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The Chicago School

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              The Chicago School refers to the theorems and hypotheses in the premises of criminology and sociology which is generally used by many educational and research institutions today. Scholars and the major proponents of theories in the Chicago School hail mostly from the UC Sociology department and the rest from other Chicago universities. The Chicago School is a modern ‘school of thought’ with focus on urban sociology and the integrated concept of ethnography and environmental determinism and is most famous for the symbolic interactionist approach.

            The ‘symbolic interactionist’ approaches human behavior as a result of dynamic interaction of social structures and physical environmental factors. The approach is similar to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution except that Community acts as the Environment, the city as the Microcosm and Man has adaptive roles to the Community; Community, as the Environment, shapes the behavioral and cognitive responses of man.  Clements work on the Community as a ‘Superorganism’ and its patterns of succession was exceedingly popular. Herein Community has extrinsic and intrinsic properties that is more than just the summation of its’ constituent members.

            Chicago School is most famous because most hypothetical testing and studies are analyzed within the parameters of Chicago city hence there is a thick the concentration of studies and research continuum there. Urban growth is viewed at various levels/phases/ideas and the 1920’s population boom had led to the various theories in urban mobilization—immigration was viewed at two conflicting phases; one as social problem (Anderson 1923) and the other as urban growth stimulant.

             Equally, ecological studies for psychological disorders, poverty, and crimes were given light and same can be said for developmental theories. Much of the studies were on radial expansion of the city and the sectioning of zones for urban growth, mapping of crime concentration, delinquencies and poverty. Spatial relations and associated intrinsic properties of the community were also extensively speculated.

            The Chicago School established the science of sociology albeit in an idealistic manner and some of the more important analyses related to this, is the study of culture contact and conflict, ethnic group interaction, succession in community institutions as stakeholders, and city politics. Human perceptions, especially on ‘Black Community’ and reform politics stem were adaptations of these studies.

            The Society consists of subcultures and the Social Disorganization was referred to as consequences of failure of organizations/institutions and existing co-relations between community members. The inability to solve problems was referred to as Differential Social Organization or Association. Chicago School is against the concept of reductionism, and had attempted to explain the processes and functions in the community. Most of the studies conducted were primarily for directive urban planning and suggestion of social intervention agencies.

            The Chicago School’s as a foundation for the school of thought cannot be contended; they hinge towards practical approach and hypothetical testing and experimentation in the city. Chicago benefits by way of the School’s non-entrepreneurial and non-self sustaining projects and studies. Although most studies conducted on crime mapping may have some distortions, the study was valuable because of its’ function. Researches on delinquencies and crime development histories have paved the way for large scale control over the city’s increasing crime rates.

            The accomplishment of the school is such that it had structured sociological thoughts and principles tested extended not merely on theory but on their applications for the community. Their several attempts to explain and form solutions to the community problems had caught the attention of the academicians and sociology experts. As such, Chicago School can be taught of as foundation for the sociology and criminology.


Abbot, A. (1999). Department and Discipline: Chicago Sociology at One Hundred. Chicago: UP.

Bulmer, M. (1984). The Chicago School of Sociology: Institutionalization, Diversity, and the Rise of Sociological Research. Chicago: UP.

Burgess, E. and Bogue, D. (eds.) (1967). Urban Sociology. Chicago: UP

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