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Credit and Blame Hardcover – May 11, 2008

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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)
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Review

"Throughout his 50-book career, Tilly liked to squint hard at social life and find simple patterns. [In Credit and Blame] his undogmatic schematizing could reshape our judgments about what might have been obvious to begin with."--Alexander Star, New York Times Book Review

"Drawing upon sources as disparate as Dostoyevski, Darwin, water-cooler conversations and truth commissions, Tilly illustrated how assigning credit and blame stems from and redefines 'relations between the creditor and the credited, the blamer, and the blamed.' Tilly astutely analyzes how people accept credit and society assesses blame, and the commonalities between the two. 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."--Publishers Weekly
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (May 11, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691135789
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691135786
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,662,469 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
This book is written by a very eminent sociologist from Princeton University. What Professor Tilly offers in this engrossing book is a primer in the social science of crediting and blaming. The key objective of this book is to explain "how" humans assign credit and blame to other people's actions as well as their own.

According to Professor Tilly, humans have to take full responsibility for their social actions and crediting and blaming are fundamentally social acts. The acts of crediting and blaming usually embrace standards of justice in which humans can relate awards and punishments to good and bad actions. In assigning credit or blame, humans are making judgments of outcome, agency, competence, and responsibility of an action. Chapter 2 of the book presents a justice detector to multiply scores for outcome, agency, competence, and responsibility so that credit or blame of an action can be computed. A person can get all the credit if his/her total score is +1 whereas he or she takes on huge blame if his/her total score is -1 (P.36). In Chapter 3 and Chapter 4, Professor Tilly illustrates the assignment of credit and blame to other people's actions and their own with abundant vivid stories and his trenchant observations. In giving credit, people have invented four different ways of fitting credit elements together including tournaments, honors, promotions, and networks (P.65). Besides the level of performance people who can get all the credit, Professor Tilly further maintains that different ways of assigning credits are predicated upon local rules, gossip, social pressure, and moral discussion so that the awarding of credit can be more contentious than the assignment of blame (P.58).
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Format: Hardcover
The book's title promises and interesting read: The question of how people work out and apportion credit and blame, externally (to their own minds) and internally is a most important question, morally and in practical matters.

Unfortunately, this book does not deliver on its promise. Perhaps if one spent more time working out what the author is saying it might yield a great profit to the reader. However, most of the book discusses the problems of how people use the ideas of justice, credit and blame, without saying anything new and without recommending any schema for improvement either in how as an individual one might understand these concepts nor how from the points of view of a society or organization the usage of these concepts might be improved in practice. For example, the first part of the book is a condensed version of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. I didn't pay good mony to get a highly condensed re-spray job of a great novel that everyone has already read, and it is poor analysis, even in sociology, to base theories of human behaviour on works of fiction, even if they are great literary work.

In the short time that this book was able to hold my attention, great though that attention was to begin with, I found only one potentially useful page in this book, which has a box describing "An all-purpose justice detector." Because of this one page, I give it an extra star.

Overall, this was a frustrating book. I sense that the author is highly capable and well versed in the subject advertised by the book's title, but I never felt that he really connected to his own subject and did himself justice. I would like to read something else by this author, but I will be hesitant to pay up front next time. Overall my buying advice is that unless you have a particular reason for buying this book, your money may be better spent elsewhere.
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