Rereading The Jack-Roller: Hidden Histories in Sociology and Social Work

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I revisit one of the iconic Chicago School studies, Clifford Shaw's The Jack-Roller. A naive reading of Shaw's book leaves the reader with a sense of having been inducted into a melange of what we now know as "sociology" and "social work," but which to Shaw seems a coherent stance. I suggest that this is close to the heart of how things were, and not a temporary distortion in the distinct histories of sociology and social work. I develop and illustrate this argument through a hidden history of an intellectual case for reciprocity between the two disciplines as seen in some barely noticed work of Ernest Burgess. I conclude with a suggested rereading of The Jack-Roller that supports a relationship between sociology and social work based on egalitarian respect and a commitment to practicing history in the sense of positioning ourselves in a historical context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1241-1264
Number of pages24
JournalQualitative inquiry
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009


  • Chicago school
  • Burgess
  • social work
  • The Jack-Roller
  • Edith Abbott

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