EMPIRES AT WAR
The near-simultaneous appearance of Volumes III and IV of Michael Mann’s The Sources of Social Power concludes a truly grand project of historical sociology. Along with the work of Anthony Giddens, W. G. Runciman, Ernest Gellner and Eric Hobsbawm, Mann’s project was one of the distinctive products of the intellectual conjuncture of 1970s Britain.  Michael Mann, The Sources of Social Power, Volume III: Global Empires and Revolution, 1890–1945, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 2012, £22.99, paperback 516 pp, 978 1 107 65547 8 A colleague of Gellner’s at the lse, Mann was, like Giddens and Runciman, in search of a constructive exit from the impasse of post-Marxian, post-Weberian sociology. But his original formation was that of a quintessential ‘history boy’—a product of the legendary Manchester Grammar School–Oxford pipeline. In the course of an itinerary that took him from social work to engaged labour research, the original idea for Sources of Social Power took shape in the mid-1970s. Conceived as a short book, it grew into a massive undertaking. The publication of Volume I in 1986 made Mann famous, and helped to revivify the field of historical sociology. Whilst contemporaries such as Giddens succumbed to the flesh pots of New Labour, Mann, ensconced in California, toiled on. The thousand-page Volume II, covering the period 1760–1914, appeared in 1993. Twenty years on, Mann presents us with a no less enormous, two-volume treatment of the twentieth century. It is a culmination that has been prepared by three other substantial books, on The Dark Side of Democracy, Fascism and Mann’s reckoning with the derailment of us policy after 9.11, Incoherent Empire.
Subscribe for just £40 and get free access to the archive
Please login on the left to read more or buy the article for £3
- Dylan Riley: Enigmas of Fascism Dylan Riley on Michael Mann, Fascists and Robert Paxton, Anatomy of Fascism. Alternative versions of the rise of a paramilitary Right in interwar Europe: were fascist movements ideologically coherent or inchoate, revolutionary or counter-revolutionary?
- Dylan Riley: Democracy’s Graveyards? Dylan Riley on Michael Mann, The Dark Side of Democracy. A bold theoretical construction of causal relations between democratization and genocide, tested through detailed historical studies.
- Perry Anderson: A Culture in Contraflow--I
- Perry Anderson: A Culture in Contraflow--II
- Anders Stephanson: Empire Edgemanship Anders Stephanson on Michael Mann, The Sources of Social Power, Volume IV: Globalizations, 1945–2011. Strengths and frailties of the climax to a unique macro-sociological enterprise, as it reaches the theoretical sands of the contemporary world.