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Overview

In his eye-opening book Why?, world-renowned social scientist Charles Tilly exposed some startling truths about the excuses people make and the reasons they give. Now he's back with further explorations into the complexities of human relationships, this time examining what's really going on when we assign credit or cast blame.

Everybody does it, but few understand the hidden motivations behind it. With his customary wit and dazzling insight, Tilly takes a lively and ...

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Credit and Blame

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Overview

In his eye-opening book Why?, world-renowned social scientist Charles Tilly exposed some startling truths about the excuses people make and the reasons they give. Now he's back with further explorations into the complexities of human relationships, this time examining what's really going on when we assign credit or cast blame.

Everybody does it, but few understand the hidden motivations behind it. With his customary wit and dazzling insight, Tilly takes a lively and thought-provoking look at the ways people fault and applaud each other and themselves. The stories he gathers in Credit and Blame range from the everyday to the altogether unexpected, from the revealingly personal to the insightfully humorous--whether it's the gushing acceptance speech of an Academy Award winner or testimony before a congressional panel, accusations hurled in a lover's quarrel or those traded by nations in a post-9/11 crisis, or a job promotion or the Nobel Prize. Drawing examples from literature, history, pop culture, and much more, Tilly argues that people seek not only understanding through credit and blame, but also justice. The punishment must fit the crime, accomplishments should be rewarded, and the guilty parties must always get their just deserts.

Brilliantly conceived and masterfully written, Credit and Blame is a book that revolutionizes our understanding of the compliments we pay and the accusations we make.

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Editorial Reviews

Alexander Star
As a sociologist, Tilly was more interested in how we assign credit and blame than when it's right to do so. Should we care that when a chief executive attributes his company's success to his own intelligence or decisiveness, he's probably wrong? Why do we put more blame on someone who drives through a stop sign at night and kills a child than on the countless others who drive through stop signs and kill no one? Tilly does not answer such questions, but his analysis suggests that for all the bad judgments we may make about the supposed malfeasance of terrorism-neglecting bureaucrats or the homeless, our habits are not easily reformed. Blaming, he argues, is not a vice or an aberration but an essential habit that allows us to maintain and repair our relationships with others. Our justice detectors are not fundamentally defective. They are suited to the task of setting things right—approximately.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

If you've ever observed how an actress accepting an award thanks everyone around her, whereas a little boy who has spilled milk on the floor tries to pin it specifically on his sister, you have already witnessed the fine processes of credit and blame in action. Drawing upon sources as disparate as Dostoyevski, Darwin, water-cooler conversations and truth commissions, Tilly (Why?) illustrates how assigning credit and blame stems from and redefines "relations between the creditor and the credited, the blamer and the blamed." Society is saturated in credit/blame "social shows"-from high school honor societies to job promotions to the Nobel prizes-and in case studies of the Academy Awards and the 9/11 commission, Tilly astutely analyzes how people accept credit and society assesses blame, and the commonalities between the two ("blame is not simply credit upside down... blame resembles credit as an image in a funhouse mirror resembles the person standing before it"). With its most vivid examples drawn from the author's own life, this book is simultaneously highbrow and humble and a close analysis of social interaction. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
New York Times Book Review - Alexander Star
Throughout his 50-book career, Tilly liked to squint hard at social life and find simple patterns. [In Credit and Blame] his undogmatic schematizing could reshape our judgments about what might have been obvious to begin with.
From the Publisher
"Throughout his 50-book career, Tilly liked to squint hard at social life and find simple patterns. [In Credit and Blame] his undogmatic schematizing could reshape our judgments about what might have been obvious to begin with."—Alexander Star, New York Times Book Review

"Drawing upon sources as disparate as Dostoyevski, Darwin, water-cooler conversations and truth commissions, Tilly illustrated how assigning credit and blame stems from and redefines 'relations between the creditor and the credited, the blamer, and the blamed.' Tilly astutely analyzes how people accept credit and society assesses blame, and the commonalities between the two. With its most vivid examples drawn from the author's own life, this book is simultaneously highbrow and humble and a close analysis of social interaction."Publishers Weekly

New York Times Book Review
Throughout his 50-book career, Tilly liked to squint hard at social life and find simple patterns. [In Credit and Blame] his undogmatic schematizing could reshape our judgments about what might have been obvious to begin with.
— Alexander Star
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400829644
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 4/11/2009
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Course Book
  • Pages: 198
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Charles Tilly (1929-2008) was the Joseph L. Buttenwieser Professor of Social Science at Columbia University. His books include "Why?" (Princeton) and "Democracy".
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Table of Contents

Preface vii
Chapter 1: Credit, Blame, and Social Life 1
Chapter 2: Justice 31
Chapter 3: Credit 61
Chapter 4: Blame 91
Chapter 5: Memories of Victory, Loss, and Blame 120 Notes 153
References 161
Index 173
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