1 The Chicago School

2 Chicagoans as ameliorists

3 Chicagoans as ethnographers

4 The quantitative tradition at Chicago

5 Chicagoans as atheoretical empirical researchers

6 G.H. Mead and the Chicagoans
7 Chicago dominance
8 Schools and metascience



About Myths of the Chicago School (1987)



© Lee Harvey 1987, 2018

Page updated 16 November, 2018

Citation reference: Harvey, L., [1987] 2018, Myths of the Chicago School, available at, last updated 16 November, 2018, originally published in Aldershot by Avebury, Gower Piublishing, all rights revert to author..


A novel of twists and surpises


Myths of the Chicago School

This book was originally published in 1987. It is a critical research study that addresses the misrepresentation of 'Chicago School' sociology, which is usually assumed to have been focused on ethnography with little concern with theorising, especially in its early years.

The book challenges five myths about the 'Chicago School' that were frequent in the literature from the 1960s to the 1980s. These misconceptions continue today.

The book uses first-hand sources, including a detailed and extensive examination of the work of the Chicagoans over three-quarters of a century. The Appendices contain material that would assist any further research into the nature of sociology in the United States during the 20th Century.

These five myths are:

(1) that Chicago sociologists were primarily social ameliorists, sympathising with Progressive or liberal ideas and concerned to resolve social problems. (Chapter 2)

(2) that Chicago sociology was dogmatically qualitative and had no interest in quantitative techniques of social research and, indeed, were openly hostile toward them. (Chapters 3 and 4)

(3) that Chicago sociology had no strong theoretical orientation and its work, in the main, constituted a descriptive exercise. Such theories as it did produce were little more than ideal type models (notably the 'concentric zone' thesis) with little explanatory power. (Chapter 5)

(4) that Chicago sociology is closely associated with symbolic interactionism and dominated by the epistemological perspective of G. H. Mead. (Chapter 6)

(5) that the 'Chicago School' dominated American sociology until the mid-1930s and then went into decline and became isolated mainly because it retained an old fashioned, unscientific, approach to sociology. (Chapter 7)


Next 1.1 Introduction