Review: Charles Tilly (2006). Why? What Happens When People Give Reasons … And Why

Jörg Potthast


While it is clear that we are constantly giving as well as receiving justifications, it is less clear how justification works. New York sociologist Charles TILLY (1929-2008) claims that both social scientists and historians have failed to properly address this question and to develop on its methodological implications. Therefore, he has written a book on "why?". Is there an imperative to justify? If there is, how is it activated? How do justifications emerge? How do situations which have justification come to an end? TILLY argues that operations of justification take a variety of forms and he distinguishes four different formats justification can take: Justifications are given in terms of conventions (pp.32-60), stories (pp.61-95), codes (pp.96-125), and technical accounts (pp.126-156). While TILLY has chosen to highlight these different forms throughout the main chapters of his book, he maintains that all types of justifications have something in common. Whatever form justifications may take, they always relate to "practices" and "social relations." This implies that neither practices nor relations determine justifications (and vice versa).
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0901135


justification; attribution; causation; reasoning; conventions; 9/11; sociology of scientific knowledge

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Copyright (c) 2008 Jörg Potthast

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