An assessment of Kenneth Burke’s influence on the Second Chicago School

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John J. Leveille


This essay critically assesses some of the ways that some members of the Second Chicago School used Kenneth Burke’s ideas. On the whole, they selectively graft some of Burke’s ideas onto their existing approach to sociology, an approach that was deeply rooted in symbolic interactionism. However, their selection and use of particular Burkean ideas suggests they were more interested in maintaining the integrity and unity of their existing framework than they were in critically using Burkean ideas to identify and overcome problems intrinsic to their own theory and methods. A fuller appropriation of Burkean ideas, I argue, would have led the Second Chicago School to a self-reflection and criticism that might ultimately have lead them to create an approach that was radically different, and arguably richer, from the one they in fact did develop.

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