Read the passage and answer the following question.
Human biology does nothing to human society. Age may enfeeble us all, but cultures vary considerably in prestige and power they accord to the elderly. Giving birth is a necessary condition for being a mother, but it is not sufficient. We expect mothers to behave in maternal ways and to display appropriately maternal sentiments. We prescribe a clutch of norms or rules that govern a role of a mother. That the social rule is independent of the biological base can be demonstrated by going back three sentences. Giving birth is not certainly sufficient to be a mother but, as adoption and fostering show, it is not necessary!
The fine details of what is expected of mother or a father or a dutiful son differ from culture to culture, but everywhere behaviour is coordinated by the reciprocal nature of roles. Husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and employees, waiters and customers, teachers and pupils, warlords and followers; each makes sense only in its relation to other. The term ‘role’ is an appropriate one, because the metaphor of an actor in a play neatly expresses the rule-governed nature or scripted nature of much of social life and sense that society is a joint production. Social life occurs only because people play their parts ( and that is as true for war and conflicts as for peace and love) and those parts make sense only in the context of the overall show. The drama metaphor also reminds us of the artistic licence available to the players. We can play a part straight or, as the following from J.P.Sartre conveys,we can ham it up.
Let us consider this waiter in the café. his movement is quick and forward, a little too precise, a little too rapid. He comes towards the patrons with a step a little too quick. He bends forward with a little too eagerly; his voice , his eyes express an interest a little too solicitous for the order of the customer. Finally, there he returns trying to imitate in his walk the inflexible stiffness of some kind of automaton while carrying his tray with a recklessness of a tightrope-walker… All his behaviour seems to us a game… But what is he playing? We need not watch long before we can explain it: he is playing at being a waiter in the cafe.
The American sociologist Erving Goffman built an influential body of social analysis on elaborations of the metaphor of social life as drama. Perhaps his most telling point was that it is only through acting out a part that we express character. It is not enough to be evil or virtuous; we have to be seen to be evil or virtuous.
There is distinction between the roles we play and some underlying self. Here we might note that some roles are more absorbing than others. We would not be surprised by the waitress who plays the part in such a way as to signal to us that she is much more than her occupation. We would be surprised and offended by the father who played his part ‘tongue in cheek’. Some roles are broader and more far-reaching than others. Describing some as a clergyman or faith healer would say far more about that person than describing someone as a bus driver.
Which of the following would have been true if biological linkages structured human society?
- The role of mother would have been defined through her reciprocal relationship with her children.
- We would not have been offended by the father playing his role ‘tongue in cheek’.
- Women would have been adopted and fostered children rather than giving birth to them.
- Even if warlords were physically weaker than their followers, they would still dominate them.
- Waiters would have stringer motivation to serve their customer.