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Understanding DevianceA Guide to the Sociology of Crime and Rule-Breaking

Understanding Deviance: A Guide to the Sociology of Crime and Rule-Breaking (7th edn)

David Downes, Paul Rock, and Eugene McLaughlin
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date: 02 December 2023

p. 463. The Chicago Schoollocked

p. 463. The Chicago Schoollocked

  • David Downes, David DownesEmeritus Professor, London School of Economics
  • Paul RockPaul RockEmeritus Professor, London School of Economics
  •  and Eugene McLaughlinEugene McLaughlinProfessor of Criminology, City University


This chapter focuses on the University of Chicago’s sociology department and the work done by its sociologists on crime and deviance during the 1920s and 1930s. The chapter first provides a background on the University of Chicago, its sociology department, and the city. It then considers the Chicago sociologists’ use of ecology in their research, the apparent contradictions in their explanation of criminality and deviance, and their emphasis on moral diversity rather than discord, pathology, or disorganization. It examines the approach used by Chicago sociologists to launch an intellectual assault on the study of the city, focusing on social problems and offering explanations of crime and delinquency based on the peculiar conditions of the so-called zone in transition. What the University of Chicago sociology department accomplished was a decisive break with the haphazard, solitary, and ill-maintained studies associated with proto-criminology. The result was a model of an urban criminology.

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