Role Theory

The term role theory refers to an expansive and variegated body of analyses examining the linkages between social organization, culture, and the performances that humans give while engaged in interaction. Contemporary role theory within sociology is the progeny of two dominant theoretical traditions in social psychology—structural role theory and symbolic interactionism. Recent theorizing within postmodern, feminist, and critical-dramaturgical perspectives in role theory have integrated the insights of both traditions, creating a hybrid emphasizing the political, economic, and cultural as well as performative aspects of social roles. Building on the early insights of anthropologist Ralph Linton, structural role theory provided a conventional definition of role as the duties and obligations associated with a single position or “status” and defined the way in which one carried out ...

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