Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 April 2016
This volume brings together critical assessments of Michael Mann's sociology. It focuses on Volumes 3 and 4 of his major work, The Sources of Social Power, which cover the late nineteenth century to the present day. It is a follow-up to an earlier volume, An Anatomy of Power: The Social Theory of Michael Mann (co-edited by John A. Hall; 2006), which was put together before Mann's Volumes 3 and 4 had been published. The earlier volume was therefore in a sense premature. In this one, it has become possible to take stock of Mann's ‘Sources’, though he is now working on a fifth volume where he will reflect on his project. But apart from these further reflections, we can now examine his project as a whole and his analysis of our present condition in particular.
Mann's work does not need much by way of introduction. There are already several overviews of his work. Smith's essay (Chapter 3) puts Mann's ‘Sources’ into the context of similar macro-historical projects, and I have also provided an introduction to his sociology (Schroeder 2007). Further, there are essays on Mann's background (Hall 2006) and interviews with Mann which add some of the biographical and academic contexts to his work (Mann 2011; and the video and text of an interview with Alan McFarlane at www.alanmacfarlane.com/ancestors/mann.htm; last accessed 20 October 2014). Mann (2013) has himself described how ‘Sources’ developed over the course of time. Chapter 2, by Heiskala, also gives an excellent account of how Mann's project has progressed from the first volume to the fourth. Here, it can be added that Mann reflects on the fact that, unlike in Volume 2, where he pulled together much data, especially about changes in state expenditure, this is not needed for his two volumes about the twentieth century: there is such an abundance of data as we get closer to the present that the main task is rather to make sense of these data.
Various themes and criticisms emerged in the ‘Anatomy’ volume that are worth briefly recapitulating here by way of setting the scene for this volume. One is the relative neglect of ideological power.
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