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

4. The quantitative tradition at Chicago

4.8 The interdisciplinary network of quantfiers at Chicago

The Chicagoans, then, contributed considerably to the development of quantitative as well as qualitative techniques, although this element of their work is rarely emphasised, perhaps because of its interdepartmental character (Bulmer, 1981a). Thurstone's work on attitude scaling, factor analysis and multivariate analysis and the adaptation of the advanced correlation techniques of Pearson and associates for sociology by Ogburn, Stouffer and other, and the development of prediction studies in which Burgess was involved were important contributions to the development of quantitative analysis in sociology in the United States. The development of the 'Columbia style' had been predated by interdisciplinary work at Chicago. Central to this was not only Thurstone's work but also the large-scale surveying in politics. As suggested above, the large-scale social survey, while not used by the sociologists at Chicago, was developed in the politics department, with whom Ogburn had close ties (Merriam and Gosnell, 1924; Gosnell, 1927 and White, 1929). A further important development was the critical work of Stouffer on case history (i.e. application of attitude testing to sociology) and the incorporation of the advances in British statistics following his year in London (1931-32) studying with Pearson, Yule, Fisher and Bowley.
Ogburn had a mediating role in all this, being a tutor and advisor to Stouffer, adapting and developing some of Thurstone's work (Ogburn, 1929c), assisting Burgess, and generally promoting statistical analysis. Ogburn’s own particular interest was in longitudinal analysis, notably time-series analysis embodied in the social trends work. He co-ordinated the social trends contributions to the American Journal of Sociology, one issue each year from 1927 to 1934 was on social changes, and was heavily involved in the work on the President's Committee on Social Trends.
There was no suggestion, at least until the 1950s, that Chicago sociology was 'non-quantitative'. Chicago had no repute for being hostile to statistics amongst contemporaries in the 1940s, rather the reverse was more likely the case given the reputation of Ogburn, Stouffer, Stephan and later O. D. Duncan and Fisher. The analysis of the 'coup' of 1935, in chapter seven, points to an alliance between the Chicagoans and other quantitative sociologists. In addition there were strong quantitative social science links provided through the interdepartmental research committees. Indeed, when Wilson wrote to Burgess in 1940 to recommend Whyte, one of the reasons was because 'I think he feels he needs more statistics than he has had'. The quantitative research at Chicago was not, then, undertaken by individuals working in isolation. Rather there was a strong network of quantitative practitioners within the University.
This can be seen in the close ties between quantifiers at Chicago, notably Ogburn, Thurstone, Gosnell, Douglas and Schultz and the connections they made with the departments of mathematics and biology served as a supplementary interdepartmental network, which developed considerable research work. These ties were not merely transitory and there seemed to be a genuine concern that this area of work be harmoniously promoted at the highest level. As late as 1945 Stouffer, serving in the research unit of the War Department at Washington, wrote to Walter Bartky head of the Department of Mathematics at Chicago to recommend Guttman.

Guttman's primary interest is in making basic contributions to social science. In that connection, he is, of course, very much interested in probability theory as well as in the theory of measurement. At the University of Chicago he would be a yeast which would have its influence throughout the social sciences. It seems to me that he would be a most useful addition to the committee on mathematical statistics, as well as to the social science division, and the critical Chicago atmosphere should stimulate him to continual new creative development. (Stouffer, 1945)

The development of quantitative techniques at Chicago has perhaps become a 'lost heritage' because of its interdisciplinary nature. However, given the long term of this development and the significant role played by Chicago personnel in the development of quantification in social science, this seems a rather too simple answer. Quantification at Chicago has, arguably, been deliberately ignored by historians who have been more concerned to explain the relationship of symbolic interactionism to the early 'pragmatic' base in the department, and thus have served to project an illusory view of Chicago as overly concerned with qualitative research.

Next 4.9 Conclusion