Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...
and later criminology
Criminology is the scientific study of the nature, extent, causes, and control of criminal behavior in both the individual and in society...
, the Chicago School
(sometimes described as the Ecological School
) was the first major body of works emerging during the 1920s and 1930s specialising in urban sociology
Urban sociology is the sociological study of social life and human interaction in metropolitan areas. It is a normative discipline of sociology seeking to study the structures, processes, changes and problems of an urban area and by doing so providing inputs for planning and policy making. Like...
, and the research into the urban environment by combining theory and ethnographic
Ethnography is a qualitative method aimed to learn and understand cultural phenomena which reflect the knowledge and system of meanings guiding the life of a cultural group...
fieldwork in Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...
, now applied elsewhere. While involving scholars at several Chicago area universities, the term is often used interchangeably to refer to the University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...
's sociology department—one of the oldest and one of the most prestigious. Following World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...
, a "Second Chicago School" arose whose members used symbolic interactionism
Symbolic Interaction, also known as interactionism, is a sociological theory that places emphasis on micro-scale social interaction to provide subjective meaning in human behavior, the social process and pragmatism.-History:...
combined with methods of field research, to create a new body of works. This was one of the first institutions to use quantitative methods in criminology
Since the inception of the discipline, quantitative methods have provided the primary research methods for studying the distribution and causes of crime. Quantitative methods provide numerous ways to obtain data that are useful to many aspects of society...
The major researchers in the first Chicago School included Nels Anderson
Nels Anderson was an early American sociologist. He studied at the University of Chicago under Robert E. Park and Ernest Burgess, whose concentric zone theory was one of the earliest models developed to explain the organization of urban areas...
, Ernest Burgess
Ernest Watson Burgess was an urban sociologist born in Tilbury, Ontario. He was educated at Kingfisher College in Oklahoma and continued graduate studies in sociology at the University of Chicago. In 1916, he returned to the University of Chicago, as a faculty member. Burgess was hired as an...
, Ruth Shonle Cavan
Ruth Shonle Cavan was an early American sociologist.-External links:* *...
, Edward Franklin Frazier, Everett Hughes
Everett Cherrington Hughes was an American sociologist best known for his work on ethnic relations, work and occupations and the methodology of fieldwork. His take on sociology was, however, very broad...
, Roderick D. McKenzie, George Herbert Mead
George Herbert Mead was an American philosopher, sociologist and psychologist, primarily affiliated with the University of Chicago, where he was one of several distinguished pragmatists. He is regarded as one of the founders of social psychology and the American sociological tradition in general.-...
, Robert E. Park
Robert Ezra Park was an American urban sociologist, one of the main founders of the original Chicago School of sociology.-Life:...
, Walter C. Reckless, Edwin Sutherland
Edwin H. Sutherland was an American sociologist. He is considered as one of the most influential criminologists of the twentieth century...
, W. I. Thomas
William Isaac Thomas was an American sociologist. He is noted for his innovative work on the sociology of migration on which he co-operated with Florian Znaniecki, and for his formulation of what became known as the Thomas theorem, a fundamental principle of sociology: "If men define situations as...
, Frederic Thrasher
Frederic Milton Thrasher was a sociologist at the University of Chicago. He was a colleague of Robert E. Park and was one of the most prominent members of the Chicago School of Sociology in the 1920s....
, Louis Wirth
Louis Wirth was an American sociologist and member of the Chicago school of sociology.-Life:Louis Wirth was born in the small village of Gemünden in the Hunsrück, Germany. He was one of seven children born to Rosalie Lorig and Joseph Wirth. Gemünden was a pastoral community, and Joseph Wirth...
, Florian Znaniecki
Florian Witold Znaniecki was a Polish sociologist. He taught and wrote in Poland and the United States. He was the 44th President of the American Sociological Association and the founder of academic sociology studies in Poland...
The Chicago School is best known for its urban sociology and for the development of the symbolic interactionist approach. It has focused on human behavior as determined by social structures and physical environmental factors, rather than genetic and personal characteristics. Biologist
A biologist is a scientist devoted to and producing results in biology through the study of life. Typically biologists study organisms and their relationship to their environment. Biologists involved in basic research attempt to discover underlying mechanisms that govern how organisms work...
s and anthropologists have accepted the theory of evolution as demonstrating that animals adapt to their environments. As applied to humans who are considered responsible for their own destinies, the School believed that the natural environment which the community
The term community has two distinct meanings:*a group of interacting people, possibly living in close proximity, and often refers to a group that shares some common values, and is attributed with social cohesion within a shared geographical location, generally in social units larger than a household...
inhabits is a major factor in shaping human behavior, and that the city functions as a microcosm:
The work of Frederic E. Clements (1916) was particularly influential. He proposed that a community of vegetation is a superorganism and that communities develop in a fixed pattern of successional stages from inception through to some single climax state or to a self-regulating state of equilibrium. By analogy, an individual is born, grows, matures, and dies, but the community which the individual inhabited continues to grow and exhibit properties which are greater than the sum of the properties of the parts.
Members of the School have concentrated on the city of Chicago as the object of their study, seeking evidence whether urbanization (Wirth: 1938) and increasing social mobility have been the causes of the contemporary social problems. Originally, Chicago was a clean slate, an empty physical environment. By 1860, Chicago was a small town with a population of 10,000. There was great growth after the fire of 1871
The Great Chicago Fire was a conflagration that burned from Sunday, October 8, to early Tuesday, October 10, 1871, killing hundreds and destroying about in Chicago, Illinois. Though the fire was one of the largest U.S...
. By 1910, the population exceeded two million. The rapidity of the increase was due to an influx of immigrants and it produced homelessness (Anderson: 1923), poor housing conditions, and bad working conditions based on low wages and long hours. But equally, Thomas and Znaniecki (1918) stress that the sudden freedom of immigrants released from the controls of Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...
to the unrestrained competition of the new city was a dynamic for growth. See also the broken windows thesis.
For Thomas, the groups themselves had to reinscribe and reconstruct themselves to prosper. Burgess studied the history of development and concluded that the city had not grown at the edges. Although the presence of Lake Michigan
Lake Michigan is one of the five Great Lakes of North America and the only one located entirely within the United States. It is the second largest of the Great Lakes by volume and the third largest by surface area, after Lake Superior and Lake Huron...
prevented the complete encirclement, he postulated that all major cities would be formed by radial expansion from the center in concentric rings
The Concentric zone model also known as the Burgess model is one of the earliest theoretical models to explain urban social structures. It was created by sociologist Ernest Burgess in 1924. -The model:...
which he described as zones, i.e. the business area in the center, the slum
A slum, as defined by United Nations agency UN-HABITAT, is a run-down area of a city characterized by substandard housing and squalor and lacking in tenure security. According to the United Nations, the percentage of urban dwellers living in slums decreased from 47 percent to 37 percent in the...
area (called the zone in transition and studied by Wirth: 1928, Zorbaugh: 1929, and Suttles: 1968) around the central area, the zone of workingmen's homes farther out, the residential area beyond this zone, and then the bungalow
A bungalow is a type of house, with varying meanings across the world. Common features to many of these definitions include being detached, low-rise , and the use of verandahs...
section and the commuter's zone on the periphery. Under the influence of Albion Small, the research at the School mined the mass of official data including census reports, housing/welfare records and crime
Crime is the breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority can ultimately prescribe a conviction...
figures, and related the data spatially to different geographical areas of the city. Shaw and McKay created maps:
- spot maps to demonstrate the location of a range of social problems with a primary focus on juvenile delinquency;
- rate maps which divided the city into block of one square mile and showed the population by age, gender
Gender is a range of characteristics used to distinguish between males and females, particularly in the cases of men and women and the masculine and feminine attributes assigned to them. Depending on the context, the discriminating characteristics vary from sex to social role to gender identity...
, ethnicity, etc.;
- zone maps which demonstrated that the major problems were clustered in the city center.
Thomas also developed techniques of self-reporting life histories to provide subjective balance to the analysis. Park, Burgess, and McKenzie are
credited with institutionalizing, if not establishing, sociology as a science. They are also criticized for their overly empiricist and idealised approach to the study of society but, in the inter-war years, their attitudes and prejudices were normative. Three broad themes characterized this dynamic period of Chicago studies:
- culture contact and conflict. This arises from Thomas and Znaniecki (1918) and studies how ethnic groups interact and compete in a process of community succession and institutional transformation (Hughes and Hughes: 1952). An important part of this work concerned African Americans; works including E. Franklin Frazier (1932) and Drake and Cayton (1945) shaped white America's perception of black communities for decades.
- succession in community institutions as stakeholders and actors in the ebb and flow of ethnic groups. Cressey (1932) studied the dance hall and commercialized entertainment services, Kincheloe (1938) studied church succession, Janowitz (1952) studied the community press, and Hughes (1979) studied the real-estate board.
- city politics. Merriam's commitment to practical reform politics was matched by Gosnell
Harold Foote Gosnell was an American political scientist and author, known for his research and writings on American politics, elections, and political parties in political science....
who researched voting and other forms of participation. Gosnell (1935), Wilson (1960), Grimshaw (1992) considered African American politics, and Banfield and Wilson (1963) placed Chicago city politics in a broader context.
The School is perhaps best known for the Subculture Theories of Thrasher, Frazier, and Sutherland, and for applying the principles of ecology
Ecology is the scientific study of the relations that living organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment. Variables of interest to ecologists include the composition, distribution, amount , number, and changing states of organisms within and among ecosystems...
to develop the Social Disorganization Theory which refers to consequences of the failure of:
- social institutions or social organizations including the family
In human context, a family is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence. In most societies it is the principal institution for the socialization of children...
A school is an institution designed for the teaching of students under the direction of teachers. Most countries have systems of formal education, which is commonly compulsory. In these systems, students progress through a series of schools...
s, church, political institutions, policing, business, etc. in identified communities and/or neighborhoods, or in society at large; and
- social relationships that traditionally encourage co-operation between people.
Thomas defined social disorganization as "the inability of a neighborhood to solve its problems together" which suggested a level of social pathology and personal disorganization, so the term, "differential social organization" was preferred by many, and may have been the source of Sutherland's (1947) Differential Association Theory
In criminology, Differential Association is a theory developed by Edwin Sutherland proposing that through interaction with others, individuals learn the values, attitudes, techniques, and motives for criminal behavior....
. The researchers have provided a clear analysis that the city is a place where life is superficial, where people are anonymous, where relationships are transitory and friendship and family bonds are weak. They have observed the weakening of primary social relationships and relate this to a process of social disorganization (comparison with the concept of anomie
Anomie is a term meaning "without Law" to describe a lack of social norms; "normlessness". It describes the breakdown of social bonds between an individual and their community ties, with fragmentation of social identity and rejection of self-regulatory values. It was popularized by French...
and the Strain Theories
In criminology, the strain theory states that social structures within society may pressure citizens to commit crime. Following on the work of Émile Durkheim, Strain Theories have been advanced by Robert King Merton , Albert K. Cohen , Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin , Robert Agnew , and Steven...
- For a complete discussion, see Social Disorganization Theory and Subcultural Theory
In criminology, subcultural theory emerged from the work of the Chicago School on gangs and developed through the symbolic interactionism school into a set of theories arguing that certain groups or subcultures in society have values and attitudes that are conducive to crime and violence...
Ecology and social theories
Vasishth and Sloane (2000) argue that while it is tempting to draw analogies between organisms in nature and the human condition, the problem lies in reductionism
Reductionism can mean either an approach to understanding the nature of complex things by reducing them to the interactions of their parts, or to simpler or more fundamental things or a philosophical position that a complex system is nothing but the sum of its parts, and that an account of it can...
, i.e. that the science of biology is oversimplified into rules that are then applied mechanically to explain the growth and dynamics of human communities. The most fundamental difficulties are definitional. If a community is a group of individuals who inhabit the same place, is the community merely the sum of individuals and their activities, or is it something more than an aggregation of individuals? This is critical in planning research into group interactions. Will research be effective if it focuses on the individuals comprising a group, or is the community itself a proper subject of research independently of the individuals who comprise it? If the former, then data on individuals will explain the community, but if the community either directly or indirectly affects the behavior of its members, then research must consider the patterns and processes of community as distinct from patterns and processes in populations of individuals. But this requires a definition and distinction between "pattern" and "process". The structures, forms, and patterns are relatively easy to observe and measure, but they are nothing more than evidence of underlying processes and functions which are the real constitutive forces in nature and society. The Chicago School wanted to develop tools by which to research and then change society by directing urban planning and social intervention agencies. It recognized that urban expansion was not haphazard but quite strongly controlled by community-level forces such as land values, zoning ordinances, landscape features, circulation corridors, and historical contingency. This was characterized as ecological because the external factors were neither chance nor intended, but rather arose from the natural forces in the environment which limit the adaptive spatial and temporal relationships between individuals. The School sought to derive patterns from a study of processes, rather than to ascribe processes to observed patterns and the patterns they saw emerge, are strongly reminiscent of Clements' ideas of community development.
The Chicago Area Project (CAP) was a practical attempt by sociologists to apply their theories in a city laboratory. Subsequent research showed that the youth athletic leagues, recreation programs, and summer camp worked best along with urban planning and alternatives to incarceration as crime control policy. Such programs are non-entrepreneurial and non-self-sustaining, and they fail when local or central government does not make a sustained financial commitment to them. Although with hindsight, the School's attempts to map crime may have produced some distortions, the work was valuable in that it moved away from a study of pattern and place toward a study of function and scale. To that extent, this was work of high quality that represented the best science available to the researchers at the time.
The Social Disorganization Theory itself was a landmark and, since it focuses on the absence or breakdown of social control mechanisms, there are obvious links with social control theory
In criminology, Social Control Theory Travis Hirschi fits into the Positivist School, Neo-Classical School, and, later, Right Realism. It proposes that exploiting the process of socialization and social learning builds self-control and reduces the inclination to indulge in behavior recognized as...
. In Causes of Delinquency (1969) Travis Hirschi argued that variations in delinquent behavior among youth could be explained by variations in the dimensions of the social bond, namely attachment to others, commitments to conventional goals, acceptance of conventional moral
A moral is a message conveyed or a lesson to be learned from a story or event. The moral may be left to the hearer, reader or viewer to determine for themselves, or may be explicitly encapsulated in a maxim...
standards or belief
Belief is the psychological state in which an individual holds a proposition or premise to be true.-Belief, knowledge and epistemology:The terms belief and knowledge are used differently in philosophy....
s, and involvement in conventional activities. The greater the social bonds between a youth and society, the lower the odds of involvement in delinquency. When social bonds to conventional role models, values and institutions are aggregated for youth in a particular setting, they measure much the same phenomena as captured by concepts such as network ties or social integration. But the fact that these theories focus on the absence of control or the barriers to progress, means that they are ignoring the societal pressures and cultural values that drive the system Merton
Robert King Merton was a distinguished American sociologist. He spent most of his career teaching at Columbia University, where he attained the rank of University Professor...
identified in the Strain Theory or the motivational forces Cohen proposed were generating crime and delinquency. More modern theorists like Empey (1967) argue that the system of values, norms and beliefs can be disorganized in the sense that there are conflicts among values, norms and beliefs within a widely shared, dominant culture. While condemning crime in general, law-abiding citizens may nevertheless respect and admire the criminal who takes risks and successfully engages in exciting, dangerous activities. The depiction of a society as a collection of socially differentiated groups with distinct subcultural perspectives that lead some of these groups into conflict with the law is another form of cultural disorganization, is typically called cultural conflict.
Modern versions of the theory sometimes use different terminology to refer to the same ecological causal processes. For example, Crutchfield, Geerken and Gove (1982: 467-482) hypothesize that the social integration of communities is inhibited by population turnover and report supporting evidence in the explanation of variation in crime rates among cities. The greater the mobility of the population in a city, the higher the crime rates. These arguments are identical to those proposed by social disorganization theorists and the evidence in support of it is as indirect as the evidence cited by social disorganization theorists. But, by referring to social integration rather than disintegration, this research has not generated the same degree of criticism as social disorganization theory.
- Abbot, Andrew. (1999). Department and Discipline: Chicago Sociology at One Hundred. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-00099-0
- Anderson, Nels, and Council of Social Agencies of Chicago. (1923). The Hobo: The Sociology of the Homeless Man.
- Banfield, Edward C. & Wilson, James Q. (1963). City Politics.
- Bulmer, Martin. (1984). The Chicago School of Sociology: Institutionalization, Diversity, and the Rise of Sociological Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Burgess, Ernest & Bogue, Donald J. (eds.).(1964). Contributions to Urban Sociology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-08055-2
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- Clements, Frederic E. (1916). Plant Succession: An Analysis of the Development of Vegetation. Carnegie Institute of Washington Publication, No. 242. Washington, DC: Carnegie Institution.
- Crutchfield, R.D., M. Geerken and W.R. Gove, (1982). "Crime Rates and Social Integration: The Impact of Metropolitan Mobility" Criminology, Vol. 20, Nos. 3 and 4, November, 1982, 467-478
- Cressey, Paul Goalby. (1932). The Taxi-Dance Hall: A Sociological Study in Commercialized Recreation and City Life.
- Drake, St. Clair & Cayton, Horace. (1945). Black Metropolis: A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City.
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- Gosnell, Harold Foote. (1927). Getting Out the Vote: An Experiment in the Stimulation of Voting.
- Gosnell, Harold Foote. (1935). Negro Politicians: The Rise of Negro Politics in Chicago.
- Gosnell, Harold Foote. (1937). Machine Politics: Chicago Model.
- Grimshaw, William J. (1992). Bitter Fruit: Black Politics and the Chicago Machine, 1931–1991.
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- Hawley, Amos H. (1950). Human Ecology: A Theory of Community Structure. New York: Ronald Press.
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- Janowitz, Morris. (1952). The Community Press in an Urban Setting.
- Kincheloe, Samuel C. (1938). The American City and Its Church.
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- Vasishth, Ashwani & Sloane, David. (2000) Returning to Ecology: An Ecosystem Approach. http://www-rcf.usc.edu/~vasishth/Vasishth+Returning_To_Ecology.pdf
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