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June 11, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright June 11, 2008 Daniel Little. Used by permission.


Editor’s note: This post inaugurates an occasional China Beat feature in which we will look back at the lives and careers of writers whose work has had an impact on Chinese studies. Usually, these figures will be China specialists, but in this case, the influential figure in question, Charles Tilly (pictured below), worked primarily on another part of the world. There is no question, though, that via his activities as a teacher and author he had a profound influence within Chinese studies, as becomes clear from the following comments by Daniel Little, author ofUnderstanding Peasant China: Case Studies in the Philosophy of Social Scienceand Chancellor of University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Charles Tilly (“Chuck” to his friends and colleagues) was one of the world’s most influential social scientists, and his impact on Chinese studies will be long-lasting. His death on April 29, 2008, was a sad loss for many scholarly communities as well as for his friends and family. (See the SSRC memorial page, which includes a series of remembrances about Tilly. Chuck talks in fascinating detail about the evolution of his thinking in a video interview I conducted with him in December 2007.) Tilly was a comparative historical sociologist with a primary interest in French contentious politics, and his writings have had deep impact on several generations of scholars. He helped to define much of the theoretical vocabulary that scholars use to frame their theories and hypotheses about social change, contentious politics, and state formation. The central focus of his empirical and historical research was on France, with important and illuminating treatments of revolution, counter-revolution, popular politics, and mobilization from the Revolution to the Paris uprising of 1968.

(Ed Note: If you would like to see more video like that above, there are seven additional parts to this interview, which you can view at YouTube by following this link.)