The Chicago School at World War 1: Herbert Adolphus Miller and a Road Not Taken

John Holmwood, Czech Academy of Science
Jan Balon, Czech Academy of Science

Herbert Adolphus Miller is a forgotten figure in the history of North American social science and in Chicago School sociology in particular. He appears, together with Robert E Park, as the author in 1921 of a book on ‘immigrant heritages’, Old World Traits Transplanted, one of a set of Carnegie-funded studies on Americanization under the administrative direction of Allen T Burns, who had earlier played a similar role in the Pittsburgh and Cleveland Surveys. Miller had been involved in research with Czech immigrants in Chicago and Cleveland – the basis of his appointment by Burns to be part of the Carnegie project. We have known for some time that the study was really a Park/Thomas collaboration following the latter’s sacking due to scandal. In fact, Miller withdrew from the study because of his work as secretary of the Mid-European Union (in which Burns as also involved), representing nationalities and oppressed people within the Austro-Hungarian Empire which was collapsing as a consequence of the war. Miller can be seen as a representative of an earlier moment in the development of Chicago sociology when social research, reform and progressive politics were united, as against the post-war Chicago eschewal of reform and turn to ‘science’ and the elaboration of rigorous ‘theory’. We suggest Miller represented a more fruitful development of Chicago sociological theory extending its social psychology to issues of power and domination. In addition, he was alone among the white sociologists of the pre-war generation of Chicago sociologists inspired by pragmatism to steer it toward a radical and progressive position connecting race relations and colonialism (on which Dewey, for example, remained rather timid).

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 Presented in Session 191. Building the Ethnoracial Nation