All Out For May Day!

by Scott McLemee on April 30, 2008

The first time I tried to celebrate May Day was by waving a black flag at Wills Point High School (about fifty miles east of Dallas, Texas) in 1981. None of the other students had any idea what that was about, and the teachers were probably just glad to know the Class of ’81 would be gone soon, and my wierdo ass with it.

And for the next quarter century, celebrating May Day in the United States remained a pretty good sign that you were on the political margins. That started to change two years ago. Turnout was lower in 2007. But it’s a good sign when the website of the AFL-CIO’s Washington, DC Metro Council runs an announcement for tomorrow’s protests.

Meanwhile, there are interesting developments elsewhere…

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Is there a general skill of “management”?

by Daniel on April 30, 2008

Synopsis: yes.

I promised this post in comments to Chris’s on Blackburn’s myths below, where I took my life in my hands and disagreed with John. I think that actually, there probably is “a general skill called management which works in any and all domains”, and, just to raise the tariff and secure gold medal position for myself in the Steven Landsburg Memorial Mindless Contrariolympiad, I’ll also defend the proposition that this skill is pretty closely related to what they teach on MBA courses. But first a couple of remarks on Blackburn’s own “Myth of Management“.

In his very definition, Blackburn pretty much gives it away; he says that “[the myth of management] claims that people can be managed like warehouses and airports”. What does this even mean? How do you manage a warehouse or an airport if it’s impossible to manage people? If he had said “like machines” or even “like factories”, then it might have been comprehensible, but a warehouse which doesn’t have any people working in it is just a shed full of stuff and doesn’t require any management because no deliveries or shipments are being made. And an airport without people is just a warehouse for planes. Warehousing and transport are two very labour-intensive industries.
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Charles Tilly

by Kieran Healy on April 30, 2008

Just ten days or so ago Henry wrote that Chuck Tilly had won the SSRC’s Hirschman Prize, and linked to a classic paper of his. Tilly died this morning. He had been battling cancer for several years.

Tilly was a comparative and historical sociologist, an analyst of social movements, a social theorist, a political sociologist, a methodological innovator — none of these labels quite capture the scope of his work. I think of him as someone who was interested in the general problem of understanding social change, and he attacked it with tremendous, unflagging energy. Here is one of his own self-descriptions:

Among Tilly’s negative distinctions he prizes 1) never having held office in a professional association, 2) never having chaired a university department or served as a dean, 3) never having been an associate professor, 4) rejection every single time he has been screened as a prospective juror. He had also hoped never to publish a book with a subtitle, but subtitles somehow slipped into two of his co-authored books.

I saw him speak on several occasions and met him a few times, too. I particularly remember him giving the Mel Tumin lecture at Princeton, and a great chat I had with him in his office at Columbia. He was a small, wiry man who always seemed to be smiling and, like a true Weberian charismatic figure, he seemed able to transmit some of his own brio to you as he talked.