Line and face from Goffman

  • Line—in the technical sense—something one acts out or articulates—“that is, a pattern of verbal and nonverbal acts by which [the speaker, writer, or user of symbols] expresses [the user’s] view of the situation and through this [the user’s] evaluation of the participants, especially himself,” from Goffman’s On Face-Work, An Analysis of Ritual Elements in Social Interaction. Similar to a line of reasoning, a position, or an approach.
  • Face “may be defined as the positive social value a person effectively claims for himself by the line others assume he has taken during a particular contact,” again adapted from Goffman’s On Face-Work. Face as in face-work refers to “the actions taken to make whatever the [speaker, writer, user of symbols] is doing consistent with face. Face-work serves to counteract ‘incidents’—that is, events whose effective symbolic implications threaten face.”
  • What interests us about Romney is the constant and often heroic face-work required to maintain a conservative line despite a history of governing from the center-left.

Fixed point or points, from John Rawls notion of reflective equilibrium

A belief, a principle, a judgment etc. that someone or a group assumes to be true or a truism. Something a community accepts to be the case. This becomes a tentative or provional “fixed point” to begin a line of argument or inquiry. For example, the lesson of Iowa is that voters want change became a “fixed point” for Romney and his apologists.


  1. 1 Romney on the morning talking head shows issues strained distinctions to support his claims about McCain’s alleged commitment to “amnesty” « who is willard milton romney?

    […] In Goffman’s terms, Romney’s line that Sen. McCain does not support amnesty only he does support it, requires (a) heroic face-work […]

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