1 Chicago School
1.1 Introduction
1.2 The concept of 'school
1.3 Constructions of the School
1.4 A Chicago School?
1.5 Designations of the School
1.6 Brief chronology of the Department
1.7 Myths of the Chicago School

2 Chicagoans as ameliorists
2.1 The myth
2.2 Small and Henderson
2.3 Thomas and pure research
2.4 Park's anti-reformism
2.5 Burgess and action research
2.6 Local Community Research
2.7 Society for Social Research

2.8 Conclusion

3 Chicagoans as ethnographers
3.1 The myth
3.2 Nature of ethnography
3.3 Case study
3.4 Nomothetic orientation
3.5 Participant observation at Chicago
3.6 PO and community studies
3.7 PO and the Chicago approach

4 The quantitative tradition at Chicago
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Case study v statistics
4.3 Park's approach to quantification
4.4 Ogburn and quantification
4.5 Burgess as barometer
4.6 Methodological debate in SSR
4.7 Chicago eclecticism
4.8 Interdisciplinary network
4.9 Conclusion

5 Chicagoans as atheoretical empirical researchers
5.1 The myth
5.2 The empirical approach
5.3 Urban sociology at Chicago
5.4 Conceptual development
5.5 Chicago theorising
5.6 Chicagoans epistemology
5.7 Chicago alternatives
5.8 Conclusion

6 G.H. Mead and the Chicagoans
6.1 The myth
6.2 Mead's involvement in sociology
6.3 Mead's theoretical impact
6.4 Mead and symbolic intractionism
6.5 Mead and Blumer debate
6.6 The debate and the work of the Chicagoans
6.7 Conclusion

7 Chicago dominance
7.1 The myth
7.2 Chicago's role to 1930
7.3 The coup and decline
7.4 Chicago neglect
7.5 Chicago introspection
7.6 Loss of research ethos
7.7 Structural factors
7.8 Extent of the decline
7.9 Conclusion

8 Schools and metascience
8.1 Introduction
8.2 Potential of a unit approach
8.3 Conclusion



About Myths of the Chicago School (1987)



© Lee Harvey 1987, 2019, 2020

Page updated 30 March, 2020

Citation reference: Harvey, L., [1987] 2020, Myths of the Chicago School, available at, last updated 30 March, 2020, originally published in Aldershot by Avebury, Gower Piublishing, all rights revert to author.


Myths of the Chicago School

2. Chicagoans as ameliorists

2.7 The Society for Social Research and reformism

The Local Community Research Committee was a base for getting funds but not a forum for ideas or analysis of work. In the Chicago context this was done through the Society for Social Research. If any organisation can be said to be representative of the 'Chicago School's' approach to amelioration then it is the Society for Social Research, rather than the Local Community Research Committee. Curiously ignored, the society was clearly the major academic clearing house for sociological and other social scientific research at Chicago for thirty years (Bulmer, 1983). Indeed, it provided the institutional focus for the development of the sociological work done at Chicago. The annual Institutes of the Society allowed Chicago to keep in touch with research elsewhere and also provided a window onto research developments at Chicago. Its orientation was firmly 'scientific'; social reform was kept at arms length. Sociology was distanced from central and municipal administration and was seen as distinct from the 'generalizations of the practical man' (Bulletin of the Society for Social Research, June, 1932). This concern with 'pure research' continued the Thomasian heritage and was put most forcefully to the Society by Ogburn when he commented that he 'deplored the obsession with practical ends as diverting attention from more fundamental studies' (Bulletin of the Society for Social Research, June 1930, p. 3).

The meetings of the Society between 1924 and 1935 do not indicate any real concern with reform. Of the one hundred and thirty six meetings over this period on which information was available, only 16 (12%) were directed to reformist or welfare concerns. Of these, twelve were given in the period 1924-26 and none of the addresses after 1933 could be construed as concerned with welfare or reform issues. Fifty per cent of all addresses that were presented to the Society that dealt with reform were presented by external, non-academic speakers, including all those addresses on reform issues presented after 1930. Only two sociology students addressed the Society about reform concerns and none of the sociology faculty did. The real concerns of the Society were the development of an 'objective' methodology and the consideration of the nature of scientific sociology (see Appendix 3).

Next 2.8 Conclusion