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Total Institutions

In: Social Issues

Submitted By tatiiiii
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From the moment that we are born, the process of socialization occurs. We continuously interact with people at places like school, home, or work, which influence our behaviors and shape the person we become. If we lose the opportunity to interact with others, it gives us little room to construct or maintain a social identity. What a person may imagine as their own reality, can be quickly altered and replaced with new sets of rules, beliefs and even a new sense of self. Erving Goffman, a Canadian-American sociologist, describes an establishment that is capable of causing such drastic changes as a “total institution”. An example of such institution is seen in Frederick Wiseman’s documentary called, “Titicut Follies,” about a state hospital for the criminally insane in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Through out the film, there were many instances that agreed with Goffman’s theory of what constitutes a total institution. What exactly is a total institution? According to Goffman, this term refers to a place in which people are detached from the rest of society and taken under almost complete control from the staff in charge. It is a place where people who have comparable social situations, like those in the documentary who commit crimes, but are also mentally unstable, reside. They live a confined life, where no boundaries are set for the three spheres of life which include, work, play, and sleep. (Goffman 1961) In a sense, this process tends to dehumanize the individual and strip them away from all the characteristics that made them who they were. With a blank slate, the institution is able to re-socialize the person into what they seem fitting. Life is experienced and controlled under one specific authority, often in the company of a large group of people. The other people are treated just the same and required to participate in union in all the phases of daily…...

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