Category Archives: Charles Tilly

March 21, 2012, 3:13 pm

In Which Tenured Radical Ponders The Twists of Fate That Can Mean Everything To An Untogether Student

Photo Credit.

When I was an undergraduate at Oligarch University I, and I suspect many of my peers, had three desires that were utterly in conflict: to be invisible, to be free and to be special.

Against the advice of my mother, who wanted me to go to a liberal arts college where faculty would pay attention to me, I wanted to attend a school that was so big that no adult could exert any authority over me whatsoever.

I got my wish.

Soon I discovered that a major research university where undergraduates were expected to be autonomous had possibilities I had never imagined. Not go to class? Who knew if there were 500 people in the room? Sit in the back of a dark lecture hall as one Great Masterwork after another flashed up on the screen and take a little snooze?  Why the heck not?  Turn in all th…

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May 2, 2008, 11:33 am

Charles Tilly, May 20, 1929 – April 29, 2008


I just learned today that historian and sociologist Charles Tilly died on April 29, 2008, of lymphoma. He was 78 years old and will be greatly missed.

Chuck was one of the great intellects of our time: as importantly, he was endlessly excited about ideas, a scholar who was an indefatigable teacher, a man who not only taught you how to do history, but encouraged you to find your own new ways to do it. While I wouldn’t call him a radical (because it is too reductive — he was so much more than that), he was the exact opposite of a conservative, an interdisciplinary thinker who believed that knowledge production could evolve as fast as the human mind could accomodate new paradigms and new ideas. He encouraged his students to find new things to think about, but more importantly, to find new ways to think. As a teacher he was generous to a fault, and he had a quiet but firm disdain for…

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