In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Chicago School of Sociology

  • Introduction
  • General Works, ECSS
  • General Works, CSS
  • General Works, TCSS
  • Textbooks and Book Series
  • Immigration
  • Ethnographies and Qualitative Methods
  • Juvenile Delinquency
  • Crime and Deviance
  • Race Relations, ECSS and CSS
  • Race Relations, TCSS
  • Urban Sociology
  • Women, ECSS
  • Women, CSS and TCSS
  • Other Specializations
  • Contemporary Controversies and New Directions

Sociology Chicago School of Sociology
Mary Jo Deegan
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 February 2012
  • LAST MODIFIED: 06 February 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0007


The Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago established an early intellectual and professional dominance in the discipline. Founded in 1892, it began the first graduate program in the profession, trained a large proportion of all doctoral students from 1892 until the early 1930s, and helped define the theory and methods of the profession for decades. The first chair of the department, Albion W. Small, was the founding editor of one of the leading journals, the American Journal of Sociology, in 1895, and he played a significant role in establishing the major professional organization, the American Sociological Society, in 1905 (this was renamed the American Sociological Association [ASA] in 1959). The story of the Chicago school of sociology (CSS) is complex because it encompasses almost a century of work with different powerful intellectuals claiming priority and leadership as well as a vast literature produced by scholars from Chicago and around the world. The CSS established textbooks, classic works outlining the boundaries and interests of the profession, a largely qualitative methodology supported by popular ethnographies, and specializations in several important areas of study, namely, immigration, urban sociology, juvenile delinquency, crime and deviance, race relations, women, and other concentrations. The common worldview emerges from John Dewey and, especially, George Herbert Mead. Both Mead and Dewey worked with a large network of academicians, students, activists, family, friends, and the community and educational organizations in which they implemented their ideas. This vast interconnecting group and associated institutions were anchored at the University of Chicago but included other people and academic institutions, such as William James at Harvard University in Boston and Charles H. Cooley at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Mead’s most important book for sociologists, Mind, Self and Society (Mead 1934), cited under General Works, CSS establishes the social nature of the self, thought, and community as a product of human meaning and interaction. Each person becomes human through interaction with others. Institutional patterns are learned in communities dependent on shared language and symbols. Human intelligence is vital for reflective behavior, and social scientists have a special responsibility to help create democratic decision making and political action, especially in the city. The scientific model of observation, data collections, and interpretation is fundamentally a human project. Sociologists can learn to take the role of others because this is how all humans learn to become part of society.

General Works, ECSS

Defining the boundaries of the Chicago school of sociology (CSS) is a constant, changing task. Over time, different people, books, and ideas are included and excluded, so knowing the date of the general writing combined with the eras included within it are important. Three eras of the CSS are included in this bibliography. I begin with the early CSS (ECSS) from 1892 to 1920. The Publications of the Members of the University of Chicago, 1902–1916 is an early overview of major writings in the ECSS and contains a list of who is included in it. Mead 1999 and Mead 2001 concentrate on play, education, comparative psychology, and the emergence of the self before 1910. William Thomas, George Herbert Mead’s student, wrote on similar topics, and Volkhardt 1951 constitutes a collection in which many of these studies are introduced.

  • Mead, George H. 1999. Play, school, and society. Edited and introduced by Mary Jo Deegan. New York: Peter Lang.

    Play is central to Mead’s theory of social behavior. The child particularly is involved in play as the source of learning social meanings and roles. The school should support this playfulness and not be in debt to a business model of training young workers.

  • Mead, George H. 2001. Essays on social psychology. Edited and introduced by Mary Jo Deegan. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books.

    Mead’s earliest writings were collected in a book that made it into the final phases of production around 1910 but was not published. It was published for the first time in 2001. Mead’s transition from a comparative psychologist, studying both animal and human behavior, appears in various essays. Mead’s understanding of the unique social origins of behavior is found in these essays, which gradually move toward one social psychological perspective.

  • Univ. of Chicago. 1917. Publications of the members of the University of Chicago, 1902–1916. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    This reference book provides many useful items, such as bibliographies for the early staff, lists of graduate students, and department information.

  • Volkhardt, Edmund H., ed. 1951. Social behavior and personality: Contributions of W. I. Thomas to theory and social research. New York: Social Science Research Council.

    As the subtitle states, this book is a collection of essays by Thomas and an assessment of his theories. The editor established the problematic authorship of Old World Traits Transplanted, which was written primarily by Thomas with the assistance of Herbert A. Miller. The book was reprinted in 1981 (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1981).

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