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.
This chapter explores the contribution of symbolic interactionism to the sociology of deviance in the 1960s and early 1970s. It first traces the origins of symbolic interactionism, citing the work of the University of Chicago’s sociology department, particularly on the sociology of crime and control. It then looks at the emergence of symbolic interactionism and how it has occupied a prominent place in the field of criminology, as well as the interactionists’ tendency to practise a social anthropology of participant-observation. The strength of interactionism lies in its insistence on distinguishing between primary and secondary deviance and researching the social reaction to crime and deviance, particularly retrospective and projective labelling. The chapter concludes by reviewing the criticisms against the interactionist sociology of crime and deviance.