The Beginnings of Sociology
in the United States From Western Europe, sociology spread in the 18905 to the United States, where it thrived as a result of the intellectual climate and the rapid rate of social change. The first departments of sociology in the United States were located at the University of Chicago and at Atlanta University, then an African American school. The Chicago School The tirst department of sociology in the United States was established at the University of Chicago, where the faculty was instrumental in starting the American Sociological Society (now known as the American Sociological Association). Robert E. Park (1864-1944), a member of the Chicago faculty, asserted that urbanization had a disintegrating influence on social life by producing an increase in the crime rate and in racial and class antagonisms that contributed to the segregation and isolation of neighborhoods (Ross, 1991). George Herbert Mead (1863-1931), another member of the faculty at.Chicage, founded the symbolic interaction perspective, which is discussed later in this chapter. Mead made many Significant contributions to sociology. Among these were his emphasis on the importance of studying the group (“the social”) rather than starting with separate individuals. Mead also called our attention to the importance of shared communication among people based on language and gestures. As discussed in Chapter 4 (“Socialization”), Mead gave us important insights on how we develop our self-concept through interaction with those persons who are the most Significant influences in our lives.