Mythic facts and park's pragmatism: On predecessor-selection and theorizing in human ecology

David R. Maines, Jeffrey C. Bridger, Jeffery T. Ulmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Robert Park's proposals for the study of human and urban ecology were grounded in pragmatism, but critics of his perspective from the late 1930s through the 1940s totally missed his use of pragmatism and thereby defined four lines of deficiency: dualism (between the biotic and cultural), neglect of the sociocultural, biological determinism, and problems of measurement. These criticisms became reified as fact, out of which came Hawley's 1950 pivotal text that redirected human ecological study. Developments since then have largely been reactions against the so-called neo-orthodox approach, but in the process, the criticisms of Park have become intertextually sedimented into what we call "mythic fact" and what rhetoricians refer to as constitutive rhetoric. We document the lines of criticism and their consequences in ecological study, and then show how they were inaccurately grounded by neglecting Park's pragmatist perspective. Our analysis contributes specifically to the further understanding of predecessor-selection processes and suggests a political sociology of knowledge that challenges the cumulative theory growth model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)521-549
Number of pages29
JournalSociological Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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