Émile Durkheim is often thought of, at least within many North American interpretations, as closely associated with ‘variables sociology,’ a tradition commonly understood to be in opposition to the Chicago school of sociology, which is commonly thought of as more qualitatively focused. Upon closer examination, it is apparent that Durkheim and the Chicago school share a great deal more points of connection than are commonly acknowledged. These similarities have been blurred due to (1) a lack of distinction between the later, qualitatively focused Chicago school of sociology researchers with the more quantitatively-based work of the original school and (2) a pervasive misunderstanding of what Durkheim meant by treating a ‘social fact’ as a thing. A more accurate account reveals that the two research traditions are both heavily empirical, pragmatic, contextually based approaches to studying non-individualized, collective behavior. These points of convergence show that the Chicago school of sociology, and American sociology in general, constructed many of the same solutions to similar theoretical problems as did Durkheim.
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