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9 de maio de 2008

Charles Tilly, 78, Writer and a Social Scientist, Is Dead



By DOUGLAS MARTIN
Published: May 2, 2008

New York Times

Charles Tilly, a social scientist who combined historical
interpretation and quantitative analysis in a voluminous outpouring of
work to forge often novel intellectual interpretations — as when he
compared nation states to protection rackets — died on Tuesday in the
Bronx. He was 78.
The cause was lymphoma, said John H. Tucker, a spokesman for Columbia
University, where Dr. Tilly was the Joseph L. Buttenwieser Professor
of Social Science.
Dr. Tilly mined immense piles of original documents for raw data and
contemporary accounts — including municipal archives, unpublished
letters and diaries — that he used to develop theories applicable to
many contexts. A particular interest was the development of the nation
state in Europe, which he suggested was partly a military innovation.
In his 1990 book “Coercion, Capital, and European States, AD 990-1990”
(Blackwell), he argued that the increasingly large costs of gunpowder
and large armies required big, powerful nation states with the power
to tax.
In 1985, he gave early indications of his argument that war made
states in an article that said nation states, with their monopolies on
violence, function like gangsters’ protection rackets. He said that
governments emphasize, create and stimulate external threats, then ask
their citizens to pay for defense.
“Consider the definition of a racketeer as someone who creates a
threat and then charges for its reduction,” he wrote in a chapter of
“Bringing the State Back In” (Cambridge), which was edited by Peter
Evans, Dietrich Rueschemeyer and Theda Skocpol.
Provocative and profound ideas repeatedly appeared in Dr. Tilly’s
51 books and monographs and more than 600 scholarly articles.
Marshaling insights from sociology and political science, both of
which he taught, he took on subjects including urban migration, the
French Revolution, the dynamics of political contention and the
sociology of trusting others.
In “Credit and Blame” (Princeton), published this year, he drew on
sources from Dostoyevsky to Darwin and from the office water cooler to
truth commissions to examine how people fault and applaud each other
and themselves. In “The Contentious French” (Belknap, 1986) he plowed
through four centuries of history to describe the French as ordinary
people fighting for their interests against implacable state power and
advancing capitalism.
In his 2006 book “Why?” (Princeton), he tried to make systematic sense
of people’s reasons for giving reasons. Malcolm Gladwell in The New
Yorker said the book “forces readers to re-examine everything from the
way they talk to their children to the way they argue about politics.”
Dr. Tilly devoted a considerable part of his work to methods used by
social science. He parted with some historians by advocating the use
of numbers to come up with testable hypotheses, and with some
sociologists by insisting — with Marx and Weber, he said — that the
historical context of cause and effect greatly matters.
In an interview on Thursday, Adam Ashforth, a professor of
anthropology, political science and sociology at Northwestern
University, called Dr. Tilly “the founding father of 21st-century
sociology.” He particularly praised Dr. Tilly’s seamless synthesizing
of his own work on witchcraft and politics in South Africa.
Dr. Ashforth also mentioned Dr. Tilly’s dizzying output of books,
which had been running at more than a book a year for more than two
decades.
“It was exhausting keeping up with him,” Dr. Ashforth said. “We’ll now
have a chance to catch up with our reading.”
Charles Tilly was born on May 27, 1929, in Lombard, Ill., and in 1950
graduated from Harvard, where he earned his doctorate in sociology in
1958. He also studied at Oxford and the Catholic University of Angers,
France. He served in the Navy during the Korean War.
He taught at the University of Delaware, Harvard, the University of
Toronto, the University of Michigan and what is now the New School
before joining Columbia in 1996. He taught at many other schools in
North America and Europe for shorter periods.
Dr. Tilly is survived by his former wife and sometime collaborator,
Louise Audino, of Evanston, Ill.; his brothers Richard, of Würzburg,
Germany, and Stephen, of Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.; his sister, Carolyn
Williams, of Serena, Ill.; his son, Chris, of Boston; his sisters Kit
Tilly of Hamilton, Mont., Laura Tilly of Evanston and Sarah Tilly, of
Manhattan; seven grandchildren; and two great- grandchildren.
Dr. Tilly received many awards, the latest of which was the Albert O.
Hirschman Award from the Social Science Research Council this year. He
liked to brag that he managed never to hold an office in a
professional association or the chairmanship of a university
department — though he did head several research institutes.
Dr. Tilly once said his goal was to do sociology, history and
political analysis at the same time, but he said it with what
colleagues said was his typical intellectual humility.
“My efforts to harmonize all three have always failed in one way or
another,” he said in an interview with Contemporary Authors, “but the
failures, happily, are usually of the kind from which one learns
something useful.”
On April Fool’s Day in 1969, The New York Times asked leading
intellectuals what they considered foolish. Dr. Tilly answered, “One
way I’d like to improve social life is to get a guy to stop for five
minutes or one minute or 10 seconds and listen to what the other guy
says.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: May 7, 2008
An obituary on Friday about Charles Tilly, a prolific theorist of social science, misstated his relationship to three survivors — Kit Tilly, Laura Tilly and Sarah Tilly. They are his daughters, not his sisters. Because of an editing error, the name of his former wife and sometime collaborator was rendered incompletely. She is Louise Audino Tilly, not Louise Audino.

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