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AT FIRST glance the leading article in NLW for June, entitled ‘Reform again’, suggested a stirring of the loins of that dormant beast local government reorganisation and…
AT FIRST glance the leading article in NLW for June, entitled ‘Reform again’, suggested a stirring of the loins of that dormant beast local government reorganisation and not—as it turned out—the structure of the Library Association. Of the former some might exclaim, ‘Not that again!’ in the belief that the 1974 upheaval is too fresh and painful in the memory for objective consideration. But, for a number of reasons, a re‐appraisal of the situation is timely. First, although the polemics of victors may fashion a version of history for a few years, unsound principles do not remain dominant forever. Secondly, a number of district councils are renewing their efforts to reclaim some services, including libraries, lost to the English counties in 1974. And, even if they fail, it is probable that when there is a new government in a year or so (of whatever hue) the botched job emanating from the 1972 Local Government Act will be tidied up. Then, at the very least, the politicians will see to it that there is a major revision of boundaries, if only to recognise the existence of modern communications and living styles, both of which have a marked effect on that which politicians hold most dear— voting patterns. Therefore, in the profound hope that local government lunacy cannot continously triumph over commonsense, it can be assumed that at the next re‐organisation the nature of local government functions and their distribution will not be regarded as favours to be horse traded in the same way that some senior posts were allocated in 1974. (‘Our borough engineer for your librarian and public health inspector’…remember?)
Despite the theoretical shortcomings of recent historical work on social processes, the historical discipline has a role to play in the theorization of social dynamics. As…
Despite the theoretical shortcomings of recent historical work on social processes, the historical discipline has a role to play in the theorization of social dynamics. As the work of the late sociologist Charles Tilly (2008, p. 9) has emphasized, the larger-scale theoretical type of social-process analysis may benefit from a more small-scale historical awareness of “the influence of particular times and places.” In Tilly's view, the sociological accounts of social processes that lack the sense of temporal transitions which characterizes historical analysis will “rarely identify the component mechanisms, much less their combinations and sequences.” By contrast, a historical approach to the “big structures, large processes, huge comparisons” (see Tilly, 1984) of social processes may put forward an analytical program that “couples a search for mechanisms of very general scope with arguments that […] lend themselves to ‘local theory,’ in which the explanatory mechanisms and processes operate quite broadly but combine locally as a function of initial conditions and adjacent processes to produce distinctive trajectories and outcomes.” These local elements of history may aggregate together into a more general pattern of theory: “Mechanisms compound into processes: combinations and sequences of mechanisms that produce some specified outcome at a larger scale than any single mechanism.” The temporal dimension of a historical analysis has a capacity to theorize social processes by telling a story of beginnings that carry forward into points of culmination.