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SO3066 Thinking Sociologically

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Presentation on theme: "SO3066 Thinking Sociologically"— Presentation transcript:

1 SO3066 Thinking Sociologically
The Chicago School SO3066 Thinking Sociologically

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Chicago School of Sociology (not to be confused with the economists) Established in 1892 by Albion Small (brought the ‘German Tradition’ to the US) A highly influential sociology department (early 20th C) Founded American Journal of Sociology and American Sociology Society (ASS) understandably later changed to Association (ASA)

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Historical Context Chicago School influential 1892 – 1935 (dates vary) US Sociology’ adopts a ‘progressive’/‘reformist’ stance in response to the perceived injustices/inequities of late 19th/early 20thC. US Chicago: Site of Rapid Social Change Fast Population growth Rapid Urbanisation Migration Numerous Social problems Critical of ‘armchair theorising’ that was seen to characterise early American sociology.

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Chicago: 1860 – pop. cc. 10,000 1910 – pop. cc. 2,000,000 Immigration, Competition, Industrialisation Social Problems – Labour Market ‘Exploitation’ (Long hours, low pay, insecure work), Poor Housing/Homelessness, Alcoholism, Mental Ill Health, Homicide, Suicide, Vice , Crime

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The Chicago School – The Study of Human & Environment Focus on concrete experience of human interaction Symbolic Interactionists: Uncovering and comprehending the processes that underlie the construction and maintenance of selfhood and the interaction order – how individuals ‘adapt’ to social situations Urban Sociologists: Ecological approach to understanding the social/demographic development of cities – how individuals and groups ‘adapt’ to the wider environment of the city Intimate studies of daily life (often of lower status groups) Produced a series of notable ethnographies

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Distinctively American Perspective – However - heavily influenced by Weber and, in particular, Simmel (also William James, Darwin & Freud?) Focus on Micro-Sociology (Social Psych), Urban Sociology (Ecology), Qualitative Methods.

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Pragmatism: North American philosophy, emerged in 1870s - still influential Rejects search for fundamental, absolute truths and separation of mind and world associated with Cartesian dualism. Our knowledge of the world is always grounded in the here and now, in the way in which our ideas shape and are shaped by our practical experiences. Truth of a statement or belief is to be found in its consequences or use-value – its consistency with our experience and ability to facilitate our adaptation to situations and settings in the here and now. ‘the Pragmatic method…is to try to interpret each notion by tracing its respective practical consequences. What difference would it practically make to anyone if this notion or that notion were true?’ (James, 1907)

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Formalism: Forms of social life are brought to life through human interaction. Darwinism: Human beings as engaging in adaptive behaviour in relation to the social and physical environments in which they find themselves.

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Key figures: Symbolic Interactionism: John Dewey William I Thomas George Herbert Mead Charles Horton Cooley Herbert Blumer (Erving Goffman) Urban Sociology: Robert Park Ernest Burgess Louis Wirth host of others

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John Dewey (joined 1893 from Univ. of Michigan) – Psychologist/leading Pragmatist Philosopher People define things in the world in terms of their use for them, determine their action based on what they understand about things, imagine the consequences of various forms of action, and select the optimal mode of conduct ( )

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WI Thomas (joined 1894) – From US – Spent some time in Germany studying Sociology ‘The Definition of the Situation’ : Human beings do not merely react to stimuli they act on the basis of subjectively defining situations and selecting corresponding conduct. The Thomas Theorem : “if men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences” (Thomas & Thomas 1928:572). Prior to appearing as Austin Powers nemesis ( )

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C.H. Cooley (Sociologist, Univ. of Michigan 1892) ‘self and society are twin born’ Cooley & The ‘Looking Glass Self’ - Social Self formed through our interpretation of others’ responses to our self presentation Group Size & Social Cohesion (Primary Groups) ( )

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G.H.Mead & ‘Social Behaviourism’ (brought to Chicago from Michigan by Dewey in 1893) Influences: Pragmatism (former student of William James) Darwinism Behaviourism Freudianism Simmel ( )

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Society is like an organism (from Darwin) Humans distinct from other animals (contra Watson) Act on the basis of meaning (gestures, language) Self/Society as the outcome of meaningful, ongoing social exchange (see Simmel) ‘…consciousness must be understood as a stream of thought arising in the dynamic relationship between a person and his significant environment’ (Coser, 1979)

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Mead & The Social Self Self only develops through interaction – Preparatory Stage – Imitation Play Stage – Simple Role Play – Adapt to Others Expectations Game Stage – Play Multiple Roles – Adapt to the Expectations of Numerous Others ‘Significant Others’ and ‘Generalised Other’

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Mead & the Social The Self The ‘I’ – the instinctual, spontaneous part of the self (id?) The ‘Me’ - (the social self) the self as a meaningful ‘object’ that is constructed and reconstructed in interaction and through which action is managed and impulses socialised (ego + superego?)

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Mead & the Social The Self The ‘internal conversation’ Role Making – Adopting a particular role in interaction Role Taking – Understanding others by imagining their perspective

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Herbert Blumer & Symbolic Interactionism (student of Mead, Thomas & Park joined faculty in 1928) 1) People are unique –they use symbols 2) We only become human through interaction 3) People are conscious/reflexive actors who shape their own behaviour (1900 – 1987)

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4) Only reflexive ongoing interaction is real, not the macro structure. Social life is made up of ‘real-life’ encounters. 5) People act in, and towards, situations and objects –apply meaning to them 6) Understanding social action requires us to understand the meanings behind it Methodological Implications (taking the role of the subject)

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Erving Goffman & Dramaturgy (joined 1952) Society is organised around socially derived routines. Interaction depends on ‘Inferences’ with respect to the characters and situations we encounter. Inferences are based on social knowledge & shared meaning – shared expectations based on shared rules, norms and values (as much Durkheim as Simmel and Mead?) The Situation & The ‘Stage’ ( )

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Goffman’s Dramaturgical Metaphor: ‘Masks’, Roles & Characters Impression Management Social Scripts Back Stage/Front Stage

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Chicago School - The Urban Sociologists Robert Park Ernest Burgess Louis Wirth & host of others The Method & The Studies

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Ecological approach to understanding cities – cities as ‘organisms’ (Darwinian adaptation again) Individuals and Groups adapt to their environment and compete for space in the city Dominant groups displace weaker groups Landscape of the city reflects ongoing competition for space and resources

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Robert Ezra Park (joined 1914 – previously studied under Simmel) First chair in sociology in Chicago - worked under Simmel in Europe ‘Biotics’ ‘Natural areas’ of the city The city as a mosaic The ‘melting pot’ (1864 – 1944)

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Ernest Burgess (student – joined as faculty member 1916) Differentiation of groups in the city City mapping of zones Zones identify outcome of competition, land use, residency and processes of social stratification (1886 – 1966)

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Louis Wirth (German (Jewish) émigré - joined 1931) ‘Urbanism as a Way of Life’ Scale & Density Primary & Secondary Relations Social Disorganisation (1897 – 1952)

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Chicago Methodology: Participant observation in ‘natural areas’ Small town life Biography Interviews (first and second-hand) Quantitative and Qualitative Statistics, mapping, Case analysis School records, agency records, institutional accounts, newspaper reports, diaries life histories

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(some) Ethnographies: ‘The Polish Peasant’ (Thomas and Znaniecki, 1918) The Hobo’ (Anderson, 1923) ‘The Gang’ (Thrasher, 1927) The Gold Coast and The Slum (Zorbaugh 1929) ‘The Jack Roller’ (Shaw, 1930)

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The Legacy: Giddens Contemporary Symbolic Interactionism – making a comeback? (Plummer, Denzin, Hochschild, Brewer) Studies of small town life Close, intimate studies Participant observation Case studies Multiple methods

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