Assess the contribution of the Chicago School to the development of American sociology.

Authors Avatar

Assess the contribution of the Chicago School to the development of American sociology.

At a time when Europe dominated world Sociology, the Chicago School in the 1920’s and 30’s was at the centre of America’s sociological insight. Chicago typified the changes that occurred during the States in the 20’s and 30’s with the expansion of urban cities and as metropolitan cities emerged. With this great growth, economically and socially, came the expansion of academic research and intellectual theorising. The Chicago School, a department in the newly constructed University of Chicago, had the opportunity to excel, as it was a department that was innovative but didn’t have to compete with the more traditional departments, such as History and the traditional Sciences.  It was primarily economically driven, in the sense that an oil merchant funded it and the department was closely affiliated with the Economics department.

Amongst others, much credit goes to Robert Park, Ernest Burges, George Mead, W.I. Thomas and Albion Small who engaged in, paved the way for in-depth research and study into the problems of modern, urban society. These sociologists inspired research, sparked controversies, and created a body of literature. They have produced a set of traditions that have been examined, praised and criticised not just in America, but worldwide. What made the Chicago School sociologist different from the conventional and European sociologists, was the integration of social theories with empirical investigation of the social world. Despite its European origins, sociology during the first half of the 20th century became primarily an American subject. The Chicago School concentrated on heavy empirical, quantitative research that focused on social problems, such as crime and the acculturation of immigrants. An exception was the influence at Chicago of George Herbert Mead, a pragmatist philosopher who had studied in Germany. Mead stressed the roots of mind, self, and society in linguistic communication. The Chicago School was not, as it is sometimes portrayed, committed to unrestrained empiricism, though the impulse toward empirical inquiry was very strong. From The Polish Peasant to the study of local urban community, the Chicago School of sociology teems with efforts at generalisation and what has come to be called the Chicago approach to theory.

The theories developed by the Chicago Sociologist were all closely related to the developments and expansion within Chicago, and around the problems of urban life. These theories included human ecology, social psychology and social organisation.

Join now!

Chicago sociologists were conscious of the major movements in social thought and held strong theoretical interests. Pragmatic influences run throughout the various traditions of research established at Chicago. The Chicago school of pragmatism was a central force in philosophy, contesting realism and idealism for supremacy in metaphysics, epistemology and value theory. Both the Sociologist and Pragmatists were responding to the rapid growth and industrialisation of the city they were living and thinking. These changes included ubiquitous transformation of social life such as waves of immigrants from not only other parts of the US, but also Europe, Asia and Africa. What ...

This is a preview of the whole essay