Document Type

Original Research Article


When I decided to write about edgework over twenty-five years ago, I had no idea that I had put myself on a pathway of sustained engagement with one of the most important sociologists of the twentieth century. As an academic sociologist in the early stages of my career, I felt that I had a good general understanding of Erving Goffman’s most important ideas and a proper appreciation of his unique contributions to my discipline. Although I had a certain affinity for Goffman’s brand of sociology, I deliberately avoided pressure from close friends and colleagues to become a “Goffmaniac,” the kind of disciple that Goffman’s work often seems to inspire. However, when I took up the task of formulating a theoretical explanation of volitional risk taking, I had no choice but to dig more deeply into Goffman’s work, in particular, his famous essay entitled Where the Action Is (1967), which at that time was one of the very few sociological theories of risk-taking behavior. The most immediate result of this excavation was a better understanding of the theoretical differences between my concept of edgework and Goffman’s notion of action, but the long term consequence was a profound appreciation of the power and relevance of Goffman’s ideas for making sense of the contemporary social world.