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Chicago School: Social Change

Andrew Abbott


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Like most schools of thought, the Chicago School was not a unified and single-minded orthodoxy. Although the idea of social change was essential to virtually all the Chicago writers, they defined it in various ways and then used those resulting concepts in quite varying places in their work. It was only William Fielding Ogburn who foregrounded the phrase itself in his writings. But for W. I. Thomas on the one hand and Robert Park and Ernest Burgess on the other, change was, if possible, even more central than it was for Ogburn. Yet, in the long run, both sociologists and popular literature have chosen to accept Ogburn's sense of social change as society-wide upheaval and transformation (indeed, this is now the lay sense of the phrase). But that current meaning should not lead us to read the Chicago works teleologically. (For the standard account of the Chicago School in English, see Bulmer 1984 ; for more recent revisionist accounts with relatively current bibliographies, see Abbott 1999 ; Chapoulie 2001 .) The Chicago writers all worked within traditions for which the notion of perpetual change was axiomatic. Historicism came with department founder Albion Small. Pragmatism was embodied in faculty colleagues John Dewey and George Herbert Mead. The department's reformists – Charles Henderson, George Vincent, and W. I. Thomas, as well as Small (and Mead, who was in the philosophy ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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