From its inception, Chicago's Department of Sociology has played a leading role in efforts to cultivate the advancement of social theory as well as to theorize the parameters of the discipline and investigate its historical development. Albion Small, Robert E. Park, Louis Wirth, Everett Hughes, Morris Janowitz, and Edward Shils were among the preeminent figures in these efforts.
At present, the Department offers a wide range of resources for studying classical and contemporary social theory and the history of the discipline. Current members of the Department have made significant contributions to the study of Comte, Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Mead, Parsons, and Merton. The Department has played a unique role in the appropriation of Simmel in modern social theory, from Small and Park to Shils, Hughes, and Levine. Projects currently pursued by the faculty include innovative work in the theory of action, investigating theories of modernity, recovering classical theories of culture, exploring the role of time in social theory, theorizing the nature of religion, and articulating a dialogical approach to theory work.