Credit and Blame (Magill's Literary Annual 2009)
Shortly after Charles Tilly’s death on April 29, 2008, Lee C. Bollinger, president of Columbia University, where Tilly had held the Joseph I. Buttenwieser Professorship in the Social Sciences, noted that Tilly “could write, interpret, and explain virtually anything to curious minds.” Bollinger went on to say that during Tilly’s fifty-year academic career, he had published more than six hundred articles and fifty-one books and monographs. Credit and Blame, released around the time of Tilly’s death, amply demonstrates the breadth and depth of his thinking and writing. His two books that immediately preceded Credit and BlameWhy?, published in 2006, and Democracy, published in 2007bear a relationship to Tilly’s final publication. Why? seeks to understand explanations that are used to get to the roots of human actions and reactions. As Tilly pondered such questions, he began to focus on people’s acceptance of credit and assignment of blame as they affect human relationships.
In Why?, Tilly categorizes explanations into four classifications that he calls dereliction, deviance, distinction, and good fortune. He points out that if one misses an appointment, an explanation might be that one is having a “senior moment.” This explanation is generally sufficient if one is explaining such a dereliction to family members or close friends. It is not appropriate, though, if one is attempting to...
(The entire section is 1747 words.)
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