In a column about how Chicago could better market itself to the world, there is a bit about sociology at the University of Chicago:
Chicago’s reputation has consistently lagged behind reality. Who among us traveling abroad hasn’t mentioned his or her hometown only to hear: “Al Capone! Bang, bang!” It happened to me in Beirut, while the Israeli army and Yasser Arafat’s forces were battling in 1982. Lebanon’s capital has been fought over so many times that keen-eyed inhabitants would point to pockmarked walls, dating them as “old damage” or “new damage,” depending on how recently tanks had shelled them…
Perhaps an image consultant can give us a municipal makeover. Chicago’s motto, “Urbs in Horto” — City in a Garden — is too namby-pamby. It doesn’t inspire anyone to grab the next flight to O’Hare.
Gilding the lily doesn’t work either, as the University of Chicago found when it hired a hotshot adman who pitched it as a “fun” campus. You can’t sell the birthplace of atomic energy and sociology with an “Animal House” image.
The birthplace of sociology is at the University of Chicago? A few qualifiers might be in order:
1. Perhaps the birthplace of American sociology. Other schools might want to debate this.
2. Perhaps the first academic department in sociology. Again, I don’t know the exact history here.
But to suggest that sociology was founded at the University of Chicago misses a lot of the early thinkers, like Marx, Durkheim, Weber, and Spencer, that helped make that early department possible. Of course, the U of C department has had a large impact on sociology but the founding claim is off.
Side note: this reminds me of some of the international visitors my dad used to host in Chicago. They, too, were very interested in Chicago’s mob past and wanted to see places where Al Capone and others had been.