule, the
policy, the invisible arm of the boss...thus become anonymous even
while looking at a hurting human being.  In such societies,
morality is programmed out of human interactions and preprogrammed
by rules, policies, and programs.  Morality loses its human
face...and its social place.
     Such a society is devoid of permanent, inclusive social
relationships because anonymity norms, bureaucratic order, and
power inequality all reduce reciprocity and accountability by
reducing interaction.  The social-life world produced in the
polity, in the marketplace, and in the university has little more
authenticity than the dramas produced on television or in the
cinema.  At least these latter are not presented as actual
instances of social life.     
Structural Bases for the Evasion of Reciprocity   
In complex societies marked by conflict relations in class, gender, race
and ethnic 'purity,' the opportunities for exploitation and the evasion of
reciprocity proliferate as complexity and anonymity increase, in
spite of a real increase in the need for effective processes of
communication and functional interdependence.  
     It is in a society where the only interest in the workplace is
in the amount of surplus value which can be extracted from another
person, that short, episodic roles replace community with its
sustained, inclusive supportive social relations.  And in the
marketplace where the central interest is the realization of
surplus value as profit, short-term social relations are preferable
to life long social identities.  
     The corporation makes a sale, extracts surplus value, realizes
profit and has no interest in any further social relatedness; there
is a positive disinterest in further contact as long as new markets
can be generated by depth psychology and a purchased media.
     Guarantees and warranties are issued and then routinely
circumvented.  Insurance companies pay off small claims quickly and
use statistics to create the dramaturgical appearance of honest
actuarial accounting.  Airlines change the definition of 'on time'
to create the semblance of punctuality.  Governments change the
accounting categories to create the impression of frugality and
fiscal probity.  Mathematics and graphics become tools in the kit
of profit seeking firms.
     Surveys, polls and sampling services become ambushes behind
which lurk the interests of managers, politicians, owners, and
engineers of the mind.  Measures of distribution and variations
join the principles of psychology in the technologies of the
theatre to circumvent the norm of reciprocity while staging a
convincing image on the media that reciprocity is the object of
interest.  Where profits are counted; images are profitable.
     Where there is extensive social differentiation, there is
little opportunity for shared experiences to occur.  Where there
are large numbers of persons, the opportunity for contact between
individuals as valued social others diminishes.  Where there is no
community, it becomes easy to advance one's own interests at the
expense of another sector of society.  Where exchange relations are
complex and predicated on contrived rewards, the degree of
reciprocity is difficult to assess.  
     Where important others in the exchange process are remote in
time and place, the facts of exploitation are hard to establish. 
These features are common in class organized societies and they are
also found in bureaucratically organized "socialist" societies.
     All of these class based structural features, in addition to
the racist, sexist and ageist structures, contribute to a form of
social organization in which the interests of one segment of the
population may be so inimical to the interests of other segments
that it becomes necessary and possible to create deceptive images
of social relationships.  In such conditions, a common tactic is
the presentation of an event, not as it actually occurs, but in
terms of arranging the manifest signs ". . . at an inconspicuously
gradual and piecemeal pace" (Boorstin, 1962:13).  
     In this way resistance is diffused and a predictable managed
response is the outcome.  Universities commonly raise tuition and
fire popular faculty during the Summer and Christmas break. 
Politicians send out trial balloons.  Price increases are hidden by
reductions in weight of candy bars, corn flakes or by the addition
of water to hams and vegetables.
     In Western industrial societies the synergy of functional
interchange is being subverted by the structure of corporate
capitalism.  Parameters of growth, profit, and control of the
environment by corporations and public institutions conflict with
the parameters of service, accountability, and quality of human
     More and more resources go to banking, finance, luxury lodging
and dining, high tech medical procedures while essential parts of
the system; child care, public health, low cost housing, sewage and
garbage treatment, bridges and roads, as well as teaching and
healing are neglected.  The flow of wealth is to the corporation
with the best connections and the best dramatists;  collective
needs are set aside by soliptic market practices.
     In the capitalist state, the policies and processes of the
political apparatus provide disproportionate support for those
corporations which sponsor the dramaturgical society.  The 
dramaturgical arts and crafts readily lend themselves to masking
these corporate interests in the political campaign and in the
market, thereby consolidating the class structure.  As the two-
tiered class system is split further apart, the word, liberal,
becomes a dirty word replacing communism, as the epithet of
political scorn.
     As the fiscal crisis of the state continues and as the surplus
population grows, the problems of political legitimacy require more
and more dramaturgy in the political sphere as a technique to
manage dissent.     Mass media have solved many of the technical
problems of constructing images favorable to dominant class
interests.  They provide the means to project impressions
throughout the society, and as need for a more up-to-date image
arises, mass media make it possible in a very short time to replace
an image that is no longer serviceable.  
     Reciprocity is subverted by the expertise of a vast cadre of
skilled artists, musicians, photographers, writers, producers,
poets, editors, engineers, and publicists who substitute a world of
make believe for a world of serious social endeavor.  They
industriously engage in creating the dramaturgical impression of
community, the image of friendship, the facsimile of democratic
governance, and the illusion of academic excellence in concert with
actors, musicians, cinematographers, stage managers, costumers, and
make-up personnel.
     In feudal society, kings and popes held a virtual monopoly on
the services of the managers of illusion and pretense.  In an
capitalist society, every corporation can subscribe to the forms of
art as well as theatre, and the monopoly of staging and drama
maintained by church and state disappears.  
     In medieval Europe, artists and artisans were concerned with
religious themes in paintings, tapestries, drama, and music. 
Artists and artisans created furnishings, fixtures, halls, palaces,
cabinets, tables, silver, coin, and ceramics to serve, exalt, and
comfort the elite of church, state, and commerce  (cf. Burke, 1965:
chapter five).      
     Today most of the best artists, photographers, musicians,
directors, and actors ply their trade in the world of advertising
and public relations.  A full-blown industry in commercial image
making is indispensable to a dramaturgical society whose
institutions are finding themselves increasingly unwilling or
unable to cope with the material, political, or ideological needs
of the population (see also Young, 1978).    
     A market strategy with which to sell imaginary or trivial
differences in a commodity is created.  The advent of mass
production, coupled with industrial espionage, has diminished the
differences between products.  In the political arena there is a
"winning image" as well as a saleable political formula that, when
shared by the directors of the major contributors, makes candidates
as indistinguishable as their suits, socks, or shorts. 
     The artisans' task of imagery is to limit, then magnify
acceptable differences between products and persons.  As Gouldner
sees it, "Dramaturgy makes the transition from an older economy 
centered on production to a new one centered on mass marketing and
promotion, including the marketing of the self" (Gouldner,
1970:381).  The dynamic of that transition is the profit motive. 
It is more profitable to create the dramaturgical semblance of
quality than to support basic research by which to improve quality
or to bear the real cost of improving quality in automobiles,
medicines, appliances or service.   
Dramaturgy and Modern Systems Theory    When a society or firm makes
                                      claims of greatness, claims
of service, or claims of quality, the images presented are not
fraudulent in themselves.  Images, visions, utopias, predictions,
and wishes are necessary components of a self-fulfilling prophecy
by which to embody cultural values.  
               Marked by the self-fulfilling prophecy, things
               defined and treated as real may come to be real. 
               Desirable social events begin with an idea, a goal,
               a dream, a plan, a wish, a vision, an image.
     All social realities contain ideas of social relationships, of
social occasions, of social roles, and of community.  In these
respects, participation in the creation of ideological culture is
necessary to the human condition.  When ideological production is
monopolized by a cadre of public relations experts serving the
corporate interest of profit, control and growth, ideological
production becomes a technology of oppression rather than an
essential part of the construction of an authentic social-life
     When images take the place of reality, when they distort and
hide the recognition of things as they are, when effort, genius,
and intention go no further than the construction of the image,
then society becomes subject to the sociology of fraud, and the
dramaturgical society becomes the society of ideological
     In his examination of the role of art, literature, music, and
other forms of "high culture," Marcuse (964) expresses a position
similar to the one taken here.  The creative, artistic features of
society have served traditionally to give societal direction by
means of exposing the "negativity of society." They have indicated
the truth of society as it is; its dark side and its light...not
simply as it prefers to see itself.  
     In contemporary industrial society, this "artistic reality,"
this "other-dimension" is increasingly being ". . . absorbed into
the prevailing state of affairs . . . to sell, comfort, or excite"
(Marcuse, 1964:64), and the critical capacity of an art and culture
is lost to their commercial capacities.  The creative spheres no
longer provide 
"...images of another way of life but rather...types of the 
same life, serving as an affirmation rather than
negation of the established order" (Marcuse, 1964:59).
In doing so they encourage the use of a language of

"deception, ignorance and submission" which becomes effective
solely for the established interests.  Mass communications thus ".
. . blend together harmoniously, and often unnoticeably, art,
politics, sciences, religion, and philosophy with commercials. . .
. (They) bring these realms of culture to their common denominator-
-the commodity of form" (1964:57).  
One-dimensionality becomes a pernicious outcome of the dramaturgical 
society which, in turn, makes one-dimensionality even more unchallengeable.
     The central theoretical position of this paper is that
fantasy, make-believe, theatre, game-playing, models, plans, and
images are essential to self-directed social systems.  These events
from the world of make-believe constitute a major part of the
variety, the options that make a social system active and adaptive
to the needs of its populace.  [See the Social Uses of Magic and
Make-believe elsewhere in this volume].
     Donald MacKay (1968:30-43) has provided an information-flow
model of human behavior in which he represents the minimal
requirements for goal-directed behavior.  A modern systems theory
approach postulates that a technology of information-flow which
permits a social system to reduce mismatch between system goal-
states and present states, or a means by which to change goals
through use of stored information, is a self-controlled system (see
also Buckley, 1968).  
     From this perspective, "make-believe" is essential to "reality" in
any self-directed system.  In the  paradigm of the modern systems
approach, in order for a person, society, or machine to be self-
directed it is necessary:  
          a) to establish a goal or a set of equally desirable
          goals;  Goals are found in the realm of the not-is and
          b) to have a receptor/monitoring apparatus by which any
          mismatch between the goal and the present state is gauged
          in a continuous fashion.
          c) to have a  control apparatus with stored variety for
          every contingency that may occur between the present
          state and the goal(s).  Variety...i.e., options are found
          in the realm of the possible but not-yet-is.
          d) to have an effector apparatus organized to act on any
          option selected by the control apparatus.  
     Images, play, games, stories, myths, stagings, experiments and
such may provide a social system with goals not yet realized in the
social institutions of a society.  Good health care systems; better
ways of doing marriage; low crime relations; enlivening education
all now dwell in the world of magic and make-believe.  There are no
societies in the world today organized to institute these goals. 
Many don't even try.
     At the same time, whatever the goals of a social system,
successful goal attainment requires a variety of means, options
all, in its control ensemble by which to deal with contingencies
encountered in moving from the present to the goal state.  These
images, ideas, utopias are the equivalent of stored data for
society as a whole.  Every society must have in its repertoire of
"make believe" a possibility to transform itself into an entirely
new social-life world.  
     Although the general point of his critique of systems theory
is valid, we do have a profound point of disagreement with Jurgen
Habermas (1974a:101).  The point of disagreement lies in Habermas'
assessment of general systems theory,  condemned for its
inspiration of "global interpretations" " which ". . . contest the
possibility and substance of identity formation at the macro-
societal level," whereby ". . . identity problems are eclipsed by
steering problems and retain at best a parochial significance". 
     This is more appropriately a criticism of a managed society
than systems theory per se.  The modern systems perspective can
readily lend itself to the understanding of distorted communication
and its consequences, while in the same stroke, indicating the
value of the pretend in organizing reality.  Modern systems theory
can be used to aid in the task of creating healthy self-systems as
the central source of control for social behavior as readily as it
lends itself to problems of social change and transformation
(Young, 1977).  
     That a strong and stable self-system is not a major goal in
capitalist societies is discussed earlier in this paper and in more
detail later.  We should like to add that the development of the
self system is low profit, labor-intensive production ill-suited to
capitalism on the one hand, while behavior mediated by a healthy
self-system is inimical to an elitist society on the other.  
     A major contradiction developing in the  U.S.S.R. and
elsewhere is that a genuinely socialist self-system is hostile to
both party and class hegemony over the production of political and
ideological culture.  It may not occur in this century, but one day
the logics of socialism will produce a generation of young people
who will cast off the bureaucratic forms of socialism now endemic
in the Communist bloc.  Whether they will move toward the soliptic
consumerism of the West...or toward the modalities of praxis so
essential to the marxian agenda depends, in large part, whether an
emancipatory social psychology can be generated and communicated to
the larger population of that world.
     We agree with Habermas' position (1979b) that a normative
structure  established within the public sphere is the best
solution to the problem of order.  Our view is that a socially
anchored self-system must be produced as a stable mediator of
behavior and that a publicly constructed normative  structure
mediates behavior situationally.  Alternative technologies of
social control--coercion, dramaturgy, or pecuniary incentives--are
poor seconds as solutions to the problems of order, inasmuch as
they exclude praxis and community and, thus, authentic social-life
     The need for alternative social goals...within a vision of well as the need for the capacity to change, inform
us that dramaturgy can be put to better uses than those of profit,
management of the political process or the false self presentments
made by existentially isolated individuals in a mass society.  A
transparent society in which images presented are fair
representations of things as they the marketplace, in
academia, in personal intercourse and in politics; this kind of a
society is that in which the human spirit thrives.  
     We can call such a society a praxis society or we can call it
the City of God...our rhetorics of motive are important but more
important is that we get on with the job using the conceptual and
emotional tools now available to educate, to politicize and to
organize against the sociology of fraud in the Dramaturgical
society we see developing in America today.
     The alternative is one in which the sociology of fraud
permeates and spreads.  A society in which cynicism shrinks the
human soul and one in which each person comes to look for private
advantage from each other person.  This is not the legacy we should
leave to our children and the children of our children.

                               TIME TO THINK
                            I wonder sometimes
                           if the soldiers lying
                  under the soil, wrapped in their coats
                   like beggars sleeping under an arch,
                      their hands filled with leaves,
                   would take vengeance on them who send
                     them.  Coming back like beggars,
                seeing the homes and fields that obedience
               lost them, whether they would have anything  
                   to say to sons or brothers or friends
                      only this: Obedience is death.
                             I wonder if they,
                            men of all nations,
                           hands full of twigs, 
                           stones on their eyes,
                      half afraid of what they done,
                  but forgotten like a short wild dream,
                         but now themselves again:
                      tradesmen, farmers, students...
                      would they tell us to die also,
                              to be obedient?                                     
                             Would they appeal
                           to our better nature,
                        our righteous indignation,
                     our pity for men like themselves,
                             and tell us quit?

                   Would they call their cause a fraud,
                     would they say our cause is just,
                      would they help us discriminate
                         between the aggressor and
                         the regrettable necessity
                         or would they turn away?
                   Not fools, but men who knew the price
                  they paid.  Would they melt like smoke
                  or would they speak; meet our eyes and 
                  tell us what they think about this end?
                  Would they tell us each lesson is new;
                    that they would make room for us in
                   their dusty hall?  Would they look in
                   a frosty window and listen to us talk
                     without saying what they thought?
                    Perhaps we might go to that frosty 
                       window and look out to speak 
                         to them and ask them what
                          now they think about it
                             now they have had
                              time to think.
                                        Padriac Colum

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