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Total institution, (also referred to as voracious institutions) as defined by Erving Goffman, is an institution where all the aspects of life of individuals under the institution is controlled and regulated by the authorities of the organization. Total institutions are a social microcosmos dictated by hegemony and clear hierarchy.

Total institutions include some boarding schools, concentration camps, prisons, mental institutions and boot camps.

Of these, concentration camps are largely illegal and therefore outside the legitimacies of the society. While prisons and mental institutions though legal involve the isolation of people out of the society. Boot camps, army barracks and submarine crew, involve total institutions where individuals join as non-civilian professionals. One of the few types of total institution which operate within a civil society are boarding schools.

Some people view total institutions as places where rites of passage and indoctrination occur within their confines in such a way that the total institution acts as a secret society within the society, one which shapes newcomers willingly or unwillingly into a new and more or less permanent social role. This view is controversial.

Totalitarian Institutions Edit

A kind of total institution not aiming towards a rational goal (keeping criminals off the streets, as in a prison, or providing adequate care to the mentally sick) but to a radical re-socialization of the individual. A totalitarian institution does not only regulates every aspect of the individuals it encompasses, but it isolates them from the outiside world, it does not have planned activities for the purpose of creating uncertainty and tension, nor does it formal privilege sistems. The goal of a totalitarian institution may be to, through harassment and torture, provide individuals with a context for deep re-construction of their identities, like the deep re-socialization process experienced by conscript soldiers, or may have no defined funcion towards the individuals it encompasses other than coercitive enforcement of a set of rules, as in the case of concentration camps.

Every institution has total traits, but not all have traits of totalitarian institutions.

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