Sunday, October 23, 2016

Tilly, Charles. (16 Dec 2007) University of Michigan-Dearborn.

  Tilly: I’d like to start with the autobiography, not a deep autobiography but with the kind of succession of Work that helps explain the connective tissue among the issues that I worked on. When I was a graduate Student at Harvard, I helped Sam Beer, head of the Americans For Democratic Action, a member of the military Government of the US and Germany after the War, a rabid advocate of democratic Expansion, I helped him along with a number of other People to teach a course called Western Thought and Institutions. It was a wonderful course. There were other People, Michael Walzer was a teaching fellow in the course at the same Time. Epstein, a number of People who went on to very interesting Careers thereafter. There’s lots to say about that, of course. Sam Beer was an inspired teacher - he’s still alive, he’s in his 90s now - but he was just a great teacher. He gave us a lot of Freedom in dealing with our own Students, and I tell a story that I’ve fabricated but it has an element of truth in it. That is that we got to the point where we had read Georges Lefèbvre on the French Revolution. In Lefèbvre’s great book, 1789, portrays the Revolution as a culmination of just about everybody’s Discontent with the Old Regime. The story I tell about this is that one of my smart Students, a Harvard undergraduate, said to me as we were talking about Lefèbvre, “Well, if everybody agreed that the Old Regime was so corrupt, how come there was this big Counterrevolution in the rest of France in 1793 and ‘94?” I said, “That’s a Good Question,” and did my dissertation on the topic. Went off really having had no Education in French History at all. In fact, not having liked History as an undergraduate because it seemed to me to be all maps and dates and so on. Greatly regretting later on that I hadn’t gotten around it, that graduate Students in History had gotten in their field but perhaps benefiting from it. I went off to the archives in Western France and a story that my former Student, John Merriman, now teaching at Yale, often tells, I went to the front desk and I said in French, “Show me a document.” I had no Idea what I was looking for, but I knew I had a series of Questions about this Counterrevolution that, in my story anyway, the Student had set me off on a few years before. I tried to figure out why it was that in a Country that was moving rapidly into revolutionary Transformation, People in one Region had actively resisted the Revolution. This isn’t the Time to tell the story of the conclusions I drew, but the conclusions I drew brought together a sense of historical complexity and some Questions that came out of Social Science about how does this relate to the overall Transformation? For example, the growth of a semi-industrial Proletariat, there was a weaving Industry in the Region, and so on. Eventually I struggled my way to an analysis which compared a couple of Regions in Western France, tried to show that the response to the early Revolution corresponded in an interesting way to the social structure on the ground, but wasn’t simply an automatic correspondence. Instead there was a Process of mutual antagonism and polarisation that occurred such that the two Factions, which were not Factions at the start, became mortal Enemies, and each called in armed support for their position until the Counterrevolution broke out. I don’t want to spend all my Time on that story, but it was extremely important to me. I see now in retrospect that as compared with the kind of Social Science that I had been learning from most of my teachers, the Process itself was the object that I should be explaining rather than the comparative Statistics. I didn’t have this Language available at that Time, but I realised that if I simply said, “All Right, it’s sort of Rich People and Poor People. Rich People have different attitudes from Poor People, and we look at their structural situation, we understand why those attitudes are different, that’s correct and comparative Statistics, but even today, commonly appears in analysis of national Surveys and so forth, the difference between Protestants and Catholics and Jews and Muslims, and so on, and so forth. It’s still there another way of thinking about social situations which is not Process. So from very early, I carried around the stigmata of being unable to apply the lessons that I had learned as a Student of Social Science to the processes I was most interested in.   
  So I think that’s the beginning of what set me off on a Career which next lead me to say, you know, maybe I can use some of the same Insights and Methods to understand more generally where Struggles like those of the Revolution fit into a longer term set of social changes. And I did a lot of naïve things at that point, that is - I promised you not to give a litany of all my errors - but one error I got honestly. My models and friends, George Rudé and Eric Hobsbawm, influenced me strongly at this point and wrongly – I mean,  I’m still grateful to Rudé and Hobsbawm, don’t misunderstand me - but they had drawn from one version from Marxist historical Theory. The notion that there was a pre-political form of Politics and then there was a political form of Politics. This corresponds to the Communist Manifesto Understanding, which at the Time I though was pretty compelling. All Right, the Working class becomes conscious, but Hobsbawm and Rudé, especially Hobsbawm, were very Good at saying, “Look, it’s not just a Question of the industrial Proletariat, this also happens in Peasant Populations and in Artisan Populations, and so on.” There’s a Process of coming to Consciousness and acting collectively on the basis of that Consciousness. That led me into schematising, I was always more of a schematiser than Rudé or Hobsbawm. It led me into schematising a series of pre, during, and after classifications of forms of collective Action, forms of Struggle, and so on, that I wish I had never invented. I’ve been in this Business 50 years or so, and some of these Things come back to haunt you because you find People using schemata that you tried a long Time ago. Backward looking, forward looking, contemporary and so forth, that turned out to have fatal, logical and empirical Flaws built into them. I won’t do this for every example I give you, but the problem with that one is that it’s reasonable for Phenomenology, that is, we can think of a Group of People as looking backward in Time or forward in Time or looking at the Present, but it’s not reasonable for forms of Action. The Strike, to take an invented from of Action, sometimes occurs in resistance to some change that backward looking in that sense; sometimes it’s part of a contemporary Struggle; and sometimes it’s a demand for conditions that have never existed. As a matter of fact, KG Lee at Michigan is doing wonderful Work in China on just this kind of difference between what she calls the ‘Russ Belt’ and the ‘Sun Belt’ sections of the industrial Labour Force.   
  Unknown: The book just arrived on my desk.   
  Tilly: Okay. It’s a terrific book. We had a Discussion of it with her a few months ago at Columbia and it was a very fine Discussion, and there she reasonably says, “The Russ Belt People are defending Rights that really came into being under an old and now decrepit industrial Regime, whereas in the Sun Belt, People are demanding Rights that they’ve never enjoyed as Workers but they see as possible, given the Principles that the Communist Party is now espousing.” All Right, I’m indulging my tendency to turn every little fill-up into a Lecture, but you see there is a series of mistakes there that eventually brought me away from these schematas as there are the backward looking, contemporary, forward looking etc., to what I think is a more sophisticated Understanding of how the forms of collective Action change, but it was starting with the Counterrevolution that I first began thinking about these, then trying to generalise my Understanding of what happened in Western France during the Counterrevolution to a much longer term History of then called political disturbances - I wish I had never used that term either - in France over a very long Period. I was engaged in that study for 20, 25 years, collecting lots of Information, spending a great deal of Time in French archives and going through schema after schema.   
Unknown: Could I ask you to dwell on The Vendée-   
  Tilly: Okay. All Right, sure, sure.   
  Unknown: I’d like to bring the story forward also to one of your most recent Ideas, which is the emphasis on causal Mechanisms. I think the title is, Social Dynamics of Contention.   
  Tilly: Just Dynamics of Contention, I called it. Yeah.   
  Unknown: With Douglas McAdam and-   
  Tilly: Sid Tarrow.   
  Unknown: And Sid Tarrow. In some ways, it’s treating very similar empirical Phenomena to The Vendée. My recollection is you began talking of the Vendée. As I remember very vividly you talking about the role of the Catholic Church as a [unclear] Organisation and a kind of differentiator, and also the material Interests of wine-growers and, I think, grain-growers.   
  Tilly: That’s Right. That’s Right.   
  Unknown: Here’s my Question for you. Personally, I find the move to specific ground-level social Mechanisms of contention to be a very useful step. What I’m wondering is, if you were now to look back to the Research you did on the Vendée, whether the Perspective of causal Mechanisms, social Mechanisms, would change your analysis, would change the way you did the Research, or possibly even change the findings.   
  Tilly: Oh, well. The answer is deeply. Maybe other People have had this Experience and they’ve suppressed it, but my first book refuted my doctoral dissertation. That had one advantage, and that is that the author wasn’t going to complain about being refuted. That was precisely because I had in the dissertation, still presented some very large Entities: Urbanisation and a kind of glimmering of Modernisation. I didn’t use quite that term, and so forth, but the notion of two Societies that were differentially exposed to the modern World was really there, and so forth. And I realised between defending my dissertation and writing the book that became The Vendée, there was a Period of about six years it took me to rework the Material. This appeal to large Categories wasn’t working very well and that what I really had was a story about the Process. I had no Idea about Mechanisms at that point. I’ll save myself by saying I had an intuitive sense, but I certainly didn’t have the Vocabulary. If I had had the Vocabulary, if somebody had made it available to me in 1958, I would have written a different book in 1964, I’m sure. As it turned out, I think the situation must have been a little bit like what my friend and colleague, Harrison White, says - Harrison was a Genius in the study of social Networks and Markets and related processes - he says, “You know, I never had a Good Idea that wasn’t already abroad in my Network.” There is some sense in which the late 1980’s, Mechanism Talk, Mechanism Ideas were beginning to spread. I look back at my own Writing and I see that around 1989, I start explicitly talking about causes as Mechanisms and processes. I don’t put together my own conceptual Apparatus for a few more years, but by 1993, I’ve published a book called, European Revolutions: 1492-1992. There’s a lot of Mechanism Talk in that, that is, I set up the problem for that book by 1993 as a problem of identifying the recurrent Mechanisms in Revolutions without looking for general Laws of Revolution. The claim of that book, which has fallen I would say largely on deaf ears, is that it’s a mistake to look for the Laws of Revolution, but that it is Right to recognise that there are some recurrent Mechanisms that occur in different combinations and different outcomes in a long series of Revolutions. I claim in the book that these Mechanisms center around Control of armed Force. That’s not the only issue, but I say, “Who controls armed Force? Who has claims to armed Force, how they deploy it?” The Organisation of Coercion is absolutely crucial, and there’s a series of Mechanism that occur such that a whole Regime polarises over that issue and they have at least two nodes of Coercion struggling with each other.   
  In some ways, it goes back to something that a former faculty member of the University of Michigan-Dearborn said. Peter Amann was an old Trotskyist who wrote a wonderful article somewhere around 1972 called, “Revolution: A Redefinition.” He doesn’t quite say so - but he certainly refers to Trotsky, so there’s no Question about that - but it’s the notion of dual power. That deeply impressed me. In fact, from the Time that I read and met Peter Amann, with whom I carried on a very interesting exchange for some years, especially when I was at Michigan, the Idea that the Mechanisms that produce dual Power themselves are the central Mechanisms in our evolutionary Process. It turns out that Arthur Stinchcombe, one of the contemporary Geniuses of Social Science and an old Trotskyist, also has a notion of this general kind. In fact, in his great but neglected book, Theoretical Methods in Social History, he talks about Trotsky as one of the great social theorists and points to Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution as an account. He doesn’t there use the Terminology of Mechanisms, but basically what he says is, “Look, Trotsky actually recognises that this Event triggers this Event, triggers this Event, that they’re contingent in some sense, that their concatenation is contingent, but lawful at this level.” That insight is already there in 1978, I think, that Theoretical Methods in Social History is coming out. I enjoyed that book, especially because I edited it. I published it in a series I was then editing for Academic Press. The preface, if you look at it, says, “Charles Tilly caused there to be two elements that I had neglected in previous drafts: an introduction and a conclusion.” All Right, back to the main stream, yes. The Answer to the Question you asked me ten minutes ago is: Yes, I would have done that Work differently if I had had a self-conscious Control over Ideas about Mechanisms and processes that I’ve acquired since the late 1980’s.   
  What I was veering into at that point was State Formation. State Formation. I have to credit someone I don’t or didn’t agree with very much for drawing me into the Discussion. I was at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and so was Gabriel Almond, a leading political scientist of his Time at Stanford. Gay Almond was a member of the Committee on Political Development of the Social Science Research Council, a very influential Organisation in its Time. Published a series of books on political Development in the model of economic Development with the notion that there were standard Sequences and even, for some at least, the Idea that you could draw prescriptions and predictions of Future Development for Countries like Burma or China from a proper reading of the History of Western Countries. This is not such a wild Idea. W.W. Rostow, after all, had extrapolated from British Experience and then more generally from Western Experience into a model of economic Growth through Capital Accumulation. It was a direct borrowing from this. Members of the Committee on Political Development had come to a realisation that they were relying very heavily on incomplete Knowledge of European Experience, that is, they were reasoning from the History of Germany or France or Great Britain in schematic terms, but they were assuming such things as the proposition that the stages of political Development: Consolidation of this; Creation of central Authority, and so on, had occurred more gradually and smoothly in Western Europe than they could possibly occur today in Brasil or Burma or elsewhere in the World, and that part of the problem of turbulence in the Third World was accelerated political Development, and so forth. Some members of the Committee on Political Development thought, “We’d better look at this story we’re telling and verify that the European Countries did go through these sequential Developments.” Well, there’s a lot to what they did at that Time, but the part that affected me most directly was that Gay Almond came to me and he said, “Chuck, we’d like you to put together a Group of historians, the historians of your choice, to look at Western European Experience in the light of this.” Implicitly, the invitation was, “Verify our Theory of Sequences.” It was a wonderful Opportunity. My one failure in recruiting the dream team that I wanted was that George Rudé, as a card-carrying Communist, couldn’t get a Visa. I was very disappointed by that, and he was angry at me, I mean, not for raising the Question but for not being able to follow through. I mean, I became part of the American Conspiracy in some sense. I felt very badly about that when I interviewed him in London and had to explain. He knew that his Visa had been refused, but in some sense I, as an American, was responsible. I didn’t get Rudé, but I got a bunch of other very interesting People to come to Stanford for Summer, already with papers on different aspects of political change. I was suspicious of the Committee on Political Development from the beginning. I wouldn’t have taken the Assignment if I hadn’t thought there were very serious difficulties in this Idea of a standard scheme, the Gradualism, et cetera. In any case, I recruited a Group of People to talk about largely extractive and controlling aspects of State Formation in Western Europe over basically the 17th, 19th Centuries. We got Rudolf Braun, we got [Unclear], a number of other People who did very fine first essays. We got together for a Summer and had a great Time. Sammy Finer was one of the Group. Argued about each other’s essays, went from one to another. Spent a week on each one and rewrote and circulated and so forth, and then went back to our various places of Work and rewrote. Then a couple of years later met in Bellagio to spend a week talking about what we thought were the final papers, doing some further revisions, and finally in 1975, which is six years after our gathering in Stanford, came out with a volume called The Formation of National States in Western Europe. I wrote three chapters of the nine chapters, one of them being the chapter I had hoped Rudé would write, which was Food Supply and Public Order in Western Europe, and so forth. I learned a great deal from doing that Work. I got a much clearer Idea of Struggles over Food that served me well, as a matter of fact served Chinese historian Bin Wong well, because he then picked up some of these Questions and asked about the Chinese equivalent.   
  Unknown: Right, the Famine relief system.   
  Tilly: That’s Right, that’s Right. I won’t take credit for Bin Wong’s Career, but the undergraduate thesis he did for me on so-called Food Riots in Western Europe at Michigan was the beginning of his Interest in this general topic, and so forth.   
  All Right, so we come out with this book, which certainly does not confirm the Committee on Political Development. In fact, to my satisfaction, shows what a Struggle-filled Process the emergence of national consolidated States was in Western Europe, all the Contingency that we talked about earlier. I made a mistake, and that is in the title of the book and in the polemical essays that form part of the introduction and conclusion that I wrote, I deliberately adopted the term State Formation. Now, why did I do that? Because I wanted to stress the alternative to the Idea of political Development. I thought, and I persuaded my colleagues, that this was a neutral term. That was a mistake. Almost immediately, People started using the term State Formation teleologically. So the Question is, “Is this State formed yet?” You got numerous essays on “The Failure of State Formation in {fill in the blank}” or something like that. I thought, “Oh, another mistake,” and so forth.   
  What I wanted to illustrate. There’s lots more that happens. I now talk about State Transformation. There is no neutral term, because People have teleological agendas whenever they think about the History of States, but that was one of the more serious ones precisely because it was so successful, that is, it was a term that People were waiting for, but they were waiting for it in a version that I did not intend and couldn’t conceivably control once it came out. My protestations, “No, no, no, this is not a teleological conception.” The notion is not that you fulfill the requirements and you become a Ph.D. or something like that. That’s not the notion that we had in mind, but the Damage was already done. I’ve done other concepts of that kind that turned out to have ticking Bombs in them, but I think that probably is the one that did the most damage of all those.   
  Unknown: I’m sure you’ve read Julia Adams’ book on comparative historical Sociology.   
  Tilly: Absolutely. Julie Adams, Liz Clemens. Yes.   
  Unknown: I think it’s a wonderful book. It has a very Good kind of historical introduction which goes through the formation of comparative historical Sociology, and you have the distinction of being a Leader in both the Second Wave and also the Third Wave.   
  Tilly: Almost in the First Wave, but certainly the Second. Almost, but certainly in the second wave and the Third Wave. I actually have written an essay about this, which appeared in ‘History and Theory’ last year which I would be glad to communicate to you.   
Unknown: The Question that was on my mind is, as I’m remembering their introduction, they represented the Second Wave theorists as looking for patterns of Development, large historic patterns.   
  Tilly: That’s Right.   
  Unknown: Which would fall into neat Categories, and then you could.   
  Tilly: Like State Formation.   
  Unknown: Exactly. That’s what made me think of it. The characteristic of the Third Wave is to emphasise Contingency, differentiation of outcome, and it is very interesting to me that number one, that you highlight that particular Development of the concept. Also, that they’re recognising in your Work, and increased recognition towards the later part of your Career, of Contingency and Variation.   
  Tilly: It’s very interesting, because there is a little bit of, the poor old guy has finally come to his senses, in the book. They’re troubled, or at least whoever wrote those passages of the introduction are troubled by the fact that they can’t quite push me into their Second Wave of big schematisers and so forth because somehow I moved over into that Third Wave. In fact. It’s logically not very clear. That is, who are there. In other essays, for example in Phil Gorski’s chapter in the books, it’s clearer why some of them want to place me in the second Generation, because Phil would like me to be what he calls a billiscist who says, “War causes all political Process,” or something like that. He wants then to use that as a foil for a very interesting analysis of how religiously trained Individuals become part of a State Apparatus, and so on.   
  I’m ambivalent about this kind of rhetorical Work in Social Science for reasons of my Experience as a teacher. I’ve actually recently written a review, or a commentary, on a piece of a la pera and sociological Methodology in 2008, which bares directly on this issue because Stanley Lieberson and his collaborator Joel Horowitz at Harvard have written a very interesting essay on how to recognise an advance in the Social Sciences and how to get rid of the hard Science image of what it is to make an advance, and so forth. Implicitly, no not implicitly, explicitly toward the end, the essay essentially says that graduate Students should be like worker-bees. They should recognise, all of us, not just graduate Student, but it includes graduate Students, should be like worker-bees who will add a little increment of honey to the production and be satisfied with that. Well, philosophically, I accept that position, but then I think about my Experience as a dissertation advisor. I realise it contradicts the situation that every advisor faces with a Student who’s going to have to spend two or three years doing an analysis that will justify her or his entry into the profession at large and must find a point that will answer the Question, “When are you finished?” I actually [omitted].   
  I’ve always had to lie in some sense saying that, “If you solve this problem, you will become Rich & Famous.” I mean, I exaggerate, but without some such Promise that at the end of the unremitting effort of two or three years that Student will have something that is hers or his alone and say, “I did it,” you wouldn’t be able to motivate graduate Students. There are other ways. There are big Shops in which I give us. I never had a Shop like this, but in which you give a fellowship and say, “All Right, work on this variable,” and so forth. There are such Shops in Social Science, especially in Demography. It’s not nonexistent, but at least in the messy portions of History and Social Science in which I work, I’ve never had that Opportunity. I never could have gotten a Student to work on the condition that, at the end of three years, we would label her or him a worker-bee - well it’s all him - the worker-bees. Anyway, we would label this Creature a worker-bee who made your little increment of honey.   
  Unknown: That actually makes me realise something that I have admired about your Career and maybe I’ve misunderstood it a little bit. I’ve been aware for years of the white papers that seem to come out around you at Columbia, and I think also at Michigan and at NYU. It was always my thought that what this reflects is some talented graduate Students, working under your direction on a particular subject accumulating knowledge through these White Papers.   
  Tilly: Sure.   
  Unknown: Did I sort of misunderstand that?   
  Tilly: No. I didn’t mean to say that we never had a collective Enterprise going. I mean, for Goodness sake, at Michigan I had fifty Research assistants at one Time working on the material on Great Britain. I created a kind of fortress, if you’ll forgive the term, Research Organisation there and People had very specific Assignments. I’m familiar and comfortable with that mode of Work, but no doctoral dissertation came out of that Work directly. There were a bunch of interesting papers, and there are wonderful People like Ron Anemsoti, Mark Steinberg, and so on, who went on to do great Work partly inspired by their Experience in what we call the Great Britain Study. And they produced working papers of various kinds, so you can see it. We still have nostalgia for the old Center for Research on Social Organisation on Packard Street in Ann Arbor where we did a lot of this Work. So you’re Right to say that in the background there are series of collective enterprises. These days, and once I left the New School, came to Columbia, I decided I didn’t want to direct a Research Center anymore. That was a mistake. I actually should have continued, because that’s the Thing I’m best at. But for various reasons, when I came to Columbia I thought, “All Right. My Time, I’ve spent twenty-seven years as Director of Research centers. It’s Time for somebody else to take over.” I left behind that, but substituted for it, what we call our Workshop on contentious Politics. We have a weekly Workshop where People report their Work, or actually better than that, do mutual criticism of their Work.   

  Unknown: Let me ask you this. People often talk about Paradigms and a Paradigm in the standard Natural Science version is a fairly specific thing with some Research Methods, some theoretical Concepts, experimental Procedures. The kind of Workshop that you’re describing, I guess I’m kind of wondering, would you be willing to describe it as articulating a Paradigm or is it more loosely interconnected?   
  Tilly: I think you’ve actually forecast the Answer to the Question, because. In Astronomy, you can build a new Paradigm. There’s already a sufficiently connected body of Knowledge and Procedures that you can say, “All Right, we’re going to break with this View of how Black Holes operate and we’re going to substitute a new View.” For reasons that we could talk about for days, the Social Sciences have never developed as connected, a set of body of Knowledge integrated with a set of Procedures for verifying that Knowledge. The Social Sciences have remained a contested terrain, and that’s something that People often try to articulate incorrectly, from my point of view.   
  We may disagree about this, but anyway, a common View is that the difference between the Social Sciences and the Natural Sciences is Consciousness, that is to say, that the social scientists are intervening in processes with which they share Consciousness. I’m not so sympathetic to that point of view. I mean, it’s true, but I don’t think that that produces a fundamental difference in the situation of Knowledge. Nevertheless, it does provide an opening for the Moral and political concerns of the rest of the World to enter, that the relative boundary of much of Physical Science, Natural Science, makes more difficult. It doesn’t make it impossible. Obviously, Environmental Warming is a case where the boundaries are porous and there’s a series of other issues. Biodiversity. There are a whole series of biological issues that are open to political contestation in some of the same ways. Nonetheless, the Social Sciences by and large all have one portion of their personnel that’s primarily engaged in Intervention, and they’re engaged in Intervention in at least two ways. One, by doing Research. Research on Inequality in Dearborn or Detroit or something of that sort. Intervention by Speech, and so on. The Social Sciences remain a contested terrain precisely open to new Questions about the Tyranny of the current Administration, the possibility of entering War, the promotion of Democracy, and so on. You can’t enter these issues without touching on contested political and Moral positions.   
  Unknown: I wonder if you’ve ever been struck by the title that Herbert Simon used for one of his books, The Science of the Artificial. My thought is a way of distinguishing the Social Sciences from the Natural Sciences is that the architecture of the natural World is Given, but the Architecture of the social World is essentially created. We create States, we create Institutions. Not necessarily by deliberate design, but by the Actions and Interactions. There’s nothing that says the feudal State must have this structure. Rather, it has this structure because of a series of Events that preceded, which led to a particular configuration of Institutions. The Idea of the artificial versus the natural seems to me maybe a better way of distinguishing the social from the natural.   
  Tilly: I think there’s a lot to that, although you’re contributing less Contingency to what Stephen Jay Gould, for example, talked about as a Process of Evolution that I would. In a Gouldian Spirit, I would say there is a way in which Organisms are creating unexpected patterns through their Interaction. Let’s not exaggerate this. Nevertheless, it’s true that Humans are so far the most ingenious Organisms we have in this regard and human Brains are instruments of enormous plasticity in the Relations and Arrangements that People create. So in that sense, there’s a degree of difference even though some forms of very interesting Creativity go on in the Natural Sciences. The more you move away from Physics into the Life Sciences, the clearer that becomes.   
  Unknown: You made a point to me a little earlier about War. That you don’t think, or possibly it was Revolution, you don’t expect, you don’t look for, you don’t think it reasonable to imagine that there would be Laws of War or Laws of Revolution, which does have to do with Contingency.   
  Tilly: It certainly does.   
  Unknown: I wonder if you’d amplify on that a little bit.   
  Tilly: Well, there’s a negative version of it and a positive version. The negative version runs: A lot of People who have thought they have discovered the Law of {fill in the blank}. The blank is either a large Structure or a large Process. We now have a pretty long Experience of failure of that particular Construction. In that sense, I’m in sympathy with the sorts of People who look at rational Choice and they say, “Well, wait a minute, it’s a very interesting programme, but let’s look at the results. Let’s see actually what the empirical Accomplishments are.” The empirical Accomplishments of looking for Laws of large Processes and Structures, to my view, are close to nil. Okay, so that’s the negative case.   
  The positive case is that it’s implausible that the regularities operate at that level. Here I think you can cautiously draw on analogies with evolutionary change in the natural World and say, “Look, there are a few things we can say about diversity or about the complexity of Environments and so forth, but the truth is that if we want to understand evolutionary Processes, what we do is close in on how an Organism, or even a Gene, responds to its Environment. Then we compound from that Observation into how a Species evolves, and so forth.” There are lots of analogies and medical analysis which are quite similar to this, where if you try to work on theories of the humorous or something of this kind, as the ancients and not-so-ancients frequently did, where you have a Law of the Organism or something of the sort, you don’t get very far. But when you can specify the Mechanisms by which a Disease moves from one Organism to another or from one part of the Body to another, you actually begin to be able to build up a more coherent and complex Picture of what that Process is. I have a similar hope for social Processes. Not that I imagine that we have the kind of Knowledge that the molecular biologists have at this point, but that the analogy will hold to the extent that if we can get interpersonal Processes Right, we can compound them into something like the Pictures of Structures and Processes that People were trying to formulate Laws for.   
  Unknown: This is the concept that I was explaining to you earlier about methodological Localism, compounding up from the socially-situated Individual within the set of Institute-   
  Tilly: The difference between us on this issue is probably that I would begin with the Transaction. I think it’s almost an idle distinction when you look at it philosophically or even methodologically. To me, it’s important to recognise that the material of social Processes is not individual Cognitions. I think they are important. It’s not individual Cognitions.    
I don’t want to perpetuate the Idea that first I think something, and then you and I interact over that. I want to make the point that I think this Interview has established brilliantly, which is that we form each other in Transactions. Among other things, frequently we don’t know how the Transaction is going to end until we watch how the other responds. I actually, as a teaching, I want to begin with that Transaction and build out from that to the Individuals with the Idea that the Individual is an accumulation of the residence of numerous Transactions.   
  Unknown: Though, that is really the flip side. The limitation of the Transaction side is that it’s not directly implementing the Idea that your formative History and my formative History are substantially different. The Consequence is what you brought to the Transaction is different from what another distinguished social scientist might have brought.   
  Tilly: I absolutely agree with that, but I have a polemical Thought in the back of my Mind. And that is that the neuroscientists have done so well, I admire the Work that they’ve been doing on Memory, Cognition, Anxiety-related issues, and so forth, that for 10 years, they could put a significant part of Social Science out of Business in favour of a highly individualised account of social Processes. I’m sufficiently optimistic. I think in 5 or 10 years, we would discover that there were clever experimentalists who said, “Look, there’s a social influence over the Processes we’re looking at.” Memory is not strictly speaking - despite Eric Kandel - it’s not strictly speaking an individual Brain Process. It responds to cues that People get from other People and so forth. Given the present Theory and Technology, I have a fear that a lot of very promising but still immature Work on interpersonal Processes will lose some of its promise in favour of the casting of electronic Surveillance of Brains, and so forth, and produce a new individualisation of the Social Sciences in the near Future. I take as my partial example a field that I admire a lot, I mentioned earlier and that is speaking for Economics. I think some terrific Things are happening there and it’s opening up Economics in a way that it certainly was not opened up in the first 40 years of my Career, but what’s happening is that People like Colin Camerer are turning to brain-scans as they look at Decision-making Processes. Even more radically, individualising the analysis that they’re doing. I call this polemical because I think that’s an advance of Knowledge. On the other hand, it threatens an Enterprise in which I have a lot invested and which I think for the long run is extremely promising, and that is the analysis of Transactions as a center of central Processes.   
  Unknown: Chuck, I’d like to ask two pretty fundamental Questions. Maybe those will key off our conversation. First, I wonder if you could give me just a paragraph of Thought on how you would define the social, the social or possibly, the social World, by which I mean, the object of Study of the Social Sciences. That will be one Question. Then, the other Question is, how would you define, again, in a paragraph, the script for the Social Sciences generally, what is a Good body of Knowledge or a body of Representation about the social? Partly it’s Ontology, how do you think of the social World, and partly it’s Epistemology, how do you think about what Good Social Science Knowledge ought to look like?   
  Tilly: Well, I mean, the two are closely related. I’ve already given you partial Answers. I just want to crystallise those answers. The Social is People interacting and the Products of that Interaction. That’s pretty big, but the social is pretty big. If you’re going to do a Science of the Social, obviously, you have to be able to figure out what a Person is, that’s a problem and we’ve already talked about that a little bit. You also have to be able to figure out what an Interaction is. That has its own problems. Nevertheless, that for me defines at least the center of the realm. The boundary is uncertain. What about indirect Interaction? What about the diffusion of News, long, long, chains? Well, it all passes through Interaction one way or another. What about Interactions with the Environment? Well, okay.   
  Unknown: Well, what about large Entities, the sort that you’ve studied throughout a lot of your Career? Things like the State or the World Trading System or Protestant Religion? Those are big things. How do you relate that to the Transaction Picture?   
  Tilly: Well, they are compounds of Transactions. That is to say, they are recurrent patterns in the Transactions. To shift to your second Question, which is vitally linked to the first Question, you absolutely have to have a way of observing the Interaction, that is, you have to be able to specify the Persons you’re talking about. That’s not so easy. You mentioned earlier the Question of variable biographies, for example, and trajectories that lead to the Present moment. None of this is easy, but having specified a set of Persons, then you have to be able to observe the Interactions, Transactions is the Term I prefer, the Relations, that is the recurrent features of those Transactions, and start Working on the Mechanisms that occur within those Transactions.   
  Unknown: The State and Taxation, for example. The state has a policy in Paris, but the Peasant who is taxed in the countryside, his or her Behavior is influenced by State-policy. And You would amplify your story by saying, “Yes, and that’s through a series of hierarchical Transactions.”   
  Tilly: I have a book in press Right called Contentious Performances, which is the culmination, I hope, of all that Work we talked about earlier on Great Britain in the 18th and 19th Centuries. What I try to do there is to show that it’s possible to take the Interaction at a small scale, here is a weaver shouting at a master, to compound that particular Interaction, and others like it, into a description of what I call Performances. We don’t need to talk about the theatrical metaphor, although it’s important to this particular line of Work. But the Idea is, that there’s an occasion in which all the weavers come out, and they’re shouting at the masters. Some Interaction occurs. Well, we could stop there and tell the story of this particular Encounter between weavers and masters, or we can say, “You know, the next day, another Group of weavers from the same section of London showed up and did something like a repeat on the Performance.” Ah, we can now link these two Events with each other, and we can start compounding. What I try to do in the book, I think, more successfully than I’ve done before is to show that seamlessly, you can compound these to the Picture of the whole pattern of Interaction in Great Britain over a long Period of Time, a Transformation of contentious Interaction over the Period that I’m studying. Yes, there’s a technical problem of aggregation, but it’s perfectly possible to show, for example, what the most frequent Interactions of this kind are to abstract from these individual Events, those Relations which consist of a subordinate [disrespecting] a superordinate or something like that. And by analogy, it’s perfectly possible to take the King’s Finance Minister in Paris or Versailles and the Peasant whom a tax-farmer is belabouring in some Village in the Dordogne and find the link of Relations that connect them. It’s not easy. Empirically, it’s very demanding, but then in Principle-   
  Unknown: The Logic.   
  Tilly: Yeah, the Logic is fairly straightforward.   
  Unknown: That’s what defeats a kind of brainless Structuralism-   
  Tilly: Yes.   
  Unknown: - which says “The State decrees”, and the Tax system Works. What you’re adding is the connective social Mechanisms or the connective transactional Networks, I think, maybe.   
  Tilly: Yeah, when Doug McAdam, Syd Tarrow and I first tried to codify this line of Thought in Dynamics of Contention, we said, “We pretty well have to distinguish three kinds of Mechanisms,” this is crude, “but let’s distinguish between cognitive Mechanisms,” where we can imagine one Brain, one Consciousness at a Time operating, environmental Mechanisms, where the People are interacting with the resources around them in one way or another, and interactive Mechanisms, or interpersonal Mechanisms, and so forth. What we say in the book, but I don’t think establish with total conviction, is that the interactive Mechanisms are the ones that are crucial for the formation of social Processes. Part of the polemic that we carried on in Dynamics of Contention was precisely to say, “Sure, you’ve got to pay some attention to the environmental Mechanisms. Sure, you have to pay some attention to the cognitive Mechanisms. They’re all part of the same causal story, and we wouldn’t want to draw the boundaries too tightly, but the study of contentious Politics has suffered from too much attention to environmental and cognitive Mechanisms, and not enough attention to Transactions.”

  Unknown: Here’s my last Question for you, Chuck. Sociology, is, well, I guess I’ll ask you. Do you think Sociology is in a great condition today with boundless Opportunities for new discovery and new illumination, or are we in some trouble in Sociology?   
  Tilly: Oh, I think we’re in some trouble, but we’ve been in some trouble for 150 years. I think the trouble is a little worse right now, because we’re still recovering from the onslaught of Skepticism that arose with post-modern thinking, and various forms of cultural Reductionism during the 1980s and especially the 1990s. I love philosophical Discussions, that’s not what I’m about to say, but I think too much of the Debate in Sociology today is unselfconscious philosophical Disagreement. It’s disagreement about Epistemology and Ontology rather than about Explanation. I don’t think that’s such a great position to be in.