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Monday, January 01, 2007

Tilly inspired work

Charles Tilly has authored a nice little volume titled Why? What Happens When People Give Reasons...and Why. Interesting work, based on useful framework that organizes reason-giving into conventions, stories, codes and technical accounts.

His personalization of the subject seemed a bit odd until you get to the point where he expresses much admiration for Jared Diamond and others who seem to be able to get their points across to the general reader. If his intent was to do the same, not much success there.... What makes that effort odd is that content-wise he seems to be addressing his colleagues in the social sciences rather than some general audience, but style-wise he comes up short.

Regardless, there are some interesting connections in the work to accountability and account-giving, but perhaps the real value for me was the degree to which I came away from the reading convinced that there is a useful distinction between reason-giving and account-giving that needs to be explored and sharpened. I am working on that now is a paper-in-progress....

Another result of reading Tilly's Why? is how much it made me think about the value of Karl Weick's "sensemaking" approach to social psychology and organization theory. Taking an approach that integrates Tilly and Weick, I have decided to organize my American government course this spring under the theme "making sense of US government and politics" -- and thus far I am having lots of fun putting together the syllabus with that framework in mind. Another work-in-progress....

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