Chicago Tribune suggests the University of Chicago is the birthplace of sociology

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.

Documentary about sociologist Zygmunt Bauman

Based on a few stories in the last few days, I have again realized that sociology outside the United States may be quite different. While there is a dance performance in Quebec celebrating the life of a political scientist and sociologist, there is a new Polish documentary examining the life of sociologist Zygmunt Bauman:

“Love Europe World by Zygmunt Bauman”, a film about the world famous Polish-Jewish philosopher and sociologist had its premiere last week.

The documentary was commissioned by the National Audiovisual Institute as a part of the Cultural Program of the Polish EU Presidency in 2011 and directed by Krzysztof Rz?czy?ski.

In the four-parts film (Culture, Europe, The World, and Himself), Bauman reflects upon issues that are central to his work as a sociologist: culture and the times, in which we live.

“The ultimate result of the blossoming of culture, which we have undoubtedly witnessed in the passing years, is a feeling of having gone astray”, says Bauman in the film.

I imagine that European sociologists as public intellectuals might just be considered normal material for documentaries. People like Bauman, Giddens, and Habermas have been quite influential.

What if someone wanted to make a series on the lives of American sociologists? Think of the possibilities: George Herbert Mead, Talcott Parsons, Robert Merton, Peter Berger, Robert Bellah, Robert Wuthnow, William Julius Wilson, and more. (I know I’m leaving a lot of big names out here.) Are there particularly notable paths sociologists took to reach the top of the discipline? Even so, perhaps there is a better question to consider before thinking too much about this: would anyone ever watch these?