Credit and Blame

Charles Tilly, Author . Princeton Univ. $24.95 (183p) ISBN 978-0-691-13578-6

If you've ever observed how an actress accepting an award thanks everyone around her, whereas a little boy who has spilled milk on the floor tries to pin it specifically on his sister, you have already witnessed the fine processes of credit and blame in action. Drawing upon sources as disparate as Dostoyevski, Darwin, water-cooler conversations and truth commissions, Tilly (Why?) illustrates how assigning credit and blame stems from and redefines “relations between the creditor and the credited, the blamer and the blamed.” Society is saturated in credit/blame “social shows”—from high school honor societies to job promotions to the Nobel prizes—and in case studies of the Academy Awards and the 9/11 commission, Tilly astutely analyzes how people accept credit and society assesses blame, and the commonalities between the two (“blame is not simply credit upside down... blame resembles credit as an image in a funhouse mirror resembles the person standing before it”). With its most vivid examples drawn from the author's own life, this book is simultaneously highbrow and humble and a close analysis of social interaction. (June)

Reviewed on: 04/07/2008
Release date: 06/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
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