American Sociological Association

Featured Essay: The Contributions of Charles Tilly to the Social Sciences

Evaluating Charles Tilly’s contributions to the social sciences is not an easy task: “Chuck Tilly was a master of sociological thinking and methodology,” wrote two of his former students when he passed away ten years ago; “But he was sufficiently concerned about getting to the heart and dynamics of questions and topics that he never permitted the blinkers of disciplinary orthodoxy to stand in his way” (Michelson and Wellman 2008). This breadth helps to explain Tilly’s greatness as a social scientist, although it makes synthesizing his contributions in his home discipline of sociology somewhat challenging—especially for a political scientist whose home discipline thinks of him more as student of war and state-building than as a general social theorist. But on the tenth anniversary of his death, it seems like a good time to try.

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