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

7. Chicago dominance

7.8 The extent of Chicago's decline

The Chicagoans were not isolated or rejected, even if the substantive work of some of them was forgotten in the post-war period. Their inclusion in the élitist Sociological Research Association [15] along with many of the members of the American Sociological Society who had voted against the Chicago nominees in 1935, points to the continued involvement and prominence of the Chicagoans in the discipline nationally. Furthermore, a year after the coup, the Chicagoans were back in executive positions in the American Sociological Society, with Ellsworth Faris as President and E.W. Burgess on the Executive Committee. Charles Johnson of Fisk, and a close friend of Park and member of the Society for Social Research was Vice President. Three of the remaining four ex-presidents who were members of the executive committee and half the six elected members were also members of the Society for Social Research.
After 1935, and even in its 'doldrum period' in the 1950s, Chicago never dropped out of the circle of half a dozen most influential sociology departments that included Columbia, Michigan, California, Carolina and Harvard. Chicago remained part of the privileged group that tended to benefit most from the Social Science Research Council and, despite the 'setbacks' of the coup, it remained centrally involved in national and regional societies. The speakers at The Annual Institutes of the Society for Social Research continued to be drawn from a wide spectrum within the discipline.
Indeed, there is little to suggest that such prestige did anything other than wane following the spectacular rise of Columbia in the immediate post World War Two era. This rise itself followed almost two decades in which the department at Columbia was nearly closed down and its impact on the discipline was negligible. Columbia did not fill any void left by Chicago in the 1940s, rather it was providing a 'shallow training' for sociologists, (Lynd, 1941b). [16] It was not until Paul Lazarsfeld was appointed and the Bureau of Applied Social Research became established after the second world war that Columbia University got the impetus that made it the leading, although not dominant, sociological research institution, (Coleman, 1980).
The waning of Chicago, irrespective of the advances made elsewhere, was inevitable given the expansion and diversification of sociology in the United States. What is surprising is that Chicago University exerted such a strong organisational influence for so long, especially as, up to 1935, it had never been a large department, having few tenured staff. Chicago's impact was bound to decrease as more and more institutions developed sociology departments and sociological research programmes. Structural changes in the discipline meant that Chicago's dominance would never be recovered, and that no single department would again dominate sociology in the United States to the same degree that Chicago had in the 1920s.



[15] The establishment of the Sociological Research Association following the coup was not the product of a Chicago separatist movement, but was, and remained for many years, an élitist conclave of sociologists including (by 1940) Burgess (president in 1942), Ogburn, Thomas, Wirth, Blumer Merton, Parsons, Lazarsfeld, Stouffer, and Bain.

The first president (1936) was F. Stuart Chapin (University of Minnesota), the secretary-treasurer was E.B. Reuter (University of Iowa) and the remainder of the initial Executive Committee were Donald Young, Robert MacIver and Stuart Rice. The first annual meeting to take place in conjunction with the December annual meeting of the American Sociological Society was to be addressed by Dorothy Thomas and Thorsten Sellin with Warren Thomson, F.H. Hankins, G.B. Vold and W.I. Thomas as discussants. A further session analysing Lundberg's paper 'The Thoughtways of Contemporary Sociology' was to be lead by Herbert Blumer along with Read Bain and Samuel Stouffer. The membership clearly cut across 'factional' lines. As Park (1939) noted, the Association was not concerned with factional divisions but rather with research practice. In correspondence between Chapin (1936a, 1936b) and Wirth (1936a) the fear was expressed that the meeting of the Association may be gate-crashed by Society members opposed to the small selective nature of the group, then numbering about fifty. Return

[16] Lynd was also concerned that this was a national problem, and that sociology was not highly thought of in government circles. He wrote to Wirth. 'Having done "Knowledge for What?" I'm inclined to say: "Enough, let's get to work and stop talking", But this creeping extension of "the sociology of this and that" is dangerous from the p[oin]t of view of what students are trained to do. The predicament of our dep[artmen]t is not unique, and the shallowness of the training of young sociologists is recognized in Wash[ingto]n.' (Lynd, 1941a). Return


Next 7.9 Conclusion