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The University of Chicago devolped the first department of sociology in 1892, which became a very dominant factor in American sociological thought. One of its more profound theories was on that of sociological criminology in the city of Chicago. The Chicago School was the first modern crime causation theory in America. It grew from the same base as all of the Chicago School's theories, which was that human behavior is influenced and changed by the physical environment and cultural surroundings, rather than by genetics. The researchers began to study the crime of Chicago using an empirical sociology, wanting to move beyond social philosophy and armchair theory. Though they still studied people through a life-history method, they moved onto an ecological study technique, allowing them to transcend individuality and gain perspective on the characteristics of large groups of people.

The two major methods, then, employed by the Chicago School in their ecological study were the use of official data such as crime data, census reports, and housing and welfare records and the life history mentioned earlier. The life history provided a method of of examining deeply the cumulative factors and events shaping the lives of studied individuals.

Robert Park and Ernest Burgess used these early methods to construct a model of the crime of Chicago. Relying on the data collected, they envisioned the city as a set of concentric circles. The first circle, called the Central Business District, centered in the middle of Chicago, contained the factories and workplaces for most of the people. This circle was also home to the largest number of immigrants, because they had little or no money and needed to live close to where they worked. The second circle was known as the Zone of Transition because businesses and factories were enroaching upon it. The second zone also provided close and cheap housing, and also housed a number of immigrants. The third zone still had high crime rates, but not as high as the first two. This zone, the Zone of Working Man's Homes, contained few or no businesses, no factories, but was mostly made of immigrant workers. As they looked at the crime statistics for the outer circles, they noticed a steady decline in crime the farther from the center they went.

From here, two men named Clifford Shaw and Henry McKay took over. Using Park's data, as well as data of their own indicating that delinquency, tuberculosis, and infant mortality followed the same patterns as crime. They interpreted these observations as meaning that the inner city is a place where, as McKay said: "life is superficial, people are anonymous, relationships are transitory, and kinship and friendship bonds are weak." The called this lack of primary social relationships, social disorganization, and used it as the foundation for their theories of crime. They outlined four principles that constitute social disorganization: low economic status, a mixing of different ethnic groups, high numbers of short term residents, and broken families. From this school of thought, one student, Edward Sutherland, would go on to devolp Differential Association Theory, which would take a deeper look at people's cultural values from their perspective rather than our, American, perspcetive.

The phrase "The Chicago School" is used to denote a modern movement in economic thought (as opposed to either the Austrian school, or keynesian economics). The movement was started by Frank H. Knight and Jacob Viner in the 1920's at Chicago University. The characteristics of the early Chicago School of 1920-1950 differ considerably from the later Chicago School. They were highly suspicious of "positivistic" economic methodology and denounced economic imperialism, arguing for a confined role for economic analysis (esp. Knight). They were suspicious of the efficiency claims of laissez faire economics, arguing for it only on a "non-consequential" basis. For the most part, they did not welcome the Keynesian Revolution in macroeconomics and denounced the Monopolistic Competition approach in microeconomic theory. To a good extent, the issues these "alternative" paradigms purported to solve, they felt could be handled reasonably well within the confines of Neoclassical theory.

In the 1960s, after a series of changes in philosophy following Knight and Viner's departure, the department began to congeal into a new shape, led by George J. Stigler and Milton Friedman. This is what became the "Second" Chicago School, which is perhaps the more famous one. The Stigler-Friedman period was characterized by faithful adherence to Neoclassical economics and maintained itself dead against the economic concept of market failures, reinforcing the Chicago School stance against imperfect competition and Keynesian economics. In macroeconomics, the most renowned ideals of the Chicago School have been those of Monetarism under the leadership of Milton Friedman, their best-known advocate. For the longest time, Chicago was the only school in America not swept by the Keynesian Revolution. It is now identifies almost exclusively with Laissez Faire economics and Monetarism

This writeup is based partially on http://cepa.newschool.edu/het/schools/chicago.htm and partially on my understanding of the Chicago School of economic thought.

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