Was Jane Addams a Sociologist?

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Abstract

There is widespread agreement that despite the general scarcity of women among classical sociologists, Jane Addams was the first and probably most influential of early American sociologists. Apart from being a leading figure in the settlement movement, she carried out early sociological research in the Chicago slums and had close ties to contemporary pragmatist thinkers like William James, John Dewey, and George Hebert Mead. This chapter reconsiders the general designation of Addams as an “early sociologist.” It discusses which criteria are adequate to define someone as a sociologist and considers Addams’s activities and writings in light of such criteria. Significant in this assessment is Addams’s inspiration from the Christian tradition, evident in her invocation of Christian ethics as a regenerative force and her echoing of principles from social gospel theology. The chapter concludes that Addams’s work, both as a turn-of-the-century social critic and intellectual, was shaped as much by Christian values as by activities that would merit the term “sociologist.” Paying attention to how Addams articulated notions like “Christian renaissance,” “social salvation,” and “brotherly love” complicates assessments of her as a pioneer in pragmatist, empirical sociology. Addams’s blend of Christian ideas and early social science discourse is not unique but resonates with streams of reformist, sociological writing around the turn-of-the-20th-century North America and Europe. This chapter concludes that rather than constituting a stumbling block for the development of modern sociology, Christian inspirations can be an impetus for critical sociological practice in times of fragmentation and instrumentalization of sociological research
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Jane Addams
EditorsPatricia M. Shields, Joseph Soeters, Maurice Hamington
Number of pages24
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication date2022
ISBN (Print)9780197544518
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Keywords

  • Jane Addams
  • Early American sociolog
  • Christian ethics
  • Social gospel
  • Pragmatist theory

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