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

6. G.H. Mead and the Chicagoans

6.3 Mead's theoretical impact on the early Chicagoans

Mead is assumed to have had a direct impact on the theoretical developments in the Department of Sociology at Chicago during his lifetime (Faris, 1967). In the introduction to the 1964 edition of Mead's collected papers, Strauss (1964) noted that despite Mead's early influence on the philosophy department, the sociologists did not begin to notice him until the 1920s and even then Thomas and Park drew little directly from Mead. Mead was not even included in the readings in the Park-Burgess text of 1921 although he had published papers by this time. The vast majority of students and staff in the sociology department at Chicago appeared not to utilise Mead's social psychological perspective directly during his lifetime. Lewis and Smith (1981) have analysed citations in a selection of theses, articles and books and shown that Mead was not frequently mentioned. Kuklick (1984) has disputed the relevance of this arguing that to attempt to assess Mead's impact by counting formal citations in theses, texts and articles is spurious because his ideas were so widespread that they were taken for granted. She cited Nels Anderson who apparently recalled that 'he did not seek personal exposure to Mead because he was "getting Mead second hand enough for my needs"' (Kuklick, 1984, p. 1436). Nonetheless, the sample survey of doctoral theses at Chicago (Appendix 6) shows that there were hardly any sustained reference to Mead's ideas, twelve (29%) of the forty two theses examined in detail cited Mead but only four actually used Meadian concepts, and three of the four were submitted after 1940. Both Thomas and Cooley are cited far more frequently than Mead. Cooley is referred to in twenty of the sample (48%), thirteen (65%) of these were submitted before 1940. Thomas is cited in half the sample, two thirds of these prior to 1940.

Lewis and Smith (1981) argued that Mead had little direct influence, except on a small group of graduate students. And this influence only emerged after 1920, at a time when enrolments in Mead's classes were declining. This, they claimed, can only be attributed to the role played by Ellsworth Faris and later by Herbert Blumer, both of whom were somewhat at variance with the theoretical perspectives of the rest of the department.

Ellsworth Faris was in many ways distinct from the other faculty members in being a social psychologist interested in personality and was a sharp critic of both the local projects and also of the instinct hypothesis of psychologists, which (in one form or another) seemed to be retained by the Chicagoans around the 1920s (Small's interests had become Thomas's wishes). Faris was 'a little remote, a loner' (Cavan, 1972) and it was he who provided the basis for Blumer's development of social psychology, which was originally out of the mainstream of the work in the department (Janowitz, 1980).

Next 6.4 Mead as 'founding father' of symbolic interactionism