Sociology 377A - ON-LINE READINGS, Spring 2011

On Cooling the Mark Out*

   Some Aspects of Adaptation to Failure

   Erving Goffman/-

   In cases of criminalfraud, victims find they must suddenly adapt
   themselves to the loss of sources of security and status which they
   had taken for granted. A consideration of this adaptation to loss can
   lead us to an understanding of some relations in our society between
   involvements and the selves that are involved. In the argot of the
   criminal world, the term "mark" refers to any individual who is a
   victim or prospective victim of certain forms of planned illegal
   exploitation. The mark is the sucker-the person who is taken in. An
   instance of the operation of any particular racket, taken through the
   full cycle of its steps or phases, is sometimes called a play. The
   persons who operate the racket and "take" the mark are occasionally
   called operators.

   The confidence game-the con, as its practitioners call it-is a way of
   obtaining money under false pretenses by the exercise of fraud and
   deceit. The con differs from politer forms of financial deceit in
   important ways. The con is practiced on private persons by talented
   actors who methodically and regularly build up informal social
   relationships just for the purpose of abusing them; white-collar crime
   is practiced on organizations by persons who learn to abuse positions
   of trust which they once filled faithfully. The one exploits, poise;
   the other, position. Further, a con man is someone who accepts a
   social role in the underworld community; he is part of a brotherhood
   whose members make no pretense to one another of being "legit." A
   white-collar criminal, on the other hand, has no colleagues, although
   he may have an associate with whom he plans his crime and a wife to
   whom he confesses it.

   The con is said to be a good racket in the United States only because
   most Americans are willing, nay eager, to make easy money, and will
   engage in action that is less than legal in order to do so The typical
   play has typical phases. The potential sucker is first spotted and one
   member of the working team (called the outside man, steerer, or roper)
   arranges to make social contact with him. The confidence of the mark
   is won, and he is given an opportunity to invest his money in a
   gambling venture which he understands to have been fixed in his favor
   The venture, of course, is fixed, but not in his favor. The mark is
   permitted to win some money and then persuaded to invest more. There
   is an "accident" or "mistake," and the mark loses his total
   investment. The operators then depart in a ceremony that is called the
   blowoff or sting. They leave the mark but take his money. The mark is
   expected to go on his way, a little wiser and a lot poorer.

   Sometimes, however, a mark is not quite prepared to accept his loss as
   a gain in experience and to say and do nothing about his venture. He
   may feel moved to [p. 452] complain to the police or to chase after
   the operators. In the terminology of the trade, the mark may squawk,
   beef, or come through. From the operators' point of view, this kind of
   behavior is bad for business. It gives the members of the mob a bad
   reputation with such police as have not. yet been fixed and with marks
   who have not yet been taken. In order to avoid this adverse publicity,
   an additional phase is sometimes added at the end of the play. It is
   called cooling the mark out After the blowoff has occurred, one of the
   operators stays with the mark and makes an effort to keep the anger of
   the mark within manageable and sensible proportions. The operator
   stays behind his team-mates in the capacity of what might be called a
   cooler and exercises upon the mark the art of consolation. An attempt
   is made to define the situation for the mark in a way that makes it
   easy for him to accept the inevitable and quietly go home. The mark is
   given instruction in the philosophy of taking a loss.

   When we call to mind the image of a mark who has just been separated
   from his money, we sometimes attempt to account for the greatness of
   his anger by the greatness of his financial loss. This is a narrow
   view. In many cases, especially in America, the mark's image of
   himself is built up on the belief that he is a pretty shrewd person
   when it comes to making deals and that he is not the sort of person
   who is taken in by any thing. The mark's readiness to participate in a
   sure thing is based on more than avarice; it is based on a feeling
   that he will now be able to prove to himself that he is the sort of
   person who can "turn a-fast buck." For many, this capacity for high
   finance comes near to being a sign of masculinity and a test of
   fulfilling the male role.

   It is well known that persons protect themselves with all kinds of
   rationalizations when they have a buried image of themselves which the
   facts of their status do not support. A person may tell himself many
   things: that he has not been given a fair chance; that he is not
   really interested in becoming something else; that the time for
   showing his mettle has not yet come; that the usual means of realizing
   his desires are personally or morally distasteful, or require too much
   dull effort. By means of such defenses, a person saves himself from
   committing a cardinal social sin-the sin of defining oneself in terms
   of a status while lacking the qualifications which an incumbent of
   that status is supposed to possess.

   A mark's participation in a play, and his investment in it, clearly
   commit him in his own eyes to the proposition that he is a smart man.
   The process by which he comes to believe that he cannot lose is also
   the process by which he drops the defenses and compensations that
   previously protected him from defeats. When the blowoff comes, the
   mark finds that he has no defense for not being a shrewd man. He has
   defined himself as a shrewd man and must face the fact that he is only
   another easy mark. He has defined himself as possessing a certain set
   of qualities and then proven to himself that he is miser ably lacking
   in them. This is a process of self-destruction of the self. It is no
   wonder that the mark needs to be cooled out and that it is good
   business policy for one of the operators to stay with the mark in
   order to talk him into a point of view from which it is possible to
   accept a loss.

   In essence, then, the cooler has the job of handling persons who have
   been caught out on a limb-persons whose expectations and
   self-conceptions have been built up and then shattered. The mark is a
   person who has compromised himself, in his own eyes if not in the eyes
   of others.

   Although the term, mark, is commonly applied to a person who is given
   short-lived expectations by operators who have intentionally
   misrepresented the facts, a less restricted definition is desirable in
   analyzing the larger social scene. An expectation may finally prove
   false, even though it has been possible to sustain it for a long time
   and even though the operators acted in good faith. So, too, the
   disappointment of reasonable, expectations, as well as misguided ones,
   creates a need for consolation. Persons who participate in what is
   recognized as a confidence [453] game are found in only a few social
   settings, but persons who have to be cooled out are found in many.
   Cooling the mark out is one theme in a very basic social story.

   For purposes of analysis, one may think of an individual in reference
   to the values or attributes of a socially recognized character which
   he possesses. Psychologists speak of a value as a personal involvement
   Sociologists speak of a value as a, status, role, or relationship. In
   either case, the character of the value that is possessed is taken in
   a certain way as the character of the person who possesses it. An
   alteration in the kinds of attributes possessed brings an alteration
   to the self-conception of the person who possesses them.

   The process by which someone acquires a value is the process by which
   he surrenders the claim he had to what he was and commits himself to
   the conception of self which the new value requires or allows him to
   have. It is the process that persons who fall in love or take dope
   call getting hooked. After a person is hooked, he must go through
   another process by which his new involvement finds its proper place,
   in space and time, relative to the other calls, demands, and
   commitments that he has upon himself. At this point certain other
   persons suddenly begin to play an important part in the individual's
   story; they impinge upon him by virtue of the relationship they happen
   to have to the value in which he has become involved This is not the
   place to consider the general kinds of impingement that are
   institutionalized in our society and the general social relationships
   that arise: the personal relationship, the professional relationship,
   and the business relationship Here we are concerned only with the end
   of the story, the way in which a person becomes disengaged from one of
   his involvements.

   In our society, the story of a person's involvement can end in one of
   three general ways. According to one type of ending he may withdraw
   from one of his involvements or roles in order to acquire a
   sequentially related one that is considered better. This is the case
   when a youth becomes a man, when a student becomes a practitioner, or
   when a man from the ranks is given a commission.

   Of course, the person who must change his self at any one of these
   points of promotion may have profound misgivings. He may feel disloyal
   to the way of life that must be left behind and to the persons who do
   not leave it with him. His new role may require action that seems
   insincere, dishonest, or unfriendly. This he may experience as a loss
   in moral cleanliness. His new role may require him to forgo the kinds
   of risk-taking and exertion that he previously enjoyed, and yet his
   new role may not provide the kind of heroic and exalted action that he
   expected to find in it.[1] This he may experience as a loss in moral

   There is no doubt that certain kinds of role success require certain
   kinds of moral failure. It may therefore be necessary, in a sense, to
   cool the dubious neophyte in rather than out. He may have to be
   convinced that his doubts are a matter of sentimentality. The adult
   social view will be impressed upon him. He will be required to
   understand that a promotional change in status is voluntary,
   desirable, and natural, and that loss of one's role in these
   circumstances is the ultimate test of having fulfilled it properly.

   It has been suggested that a person may leave a role under
   circumstances that reflect favorably upon the way in which he
   performed it. In theory, at least, a related possibility must be
   considered. A person may leave a role and at the same time leave
   behind him the standards by which such roles are judged. The new thing
   that he becomes may be so different from the things he was that
   criteria such as success or failure cannot be easily applied to the
   change which has occurred. He becomes lost to others that he may [454]
   find himself; he is of the twice-born. In our society, perhaps the
   most obvious example of this kind of termination occurs when a woman
   voluntarily gives up a prestigeful profession in order to become a
   wife and a mother. It is to be noted that this illustrates an
   institutionalized movement; those who make it do not make news. In
   America most other of this kind of termination are more a matter of
   talk than of occurrence. For example, one of the culture heroes of our
   dinner-table mythology is the man who walks out on an established
   calling in order to write or paint or live in the country. In other
   societies, the kind of abdication being considered here seems to have
   played a more important role. In medieval China, for instance,
   anchoretic withdrawal apparently gave to persons of quite different
   station a way of retreating from the occupational struggle while
   managing the retreat in an orderly, face-saving fashion.[2]

   Two basic ways in which a person can lose a role have been considered;
   he can be promoted out of it or abdicate from it. There is, of course,
   a third basic ending to the status story. A person may be
   involuntarily deprived of his position or involvement and made in
   return something that is considered a lesser thing to be. It is mainly
   in this third ending to a person's role that occasions arise for
   cooling him out. It is here that one deals in the full sense with the
   problem of persons' losing their roles.

   Involuntary loss seems itself to be of two kinds. First, a person may
   lose a status in such a way that the loss is not taken as a reflection
   upon the loser. The loss of a loved one, either because of an accident
   that could not have been prevented or because of a disease that could
   not have -been halted, is a case in point. Occupational retirement
   because of old age is another. Of course, the loss will inevitably
   alter the conception the loser has of himself and the conception
   others have of him, but the alteration itself will not be treated as a
   symbol of the fate he deserves to receive. No insult is added to
   injury. It may be necessary, none the less, to pacify the loser and
   resign him to his loss. The loser who is not held responsible for his
   loss may even find himself taking the mystical view that all
   involvements are part of a wider con game, for the more one takes
   pleasure in a particular role the more one must suffer when it is time
   to leave it. He may find little comfort in the fact that the play has
   provided him with an illusion that has lasted a lifetime. He may find
   little comfort in the fact that the operators had not meant to deceive

   Secondly, a person may be involuntarily deprived of a role under
   circumstances which reflect unfavorably on his capacity for it. The
   lost role may be one that he had already acquired or one that he had
   openly committed himself to preparing for. In either case the loss is
   more than a matter of ceasing to act in a given capacity; it is
   ultimate proof of an incapacity. And in many cases it is even more
   than this. The moment of failure often catches a person acting as one
   who feels that he is an appropriate sort of person for the role in
   question. Assumption becomes presumption, and failure becomes fraud.
   To loss of substance is thereby added loss of face. Of the many themes
   that can occur in the natural history of an involvement, this seems to
   be the most melancholy. Here it will be quite essential and quite
   difficult to cool the mark out. I shall be particularly concerned with
   this second kind of loss-the kind that involves humiliation.

   It should be noted, parenthetically, that one circle of persons may
   define a particular loss as the kind that casts no reflection on the
   loser, and that a different circle of persons may treat the same loss
   as a symbol of What the loser deserves. One must also note that there
   is a tendency today to shift certain losses of status from the
   category of those that reflect upon the loser to the category of those
   that do not. When persons lose their jobs, their courage, or their
   minds, we tend, more and more to take a clinical or naturalistic [455]
   view of the loss and a nonmoral view of their failure. We want to
   define a person as something that is not destroyed by the destruction
   of one of his selves. This benevolent attitude is in line with the
   effort today to publicize the view that occupational retirement is not
   the end of all active capacities but the beginning of new and
   different ones.

   A consideration of consolation as a social process leads to four
   general problems having to do with the self in society. First, where
   in modern life does one find persons conducting themselves as though
   they were entitled to the rights of a particular status and then
   having to face up to the fact that they do not possess the
   qualification for the status? In other words, at what points in the
   structures of our social life are persons likely to compromise
   themselves or find themselves compromised? When is it likely that a
   person will have to disengage himself or become disengaged from one of
   his involvements? Secondly, what are the typical ways in which persons
   who find themselves in this difficult position can be cooled out; how
   can they be made to accept the great injury that has been done to
   their image of themselves, regroup their defenses, and carry on
   without raising, a squawk? Thirdly, what, in general, can happen when
   a person refuses to be cooled out, that is, when he refuses to be
   pacified by the cooler? Fourthly, what arrangements are made by
   operators and marks to avoid entirely the process of consolation?

   In all personal-service organizations customers or clients sometimes
   make complaints. A customer may feel that he has been given service in
   a way that is un acceptable to him -- a way that he interprets as an
   offense to the conception he has of who and what he is. The manage-
   ment, therefore has the problem of cooling the mark out. Frequently
   this function is allotted to specialists within the organization. In
   restaurants of some size, for example, one of the crucial functions of
   the hostess is to pacify customers whose self-conceptions have been
   injured by waitresses or by the food. In large stores the complaint
   department and the floorwalker perform a similar function.

   One may note that a service organization does not operate in an
   anonymous world, as does a con mob, and is therefore strongly obliged
   to make some effort to cool the mark out. An institution, after all,
   cannot take it on the lam; it must pacify its marks.

   One may also note that coolers in service organizations tend to view
   their own activity in a light that softens the harsher details of the
   situation. The cooler protects himself from feelings of guilt by
   arguing that the customer is not really in need of the service he
   expected to receive, that bad service is not really deprivational, and
   that beefs and complaints are a sign of bile, not a sign of injury. In
   a similar way, the con man protects himself from remorseful images of
   bankrupt marks by arguing that the mark is a fool and not a
   full-fledged person, possessing an inclination towards illegal gain
   but not the decency to admit it or the capacity to succeed at it.

   In organizations patterned after a bureaucratic model, it is customary
   for personnel to expect rewards of a specified kind upon fulfilling
   requirements of a specified nature. Personnel come to define their
   career line in terms of a sequence of legitimate expectations and to
   base their self-conceptions on the assumption that in due course they
   will be what the institution allows persons to become. Sometimes,
   however, a member of an organization may fulfill some of the
   requirements for a particular status, especially the requirements
   concerning technical proficiency and seniority, but not other
   requirements, especially the less codified ones having to do with the
   proper handling of social relationships at work. It must fall to
   someone to break the bad news to victim; someone must tell him that he
   has been fired, or that he has failed his examinations, or that he has
   been by-passed in promotion. And after the blowoff, someone has to
   cool the mark out. The necessity of disappointing the expectations
   that a person has taken for [456] granted may be infrequent in some
   organizations, but in others, such as training institutions, it occurs
   all the time. The process of personnel selection requires that many
   trainees be called but that few be, chosen.

   When one turns from places of work to other scenes in our social life,
   one finds that each has its own occasions for cooling the mark out.
   During informal social intercourse it is well understood that an
   effort on the part of one person (ego) to decrease his social distance
   from another person (alter) must be graciously accepted by alter or,
   if rejected, rejected tactfully so that the initiator of the move can
   save his social face. This rule is codified in books on etiquette and
   is followed in actual behavior. A friendly movement in the direction
   of alter is a movement outward on a limb; ego communicates his belief
   that he has defined himself as worthy of alter's society, while at the
   same time he places alter in the strategic position of being able to
   discredit this conception.

   The problem of cooling persons out in informal social intercourse is
   seen most clearly, perhaps, in courting situations and in what might
   be called de-courting situations. A proposal of marriage in our
   society tends to be a way in which a man sums up his social attributes
   and suggests to a woman that hers are not so much better as to
   preclude a merger or partnership in these matters. Refusal on the part
   of the woman, or refusal on the part of the man to propose when he is
   clearly in a position to do so, is a serious reflection on the
   rejected suitor. Courtship is a way not only of presenting oneself to
   alter for approval but also of saying that the opinion of alter in
   this matter is the opinion one is most concerned with. Refusing a
   proposal, or refusing to propose, is therefore a difficult operation.
   The mark must be carefully cooled out. The act of breaking a date or
   of refusing one, and the task of discouraging a "steady" can also be
   seen in this light, although in these cases great delicacy and tact
   may not be required, since the mark may not be deeply involved or
   openly committed.

   Just as it is harder to refuse a proposal than to refuse a date, so it
   is more difficult to reject a spouse than to reject a suitor. The
   process of de-courting by which one person in a marriage maneuvers the
   other into accepting a divorce without fuss or fuss or undue rancor
   requires extreme finesse in the art of cooling the mark out.

   In all of these cases where a person constructs a conception of
   himself which cannot be sustained, there is a possibility that he has
   not -invested that which is most important to him in the
   soon-to-be-denied status. In the current idiom, there is a possibility
   that when he is hit, he will not be hit where he really lives. There
   is a set of cases, however, where the blowoff cannot help but strike a
   vital spot; these cases arise, of course, when a person must be
   dissuaded from life itself. The man with a fatal sickness or fatal
   injury, the criminal with a death sentence, the soldier with a
   hopeless objective -- these persons must be persuaded to accept
   quietly the loss of life itself, the loss of all one's earthly
   involvements. Here, certainly, it will be difficult to cool the mark
   out. It is a reflection on the conceptions men have -- as cooler and
   mark -- that it is possible to do so.

   I have mentioned a few of the areas of social life where it becomes
   necessary, upon occasion, to cool a mark out. Attention may now be
   directed to some of the common ways in which individuals are cooled
   out in all of these areas of life.

   For the mark, cooling represents a process of adjustment to an
   impossible situation -- a situation arising from having defined
   himself in a way which the social facts come to contradict. The mark
   must therefore be supplied with a new set of apologies for himself, a
   new framework in which to see himself and judge himself. A process of
   redefining the self along defensible lines must be instigated and car-
   ried along; since the mark himself is frequently in too weakened a
   condition to do this, the cooler must initially do it for him.

   One general way of handling the problem [457] of cooling the mark out
   is to give the task to someone whose status relative to the mark will
   serve to ease the situation in some way. In formal organizations,
   frequently, someone who is two or three levels above the mark in line
   of command will do the hatchet work, on the assumption that words of
   consolation and redirection will have a greater power to convince if
   they come from high places. There also seems to be a feeling that
   persons of high status are better able to withstand the moral danger
   of having hate directed at them. Incidentally, persons protected by
   high office do not like to face this issue, and frequently attempt to
   define themselves as merely the agents of the deed and not the source
   of it. In some cases, on the other hand, the task of cooling the mark
   out is given to a friend and peer of the mark, on the assumption that
   such a person will know best how to hit upon a suitable
   rationalization for the mark and will know best how to control the
   mark should the need for this arise. In some cases, as in those
   pertaining to death, the role of cooler is given to doctors or
   priests. Doctors must frequently help a family, and the member who is
   leaving it, to manage the leave-taking with tact and a minimum of
   emotional fuss.[3] A priest must not so much save a soul as create one
   that is consistent with what is about to become of it.

   A second general solution to the problem of cooling the mark out
   consists of offering him a status which differs from the one he has
   lost or failed to gain but which provides at least a something or a
   somebody for him to become. Usually the alternative presented to the
   mark is a compromise of some kind, providing him with some of the
   trappings of his lost status as well as [xxx] some of its spirit. A
   lover may be asked to become a friend; a student of medicine may be
   asked to switch to the study of dentistry;[4] a boxer may become a
   trainer; a dying person may be asked to broaden and empty his worldly
   loves so as to embrace the All-Father that is about to receive him.
   Sometimes the mark is allowed to retain his status but is required to
   fulfill it in a different environment: the honest policeman is
   transferred to a lonely beat; the too zealous priest is encouraged to
   enter a monastery; an unsatisfactory plant manager is shipped off to
   another branch. Sometimes the mark is "kicked upstairs" and given a
   courtesy status such as "Vice President." In the game for social
   roles, transfer up, down, or away may all be consolation prizes.

   A related way of handling the mark is to offer him another chance to
   qualify for the role at which he has failed. After his fall from
   grace, he is allowed to retrace his steps and try again. Officer
   selection programs in the army, for example, often provide for
   possibilities of this kind. In general, it seems that third and fourth
   chances are seldom given to marks, and that second chances, while
   often given, are seldom taken. Failure at a role removes a person from
   the company of those who have succeeded, but it does not bring him
   back -- in spirit, anyway-to the society of those who have not tried
   or are in the process of trying. The person who has failed in a role
   is a constant source of embarrassment, for none of the standard
   patterns of treatment is quite applicable to him. Instead of taking a
   second chance, he usually goes away to another place where his past
   does not bring confusion to his present.

   Another standard method of cooling the mark out -- one which is
   frequently employed in conjunction with other methods-is to allow the
   mark to explode, to break down, to cause a scene, to give full vent to
   his reactions and feelings, to "blow his top." If this release of
   emotions does not find a target, then it at least serves a cathartic
   function. If it does find a target, as in "telling off the boss," it
   gives the mark a last-minute chance to re-erect his defenses and prove
   to himself and others that he had not really cared about the status
   all along. When a blow-up of this kind occurs, friends of the [458]
   mark or psychotherapists are frequently brought in. Friends are
   willing to take responsibility for the mark because their relationship
   to him is not limited to the role he has failed in. This,
   incidentally, provides one of the less obvious reasons why he cooler
   in a con mob must cultivate the friendship of the mark; friendship
   provides the cooler with an acceptable reason for staying around while
   the mark is cooled out. Psychotherapists, on the other hand, are
   willing to take responsibility for the mark because it is their
   business to offer a relationship to those who have failed in a
   relationship to others.

   It has been suggested that a mark may be cooled out by allowing him,
   under suitable guidance, to give full vent to his initial shock. Thus
   the manager of a commercial organization may listen with patience and
   understanding to the complaints of a customer, knowing that the full
   expression of a complaint is likely to weaken it. This possibility
   lies behind the role of a whole series of buffers in our
   society-janitors, restaurant hostesses, grievance committees,
   floorwalkers, and so on-who listen in silence, with apparent sympathy,
   until the mark has simmered down. Similarly, in the case of criminal
   trials, the defending lawyer may find it profitable to allow the
   public to simmer down before he brings his client to court.

   A related procedure for cooling the mark out is found in what is
   called stalling. The feelings of the mark are not brought to a head
   because he is given no target at which to direct them. The operator
   may manage to avoid the presence of the mark or may convince the mark
   that there is still a slight chance that the loss not really occurred.
   When the mark is stalled, he is given a chance to become familiar with
   the new conception of self he will have to accept before he is
   absolutely sure that he will have to accept it.

   As another cooling procedure, there is the possibility that the
   operator and the mark may enter into a tacit understanding according
   to which the mark agrees to act as if he were leaving of his own
   accord, and the operator agrees to preserve the illusion that this was
   the case. It is a form of bribery. In this way the mark may fail in
   his own eyes but prevent others from discovering the failure. The mark
   gives up his role but saves his face. This, after all, is one of the
   reasons why persons who are fleeced by con men are often willing to
   remain silent about their adventure. The same strategy is at work in
   the romantic custom of allowing a guilty officer to take his own life
   in a private way before it is taken from him publicly, and in the less
   romantic custom of allowing a person to resign for delicate reasons
   instead of firing him for indelicate ones.

   Bribery is, of course, a form of exchange. In this case, the mark
   guarantees to leave quickly and quietly, and in exchange is allowed to
   leave under a cloud of his own choosing. A more important variation
   -on the same theme is found in the practice of financial compensation.
   A man can say to himself and others that he is happy to retire from
   his job and say this with more conviction if he is able to point to a
   comfortable pension. In this sense, pensions are automatic devices for
   providing consolation. So, too, a person who has been injured because
   of another's criminal or marital neglect can compensate for the loss
   by means of a court settlement.

   I have suggested some general ways in which the mark is cooled out.
   The question now arises: what happens if the mark refuses to be cooled
   out? What are the possible lines of action he can take if he refuses
   to be cooled? Attempts to answer these questions will show more
   clearly, in general, the operator is so anxious to pacify the mark.

   It has been suggested that a mark may be cooled by allowing him to
   blow his top. If the blow-up is too drastic or prolonged, however,
   difficulties may arise. We say that the mark becomes "disturbed
   mentally" or "personally disorganized." Instead of merely telling his
   boss off, the mark may go so far as to commit criminal [459] violence
   against him. Instead of merely blaming himself for failure, the mark
   may inflict great punishment upon himself by attempting suicide, or by
   acting so as to make it necessary for him to be cooled out in other
   areas of his social life.

   Sustained personal disorganization is one way in which a mark can
   refuse to cool out. Another standard way is for the individual to
   raise a squawk, that is, to make a formal complaint to higher au-
   thorities obliged to take notice of such matters. The con mob worries
   lest the mark appeal to the police. The plant manager must make sure
   that the disgruntled department head does not carry a formal complaint
   to the general manager or, worse still, to the Board of Directors. The
   teacher worries lest the child's parent complain to the principal.
   Similarly, a woman who communicates her evaluation of self by
   accepting a proposal of marriage can sometimes protect her exposed
   position-should the necessity of doing so arise-by threatening her
   disaffected fianc. with a breach-of-promise suit. So, also, a woman
   who is de-courting her husband must fear lest he contest the divorce
   or sue her lover for alienation of affection. In much the same way, a
   customer who is angered by a salesperson can refuse to be mollified by
   the floorwalker and demand to see the manager. It is interesting to
   note that associations dedicated to the rights and the honor of
   minority groups may sometimes encourage a mark to register a formal
   squawk; politically it may be more advantageous to provide a test case
   than to allow the mark to be cooled out.

   Another line of action which a mark who refuses to be cooled c an
   pursue is that of turning "sour." The term derives from the argot of
   industry but the behavior it refers to occurs everywhere. The mark
   outwardly accepts his loss but withdraws all enthusiasm, good will,
   and vitality from whatever role he is allowed to maintain. He complies
   with the formal requirements of the role that is left him, but he
   withdraws his spirit and identification from it. When an employee
   turns sour, the interests of the organization suffer; every executive,
   therefore, has the problem of "sweetening" his workers. They must not
   come to feel that they are slowly being cooled out. This is one of the
   functions of granting periodic advancements in salary and status, of
   schemes such as profit-sharing, or of giving the "employee" at home an
   anniversary present. A similar view can be taken of the problem that a
   government faces in times of crisis when it must maintain the
   enthusiastic support of the nation's disadvantaged minorities, for
   whole groupings of the population can feel they are being cooled out
   and react by turning sour.

   Finally, there is the possibility that the mark may, in a manner of
   speaking, go into business for himself. He can try to gather about him
   the persons and facilities required to establish a status similar to
   the one he has lost, albeit in relation to a different set of persons.
   This way of refusing to be cooled is often rehearsed in phantasies of
   the "I'll show them" kind, but sometimes it is actually realized in
   practice. The rejected marriage partner may make a better remarriage.
   A social stratum that has lost its status may decide to create its own
   social system. A leader who fails in a political party may establish
   his own splinter group.

   All these ways in which a mark can refuse to be cooled out have
   consequences for other persons. There is, of course, a kind of refusal
   that has little consequence for others. Marks of all kinds may develop
   explanations and excuses to account in a creditable way for their
   loss. It is, perhaps, in this region of phantasy that the defeated
   self makes its last stand.

   The process of cooling is a difficult one, both for the operator who
   cools the mark out and for the person who receives this treatment.
   Safeguards and strategies are therefore employed to ensure that the
   process itself need not and does not occur. One deals here with
   strategies of prevention, not strategies of cure.

   From the point of view of the operator, there are two chief ways of
   avoiding the difficulties of cooling the mark out. First, [[460]
   devices are commonly employed to weed out those applicants for a role,
   office, or relationship who might later prove to be unsuitable and
   require removal. The applicant is not given a chance to invest his
   self unwisely. A variation of this technique, that provides, in a way,
   a buit-in mechanism for cooling the mark out, is found in the
   institution of probationary period and "temporary" staff. These
   definitions of the situation make it clear to the person that he must
   maintain his ego in readiness for the loss of his job, or, better
   still, that he ought not to think of himself as really having the job.
   If these safety measures fail, however, a second strategy is often
   employed. Operators of all kinds seem to be ready, to a surprising
   degree, to put up with or "carry" persons who have failed but who have
   not yet been treated as failures. This is especially true where the
   involvement of the mark is deep and where his conception of self had
   been publicly committed. Business offices, government agencies,
   spouses, and other kinds of operators are often careful to make a
   place for the mark, so that dissolution of the bond will not be
   necessary. Here, perhaps, is the most important source of private
   charity in our society.

   A consideration of these preventive strategies brings to attention an
   interesting functional relationship among age-grading, recruitment,
   and the structure of the self. In our society, as in most others, the
   young in years are defined as not-yet-persons. To a certain degree,
   they are not subject to success and failure. A child can throw himself
   completely into a task, and fail at it, and by and large he will not
   be destroyed by his failure; it is only necessary to play at cooling
   him out. An adolescent can be bitterly disappointment in love, and yet
   he will not thereby, become, at least for others, a broken person. A
   youth can spend a certain amount of time shopping around for a
   congenial job or a congenial training course, because he is still
   thought to be able to change his mind without changing his self. And,
   should he fail at something to which he has tried to commit himself,
   no permanent damage may be done to his self. If many are to be called
   and few chosen, then it is more convenient for everyone concerned to
   call individuals who are not fully persons and cannot be destroyed by
   failing to be chosen. As the individual grows older, he becomes
   defined as someone who must not be engaged in a role for which he is
   unsuited. He becomes defined as something that must not fail, while at
   the same time arrangements are made to decrease the chances of his
   failing. Of course, when the mark reaches old age, he must remove
   himself or be removed from each of his roles, one by one, and
   participate in the problem of later maturity.

   The strategies that are employed by operators to avoid the necessity
   of cooling the mark out have a counterpart in the strategies that are
   employed by the mark himself for the same purpose.

   There is the strategy of hedging, by which a person makes sure that he
   is not completely committed. There is the strategy of secrecy, by
   which a person conceals from others and even from himself the facts of
   his commitment; there is also the practice of keeping two irons in the
   fire and the more delicate practice of maintaining a joking or
   unserious relationship to one's involvement. All of these strategies
   give the mark an out; in case of failure he can act as if the self
   that has failed is not one that is important to him. Here we must also
   consider the function of being quick to take offense and of taking
   hints quickly, for in these ways the mark can actively cooperate in
   the task of saving his face. There is also the strategy of playing it
   safe, as in cases where a calling is chosen because tenure is assured
   in it, or where a plain woman is married for much the same reason.

   It has been suggested that preventive strategies are employed by
   operator and mark in order to reduce the chance of failing or to
   minimize the consequences of failure. The less importance one finds it
   necessary to give to the problem of cooling, the more importance one
   may have [462] given to the application of preventive strategies.

   I have considered some of the situations in our society in which the
   necessity for cooling the mark out is likely to arise. I have also
   considered the standard ways in which a mark can be cooled out, the
   lines of action he can pursue if he refuses to be cooled, and the ways
   in which the whole problem can be avoided. Attention can now be turned
   to some very general questions concerning the self in society.

   First, an attempt must be made to draw together what has been implied
   about the structure of persons. From the point of view of this paper,
   a person is an individual who becomes involved in a value of some kind
   -- a role, a status, a relationship, an ideology-and then makes a pub-
   lic claim that he is to be defined and treated as someone who
   possesses the value or property in question. The limits to his claims,
   and hence the limits to his self, are primarily determined by the ob-
   jective facts of his social life and secondarily determined by the
   degree to which a sympathetic interpretation of these facts can bend
   them in his favor. Any event which demonstrates that someone has made
   a false claim, defining himself as something which he is not, tends to
   destroy him. If others realize that the person's conception of self
   has been contradicted and discredited, then the person tends to be
   destroyed in the eyes of others. If the person can keep the contra-
   diction a secret, he may succeed in keeping everyone but himself from
   treating him as a failure.

   Secondly, one must take note of what is implied by the fact that it is
   possible for a person to be cooled out. Difficult as this may be,
   persons regularly define themselves in terms of a set of attributes
   and then have to accept the fact that they do not possess them -- and
   do this about-face with relatively little fuss or trouble for the
   operators. This implies that there is a norm in our society persuading
   persons to keep their chins up and make the best of it -- a sort of
   social sanitation enjoining torn and tattered persons to keep
   themselves packaged up. More important still, the capacity of a person
   to sustain these profound embarrassments implies a certain looseness
   and lack of interpenetration in the organization of his several
   life-activities. A man -may fail in his job, yet go on succeeding with
   his wife. His wife may ask him for a divorce, or refuse to grant him
   one, and yet he may push his way onto the same streetcar at the usual
   time on the way to the same job. He may know that he is shortly going
   to have to leave the status of the living, but still march with the
   other prisoners, or eat breakfast with his family at their usual time
   and from behind his usual paper. He may be conned of his life's
   savings an eastbound train but return to his home town and succeed in
   acting as if nothing of interest had happened.

   Lack of rigid integration of a person's social roles allows for
   compensation; he can seek comfort in one role for injuries incurred in
   others. There are always cases, of course, in which the mark cannot
   sustain the injury to his ego and cannot act like a "good scout." On
   these occasions the shattering experience in one area of social life
   may spread out to all the sectors of his activity. He may define away
   the barriers between his several social roles and become a source of
   difficulty in all of them. In such cases the play is the mark's entire
   social life, and the operators, really, are the society. In an
   increasing number of these cases, the mark is given psychological
   guidance by professionals of some kind. The psychotherapist is, in
   this sense, the society's cooler. His job is to pacify and reorient
   the disorganized person; his job is to send the patient back to an old
   world or a new one; and to send him back in a condition in which he
   can no longer cause trouble to others or can no longer make a fuss. In
   short, if one takes the society, and not the person as the unit, the
   psychotherapist has the basic task of cooling the mark out.

   A third point of interest arises' if one views all of social life from
   the perspective of this paper. It has been argued that a person must
   not openly or even privately [462] commit himself to a conception of
   himself which the flow of events is likely to discredit. He must not
   put himself in a position of having to be cooled out. Conversely,
   however, he must make sure that none of the persons with whom he has
   dealings are of the sort who may prove unsuitable and need to be
   cooled out. He must make doubly sure that should it become necessary
   to cool his associates out, they will be the sort who allow themselves
   to be gotten rid of. The con man who wants the mark to go home quietly
   and absorb a loss, the restaurant hostess who wants a customer to eat
   quietly and go away without causing trouble, and, if this is not
   possible, quietly to take his patronage elsewhere-these are the
   persons and these are the relationships which set the tone of some of
   our social life. Underlying this tone there is the assumption that
   persons are institutionally related to each other in such a way that
   if a mark allows himself to be cooled out, then the cooler need have
   no further concern with him; but if the mark refuses to be cooled out,
   he can put institutional machinery into action against the cooler.
   Underlying this tone there is also the assumption that persons are
   sentimentally related to each other in such a way that if a person
   allows himself to be cooled out, however great the loss he has
   sustained, then the cooler withdraws all emotional identification from
   him; but if the mark cannot absorb the injury to his self and if he
   becomes personally disorganized in some way, then the cooler cannot
   help but feel guilt and concern over the predicament. It is this
   feeling of guilt -- this small measure of involvement in the feelings
   of others -- which helps to make the job of cooling the mark but
   distasteful, wherever it appears. It is this incapacity to be
   insensitive to the suffering of another person when he brings his
   suffering right to your door which tends to make the job of cooling a
   species of dirty work.

   One must not, of course, make too much of the margin of sympathy
   connecting operator and mark. For one thing, the operator may rid
   himself of the mark by application or threat of pure force or open
   insult.[5] In Chicago in the 1920's small businessmen who suffered a
   loss in profits and in independence because of the "protection"
   services that racketeers gave to them were cooled out in this way. No
   doubt it is frivolous to suggest that Freud's notion of castration
   threat has something to do with the efforts of fathers to cool their
   sons out of oedipal involvements. Furthermore, there are many
   occasions when operators of different kinds must act as middlemen,
   with two marks on their hands; the calculated use of one mark as a
   sacrifice or fall guy may be the only way of cooling the other mark

   Finally, there are barbarous ceremonies in our society, such as
   criminal trials and the drumming-out ritual employed in court-martial
   procedures, that are expressly designed to prevent the mark from
   saving his face. And even in those cases where the cooler makes an
   effort to make things easier for the person he is getting rid of, we
   often find that there are bystanders who have no such scruples.[6]
   Onlookers who are close enough to observe the blowoff but who are not
   obliged to assist in the dirty work often enjoy the scene, taking
   pleasure in the discomfiture of the cooler and in the destruction of
   the mark. What is trouble for some is Schadenfreude for others.

   This paper has dealt chiefly with adaptations to loss; with defenses,
   strategies, consolations, mitigations, compensations, and the like.
   The kinds of sugar-coating have been examined, and not the pill. I
   would like to close this paper by referring briefly to the sort of
   thing that would be studied if one were interested in loss as such,
   and not in adaptations to it.

   A mark who requires cooling out is a person who can no longer sustain
   one of his social roles and is about to be removed from it; he is a
   person who is losing one of his social lives and is about to die one
   of the deaths that are possible for him. This leads one to consider
   the ways in which we can go or be sent to our death in each of our
   social capacities, the ways, in other words, of handling the passage
   from the role that we had to a state of [463] having it no longer. One
   might consider the social processes of firing and layingoff; of
   resigning and being asked to resign; of farewell and departure; of
   deportation, excommunication, and going to jail; of defeat at games,
   contests, and wars; of being dropped from a circle of friends or an
   intimate social relationship; of corporate dissolution; of retirement
   in old age; and, lastly, of the deaths that heirs are interested in.

   And, finally, attention must be directed to the things we become after
   we have died in one of the many social senses and capacities in which
   death can come to us. As one might expect, a process of sifting and
   sorting occurs by which the socially dead come to be effectively
   hidden from us. This movement of ex-persons throughout the social
   structure proceeds in more than one direction.

   There is, first of all, the dramatic process by which persons who have
   died in important ways come gradually to be brought together into a
   common graveyard that is separated ecologically from the living
   community.[7] For the dead, this is at once a punishment and a
   defense. Jails and mental institutions are, perhaps, the most familiar
   examples, but other important ones exist. In America today, there is
   the interesting tendency to set aside certain regions and towns in
   California as asylums for those who have died in their capacity as
   workers and as parents but who are still alive financially.[8][8] For
   the old in America who have also died financially, there are old-folks
   homes and rooming-house areas. And, of course , large cities have
   their Skid Rows which are, as Park put it, "... full of junk, much of
   it human, i.e., men and women who, for this reason or other , have
   fallen out of line in the march of industrial progress and have been
   scrapped by the industrial organization of which they were once a
   part."[9] Hobo jungles, located near freight yards on the outskirts of
   towns, provide another case in point.

   Just as a residential area may become a graveyard, so also certain
   institutions and occupational roles may take on a similar function.
   The ministry in Britain, for example, has sometimes served as a limbo
   for the occupational stillborn of better families, as have British
   universities. Mayhew, writing of London in the mid-nineteenth-century,
   provides another example: artisans of different kinds, who had failed
   to maintain a position in the practice of their trade, could be found
   working as dustmen.[10] In the United States, the jobs of waitress,
   cab driver, and night watchman, and the profession of prostitution,
   tend to be ending places where persons of certain kinds, starting from
   different places, can come to rest.

   But perhaps the most important movement of those who fail is one we
   never see. Where roles are ranked and somewhat related, persons who
   have been rejected from the one above may be difficult to distinguish
   from persons who have risen from the one below. For example, in
   America, upper-class women who fail to make a marriage in their own
   circle may follow the recognized route of marrying an upper-middle
   class professional. Successful lower-middle class women may arrive at
   the same station in life, coming from the other direction. Similarly,
   among those who mingle with one another as colleagues in the
   profession of dentistry, it is possible to find some who have failed
   to become physicians and others who -have succeeded at not becoming
   pharmacists or optometrists. No doubt there are few positions in life
   that do not throw together some persons who are there by virtue of
   failure and other persons who are there by virtue of success. In this
   sense, the dead are sorted but not segregated, and continue to walk
   among the living.

                                                THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

   * A.B. Univ. of Toronto 45; M.A., Sociology, Univ. of Chicago 49;
   Instr., Dept of Social Anthropology, Univ. of Edinburgh, and field
   research in the Shetland Islands 49-51; admitted to candidacy for
   Ph.D. in Sociology, Univ. of Chicago; Rsc. Asst., Division of Social
   Sciences, Univ. of Chicago 52-. For bibliography, see Reference Lists
   section of this issue.

   /- Terminology regarding criminal activity is taken primarily from D.
   W. Maurer, The Big Con (New York, Bobbs-Merrill, 1940), and also from
   E. Sutherland, The Professional Thief (Chicago, Univ. of Chicago Press
   1937). The approach that this paper attempts to utilize is taken from
   Everett C. Hughes of the University of Chicago, who is not responsible
   for any misapplications of it which may occur here. The sociological
   problem of failure was first suggested to me by James Littlejohn of
   the University of Edinburgh. I am grateful to Professor E. A. Shills
   for criticism and to my wife. Angelica S. Goffman, for assistance.

   [1] Mr. Hughes has lectured on this kind of disappointment, and one of
   his students has undertaken a special study of it. See Miriam
   Wagenschein, 'Reality Shock': A Study of Beginning School Teachers,"
   M.A. thesis, Dept. of Sociology, Univ. of Chicago, 2950.

   [2] See, for example, Max Weber, The Religion of China (H.. H. Gerth,
   tr.); Glencoe, Ill.. Free Press, 1951; p. 178.

   [3] This role of the doctor has been stressed by W. L. Warner in his
   lectures at the University of Chicago on symbolic roles in "Yankee

   [4] In his seminars, Mr. Hughes has used the term "second-choice"
   professions to refer to cases of this kind.

   [5] Suggested by Saul Mendlovitz in conversation.

   [6] Suggested by Howard S. Becker in conversation.

   [7] Suggested by Howard S. Becker in conversation.

   [8] Some early writers on caste report a like situation in India at
   the turn of the nineteenth century. Hindus who were taken to the
   Ganges to die, and who then recovered, were apparently denied all
   legal rights and all social relations with the living. Apparently
   these excluded persons found It necessary to congregate In a few
   villages of their own. in California, of course, settlements of the
   old have a voluntary character, and members maintain ceremonial
   contact with younger kin by the exchange of periodic visits and

   [9] E. Park, Human Communities, Glencoe, M.; Free Press, 1952; p. 60.

   [10] Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor; London, Griffin
   Bohn, 1861; Vol. II, pp. 177-178.

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