SOC212 Lecture 5 Reading Notes
The University of Chicago School
- Laid much of the foundation for contemporary study of deviance in North American sociology
o Work at Chicago set the stage for mainstream sociology of deviance
o Sociology of social problems of deviance was studied scientifically as the product of
rapid social change, thorough techniques suited for the study in its environment.
The city itself was an ideal laboratory for scientific research because deviance
was seen as a consequence of social disorganization
o Empirical work on deviance and fell into 2 categories
Micro-level case studies of individual deviants conducted ethnographically
Macro-level ecological study of rates of social problems/deviance in different
areas of the city
In describing the sociology of deviance, the book has chosen to take a chronological role, describing a
succession of important intellectual episodes. Each of these episodes contributed a distinct set of ideas
to the debate of deviance, and each is independent enough to merit separate examination. The principal
difference between the theories is their use of language similar schemes being expressed in dissimilar
The sociology of deviance did not appear full-grown in the 19 century.
- Crime, sin and sheer difference of opinions and behaviours have always been moral and political
problems, and thoughtful people have responded by producing body of writings. These bodies
of writing we call proto-sociology
o Thus, we can consider the oldest form of scholarship, theology, may be understood as a
prolonged attempt to make sense of the existence of moral action.
Legal commentaries on deviance, plays/poems/sagas revolving around good
and evil, even intellectual and literary essays devoted to the subject of crime
This shadow deviantology is older than the work of universities and is
composed of accounts of notorious people, sinister happenings and awful
- In the 16th century there was a kind of low-life reporting that offered information about the
underworld, thieves, bounty hunters, prostitutes, etc...
o Described their social organization, careers, techniques and relation with their victims
- This writing also contains a great deal of unique material and sensible observation
o Rudimentary conceptions of anomie, labelling theory, functionalism, and ecology can be
discovered in the writings of 17 -19 centuries.
o Contemporary deviantology is a reinvention of past explanations The University of Chicago sociology department was distinctive because it made a decisive break with
the haphazard, solitary, and ill-maintained studies that we have described as proto-criminology
- Academic work seeks to make amateur speculation into an orderly science
- The departments first chairman, Albion Small, transformed sociology into a permanent and co-
o Employed people to become professional social investigators who would teach what
they had learned to others
- The first systematic-group related efforts to apply sociological knowledge were made in Chicago
in the 2 and 3 decades of the 20 century
- Albion Small himself stated that before the founding of his department, sociology was more of
a yearning than a substantial body of knowledge, a fixed point of view, or a rigorous method of
- The creation of the University of Chicago provided an opening for the history of the sociology of
crime and deviance.
o Sociology was industrialized and a coherent sociology of deviance began in Chicago.
- Chicago School influences many traditions that came after it
o Introduced the importance of recreational programs to combat delinquency in Toronto
o In Canada, sociology was strongly tied to the bettering of social conditions that were
thought to lead to deviance.
Discussion: Deviance and Culture A Library for Boys and Girls in 1943 Page 54
In 1943 Montreal, the city was worried about the increase in juvenile delinquency. One segment was
determined to use culture to do something about it.
In retrospect, the problem was more apparent than real, but for newspaper readers of the day there
would be no way of knowing. While some youth offences had increased, there was probably no youth
crime wave. The media interpretation of the latchkey child the youth coming home to an empty
house, the youth with time on his hands became topical within newspapers.
What underlay that however was a deeper social anxiety about families. Many men were away at war,
women were working outside the home. The suspicion was that the lapse in parental discipline might
soon be a problem founded its focus in youth crime reports about the idle youth, purse snatchings,
youth crime, and the influence of detective novels and movie houses were spread in newspapers.
For example, the Globe and Mail published an editorial referring to the increase in juvenile crime.
To address this concern, the Notre Dame de Grace Community Council united various causes under the
same banner. These included the Boy Scouts, Big Sisters, and many more.
The Juvenile Delinquents Act had been passed in 1908; however criminal justice was not always the best
solution; Separate pre-trial youth detention facilities were often inadequate, youth court judges had
little training, psychologists were seldom used, and there were inadequate reformatory spaces. The council also created a library. Given that delinquency might be related to bad books making good books
available in libraries would be an ideal solution too.
In Toronto, they were seen as a solution as well. Schools were encouraged to become the centres of
social life and recreation. It was unfortunate that the lack of federal support for day care, or tax breaks
for married women who worked made the problem worse. This was based on the conservative idea that
the traditional nuclear family was the solution for juvenile delinquency.
The University, the Department, and the City
It is a veritable Babel, in that some thirty or more tongues are spokenGunmen haunt its streets, and a
murder is committed in them nearly every day in the year.
- University of Chicago was an extraordinary invention
o John D. Rockefeller donated 35 million to found a universities
o Pillaged other institutions by offering their staff higher salaries
o A number of departments were established, including the department of sociology in
- These processes were important for the shaping of sociological work
o There was freedom to appoint those who were able, and with ample funding for
- Innovation was defined as a distinguishing feature of a university that was itself new and
o Lenord Cottrell We were rejecting all the traditional answers and institutions that
were allegedly the stabilizers of Sociology.
o However, this was disputed
There was no earlier generation of sociologists
Few sociologists had been able to study it exclusively, most coming from
philosophy, biology, religion, journalism and linguistics.
Even one of the most distinguished Chicago sociologists, Robert Park, claimed to
have never heard the world sociology while he was at school.
- When the Chicago school finally came into its own, a distinctive style emerged
o Influenced functionalism, epidemiology, attitude research, survey methods, etc.
Robert Park created a classic of study of urban ethnography entitled The City in 1915.
- Anthropology, the science of man has been mainly concerned up to the present of primitive
peoples, but civilized man is quite as interesting.
- Urban life and culture are more varied, subtle and complicated, but the fundamental motives
are the same.
Chicago sociology was to become the sociology of Chicago itself, a detailed anthropological mapping of
the social territories that made the city.