Michael Mann

Michael Mann is a professor of sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles and an honorary professor and director of research at the University of Cambridge. In Cambridge, where he taught final-year undergraduate and graduate students and conducted research, he served as the Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions from 2004 to 2005. He was given an honorary professorship at Cambridge in 2009 and continues to teach and conduct research there. The Sources of Social Power is one of his numerous historical and comparative sociology works.

So what is the life of a professor like? What outstanding achievements does he have for humanity? Learn more about Michael Mann's life through this article. 

I. Introduction about Michael Mann biography 

Professor Michael Mann is one of the most deservedly renowned sociologists (of an ‘unconventional’ kind, as he frequently states, a truly classical sociologist), interested in Comparative and Historical Sociology, Political Sociology, and Social Theory. Professor Mann's career spans more than four decades and has included forays into state theory, historical state-building, nationalism, empire, war, militarism, geopolitics, fascism, ethnic cleansing, and globalization, or more precisely, polymorphous globalizations. 

Who is Professor Michael Mann?

1. Who is Professor Michael Mann?

Michael Mann (1942) is one of the most influential sociologists of recent decades. His contributions have significantly influenced the fields of sociology, history, political science, international relations, and other social sciences. Two of the three volumes of his main work, The Sources of Social Power, which covers the history of power from the earliest stratified societies to the present, are complete. He recently released The Dark Side of Democracy and Fascists, two important books. However, unlike other modern social theorists, Mann's work has not yet undergone a thorough and critical evaluation.

There are many reasons why Michael Mann is a unique sociologist, but two stand out above all. First of all, Mann's work, which spans four decades, has its roots in the classical sociological tradition, which emphasizes the value of conducting comparative, historical, and empirical research into the macro-processes that shape global development. This method is very out of date, especially in the United States, where Michael Mann is primarily based and sociology has become entangled between the cultural turn and the deductive quantification of universal abstractions. As a result, Mann frequently gets run over by vehicles traveling on both sides of the methodological freeway. 

However, Michael Mann can approach big issues—the history of power in international affairs, ethnic cleansing, empire, state formation, and the like—with a balance between theory and practice and a cross-disciplinary appeal that few contemporary sociologists can match by following in the footsteps of both Weber and Marx, Tocqueville, C. Wright-Mills, Raymond Aron, and others. Second, Mann has consistently demonstrated an interest in international relations, contrary to many of his peers (IR). This interest is more driven by IR's empirical strengths than by any theoretical insights it may have, as the interview printed below demonstrates. In fact, Michael Mann is rather critical of those in IR's apparent endless capacity to reinvent the Methodenstreit, which is only to be expected. In spite of this, Mann has a rare affection for international relations among sociologists, indicating a potential fruitful alliance between two fields that have not yet worked well together.

2. The Young Michael Mann

Michael Mann was born into a lower-middle class family not far from Manchester. He attended grammar school before moving on to Oxford to pursue his interest in history. As he explains in the interview, Mann's first love was history, and throughout his academic career, he gradually diversified from the study of specifics and empirical facts. 

As a result of his participation in a project funded by his department that examined the effects of moving a factory from a city to a rural area on employees and their families, Michael Mann almost by accident received his PhD. Then Mann started working on historical sociology and world history projects while working in sociology departments at Essex and the London School of Economics  in the UK. He then moved to UCLA in 1987, where he has worked ever since.

3. Michael Mann on Sociology 

The Sources of Social Power, written by Professor Michael Mann, is considered one of the greatest works ever written. It covers the development of social power in human societies from prehistory to the present and is rich in both historical detail and empirical analysis. A History of Power from the Beginning to 1760 A.D., Volume I, was released in 1986. The Rise of Classes and Nation-States, volume two, was released in 1993. His eagerly awaited third and fourth volumes, titled Global Empires and Revolution, 1890-1945 and Globalizations, 1945-2011, were most recently released. One of the most significant and influential contributions to the human and social sciences in recent years is represented by these four volumes.

It is important to highlight at least two aspects of Mann's early career: first, the method of working from history rather than imposing theory on it; and second, the consistency with which he has integrated normative concerns—equality, gender, social justice, and, more recently, empire—into his academic work, a claim Fred Halliday contested and to which Michael Mann responds in his article. Due to both of these persistent themes in Mann's writing, he is vulnerable to criticism that he is not sufficiently theoretical or value-free. Michael Mann responds to these criticisms with a statement that he is a "methodological philistine" and that "operational purposes should always be subordinate to substantive ones." But because economics has replaced sociology as the "queen of the social sciences," some academics, many of them in IR, have been unable to recognize Mann's work's potential for the field and for academia as a whole, usually on the most flimsy of methodological grounds.

Michael Mann on Sociology

Professor Michael Mann develops comparative analytical frameworks in each of these areas, "looting and pillaging" the intellectual heritage of the human and social sciences. This encourages interdisciplinary dialogues that defy simple disciplinary demarcations and illustrates the intellectual costs associated with them. He firmly embraces the "patterned mess" of history while also explicitly mistrusting ultimate analytical primacies in favor of the principles of multi-causality and multi-spatiality. As a result, he offers an alternative to those who disagree with the orthodox realist and formalist conceptions of politics and geopolitics, which are the driving forces behind the dominant paradigms in the fields of political science and international relations.

II. Michael Mann on Social Theory

According to Mann, states' responses to ever-increasing industrialization gave rise to the nation. As a result, the state is regarded as crucial to the formation of the nation in Mann's work. Mann reviews five theories of the modern state in chapter 3 of The Sources of Social Power Volume II. Michael Mann modifies and deconstructs the three widely accepted theories of the state into five categories: class, pluralist, true elitism, institutional statism, and cock-up/foul-up theory.

1. Michael Mann Class Theory

Michael Mann claims that because states are frequently reduced to having only economic power, the majority of class theories have been Marxist in origin. According to this theory, the feudal/capitalist bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisie and the proletariat were the two phases of the class struggle that shaped modern states. States are said to be functional for modes of economic production and classes. 

Class theory acknowledges that states support capital accumulation and class regulation, which are two aspects of capitalism. Michael Mann points out that contemporary government employees either serve as a direct tool of the capitalist class or structurally replicate capitalist modes of production. Fundamentally, the state is a place where classes and class fractions organize and is not an actor.

2. Michael Mann Pluralist Theory

Michael Mann draws attention to the claim made by pluralist theory that it can only explain how modern states came to be. The pluralist theory focuses on how contestation between parties and pressure groups that represent the interests of different social groups, along with the increasing level of public participation in this contestation, produces true democracy. 

For pluralists, the defining crystallization of contemporary Western states is an expanding party democracy. States ultimately serve to represent the interests of individual citizens through party democracy. According to pluralist theory, the state is a "factor of cohesion" in society.

3. Michael Mann True Elitism theory

The distributive power of state elites over society is emphasized by true elitists. States are therefore viewed as rational actors from which distributive power emanates. True elitists are willing to discuss international affairs and acknowledge that states participate in a global system of states and engage in geopolitical behavior. States make foreign policy by "realistically" pursuing their own geopolitical interests while balancing them against those of other states because they are unitary power actors with sovereignty over their respective territories. 

This theory might be applicable to authoritarian or autocratic nations. True Elitism theory emphasizes a cohesive, systemic state, much like Pluralist theory and Class theory do.

Michael Mann on Social Theory

4. Michael Mann Institutional Statism theory 

According to Michael Mann, this theory postulates that the state is composed of intricate organizational networks, and that collective power should be prioritized over distributive power. By arguing that all actors are constrained by current political institutions rather than the notion that state elites control civil society, Michael Mann claims that this theory differs from True Elitism theory.  According to institutionalism theory, states are essentially mechanisms for the authoritative institutionalization of dynamic social relations. States institutionalize current social conflicts, which causes them to transition from being passive to the state being almost an actor , and then to active.

5. Cock-up/Foul-up theory

According to Michael Mann, this theory contends that the state is not a conspiracy but rather a "cock-up" or a "foul-up," meaning it is not working as intended. This theory contradicts the notion that social life is patterned or organized held by the majority of sociologists in that it contends that states are in fact chaotic, sprawling, and irrational, with numerous departmental autonomies, far from the cohesion suggested by the previous four theories. 

States are plagued by numerous conflicts, some of which are geopolitical and others which are domestic and entwine in unexpected ways. According to this theory, a lot of the things that occur when decisions are being made are actually mistakes rather than the result of anyone's good intentions.

III. Michael Mann on Nation & Ethnicity

1. Nation 

Michael Mann writes in his book "The Sources of Social Power" that the nation-state has evolved by bolstering its infrastructure, mobilization capabilities, and sovereignty. He outlines a four-phase theory of the nation, with the first phase being religious, the second being capitalist-statist, the third being militarist, and the fourth being industrial capitalist. While the military and industrial capitalist phases allowed for three distinct types of nations to develop—state reinforcing, state creating, and state subverting —the religious and capitalist-statist phases contributed to the creation of "protonations" . 

All three of these types of nations were fueled by the class conflicts that capitalism produced in relation to regional conditions. In addition to demanding more political representation, the middle class, peasants, and workers became literate in local vernaculars, naturalized the existing state or divided it into nations. Who should be full citizens and the "national" issue were the two most important political issues in the 19th century. Both problems became more pressing during the state's military and later industrial capital phases of expansion. State-subverting nationalism in particular grew more violent, especially when reinforced by religion, whereas state-reinforcing nationalism focused on intrastate conflicts. Michael Michael Mann contends that while aggressive nationalism did not become widely accepted among the majority of the middle class, it did include a sizable military establishment made up of young men who had been trained as modern soldiers. They made up the core of the population who were devoted to the ideals of their state, along with the substantial civilian administration who were also financially dependent on the state. 

Increased pressure to establish a more representative and national state was also seen during the fourth phase of the theory of the nation, industrial capitalism. States started to take on important civil functions during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, such as communication networks , and educational institutions. States responded to the demands of capitalism expressed by business people, elites, and militaries who all valued better social cohesion. These government initiatives strengthened the connection between the emotional and intense organization of the family and neighborhood and the organizational power of the state. The state's population had naturalized during this fourth phase, creating a large-scale social network with strong emotional ties. Nationalist organizations attracted people from the upper and middle classes, disproportionately from a core group of civilian and military employees. 

2. Ethnicity

Michael Mann makes an effort to explain why widespread ethnic violence occurred during the 20th century in The Dark Side of Democracy. "Murderous cleansing is modern because it is the dark side of democracy," continues Mann . Michael Mann claims that the issue is that the spread of democratic aspirations within nation states has politicized nationalism. The "demos" and the "ethnos" have merged together, which is what has led to this. Therefore, a dominant ethnic group is meant when "rule by the people" is mentioned rather than a diverse group of citizens. This indicates that democracy is governed by the rule of the majority, where ethnic harmony is a key element. Therefore, democracy is based on ethnic and nationalist values. 

Michael Mann on Nation & Ethnicity

Michael Mann disagrees with biological definitions of the term when it comes to ethnicity. He cites Scots, Germans, and Serbs as examples of ethnic groups that have interbred with other ethnic groups to demonstrate the shortcomings of trying to define ethnicity biologically. Michael Mann asserts that social relations, which can take many different forms, are what shape ethnicity. He concludes by defining "ethnicity" as a group of people who have a shared ancestry or culture . According to Michael Mann , "ethnic cleansing" refers to the "removal by members of one such group of another such group from a locality they define as their own." A nation-state is when an ethnic group achieves political sovereignty, according to Mann, and a nation is an ethnic group that claims political rights within a particular territory . Through the interaction of various power networks that exist within a nation-state, Michael Mann approaches ethnic cleansing. 

Ideological power, economic power, military power, and political power are the four power networks that have been identified as essential to achieving ethnic cleansing . A set of values, customs, and rituals known as ideology is propagated within the state by a number of communication networks. They would organize large marches and rallies and spread awareness of important issues. People typically choose the ones that make the most sense in their particular set of circumstances as they compete with other opposing ideologies. 

Because cleanings involve some sort of material interest, economic power is crucial. Class concepts are frequently incorporated into ethnic identities. While the oppressor sees itself as defending civilization, one ethnic group may perceive itself as being exploited and oppressed. This has an impact on economically marginalized groups as well because they frequently experience prejudice from the dominant ethnic group. The best example of this is European Jews, who faced prejudice frequently but held important positions in the economy. As the perpetrators will take valuables from their victims during cleansing campaigns, economic power also shows up as looting. 

Military power is a term for concentrated, deadly, organized violence. Because cleansings require little in the way of labor and resources, they become a desirable option. They work well in long-lasting sieges as well as against mobile foes who favor guerilla warfare. Political power alludes to a centralized and localized control over life. Michael Mann postulates that this is where the majority of cleanings originate. Most civil wars start with rival groups vying for control of the state, and these wars can easily veer into the territory of ethnic cleansing.

IV. Michael Mann Method

The goal of Mann's strategy is to strike a balance between theory and history. According to him, paying too much attention to the facts will make you blind and paying too much attention to the rhythms of world history will make you deaf. As a result, there is a zigzagging process in which theoretical hypothesis and empirical research function as two sides of an ongoing conversation, improving one another at every step. This method enables Michael Mann to distinguish between various social facts as they emerge and change over time and space. Although, as Mann is keen to point out in both the interview and his response piece, there are some regularities to both domestic and global processes, empires, states, ideological movements, and the like change in form rather than maintain an eternal logic. Michael Mann is aware that his work is based on a "as if '' positivism, which acknowledges the epistemological limitations of positivism while maintaining a pragmatic basis in the need for empirical testing of hypotheses. He fully understands the trap of viewing social facts as objective "things," and that doing so entails accepting, reflecting, and replicating the dominant socialization of the day. Despite this, he remains committed to carrying out meaningful social science that is both empirically based and ethically conscientious.

The IEMP model, so named for its four main dimensions of ideological, economic, military, and political power relations, is Mann's special method of sorting through what he calls "the mess of history." These four fundamental sources of social power—ideal types with roots in the Weberian triad of class, status, and party—are how Michael  Mann attempts to provide a pattern for the course of world history using his "proximate method." The domestic and international 4 realms, according to Michael Mann, are not fundamentally distinct from one another; in fact, if given the chance, "I would do away with the concept of society altogether." Instead, Michael Mann focuses on the gaps in space where needs and networks emerge and become institutionalized. The ensuing crystallizations are divided into four main groups, which Michael Mann describes as occurring in 'neo-episodic spurts. At these turning points in world history, the dominant form of power typically creates a specific type of social organization in conjunction with one or more of the others. As a result, different eras of world history have distinct constellations of power that can be identified thanks to their unique organizational structures.

The IEMP model has two features that invite debate. The first is the division of political and military power, a topic that is covered in some detail elsewhere but is not addressed by contributors here.  A second problem with the IEMP model, however, has more immediate repercussions for IR and the study of historical sociology in IR. What Dennis Smith called a "second wave" of historical sociologists added an exogenous perspective to what had previously been primarily endogenous narratives of the rise of capitalism, the advent of modernity, and the creation of the industrial, bureaucratic, rational state during the 1970s and 1980s. Geopolitical conflict, and particularly war, came to be seen by Tilly, Skocpol, Giddens, Hall, Michael Mann, and others as essential to the processes of state formation. As a result, many of them adopted a rather limited understanding of IR, which they defined as the study of war and peace in which states were the main actors in global politics and, in some instances, the final arbiters of international authority. Much of Mann's work in the first volume of Sources and his collection of essays, States, War and Capitalism, first published in 1988, was influenced by this period, in which many historical sociologists accepted a sort of à la carte realism. And both Fred Halliday and John Hobson assert that Mann's general account of world-historical development is undermined by this "off-the-shelf" IR realism.

Michael Mann disputes these claims forcefully, especially in his response essay. The first thing Mann emphasizes is that every source of social power functions according to its own social and organizational logic. There can be no doubt about ultimate primacy as a result. Instead, each source of social power has its own time in the spotlight, usually alongside one or more of the others. With such a perspective on the various paths that world history has taken, Mann is vulnerable to the criticism that he has not offered a clear-cut theory of social change. Mann has little experience with this problem, though. After all, his work, which is perhaps best viewed as a type of analytic history, is more concerned with making sense of the complicated meanders of world history than it is with theoretical elegance. Mann seeks the truth, to put it bluntly in the words of John Hall.  Michael Mann has the freedom to make interventions in a variety of issues beyond those constrained by a parsimonious, and frequently banal, conjecture because he bases his work on empirical events, facts, and processes rather than within the bounds of a necessarily limiting general abstraction. Mann makes it clear in the interview that he is not interested in the theoretical constraints that different disciplines operate under—reading Mann's is steadfastly instrumental. Mann's guide through history is the IEMP, which enables him to avoid ideological squabbles and other people's preconceptions. This is both the result of Mann's "fastidious empiricism," as described by Hall, and its promise.

Disagreements are even more pronounced when it comes to the second accusation, which asks whether Mann's understanding of the international community weakens his overall analysis of the course of world history. It is argued that Mann's interpretation of the international system, which sees it as primarily organized as either empires of dominance or as a multi-actor power civilisation , can reproduce a continuist mystique in which the main players, dramas, and processes of global politics are replicated within a timeless systemic logic. Particularly Fred Halliday worries that Mann has been swayed by the realist emphasis on the timeless characteristics of the global landscape because Mann's account of the global realm, in Halliday's opinion, falls short of the depth of his understanding of the domestic causes of social change. Naturally, Michael Mann denies these accusations, claiming that they are unjustified and based on an outdated and inaccurate understanding of his work that does not do justice to the rigor and depth of his analysis. Michael Mann challenges Halliday and Hobson—who also raises concerns about Mann's attachment to a realist view of the international system—to find any evidence in his work, at least over the last ten years, of a pronounced engagement with realism or neorealism, beyond a few obvious facile remarks about the importance of states and geopolitics.

Both sides of this debate can be understood, it seems. There is no doubt that Mann's work exhibits a reductionist ontology of the international realm, and in his response piece, Mann admits that he has, up to this point, under-theorized the international realm. However, Michael Mann is careful to point out that some of this argument can turn into name-calling or even "paradigm wars gone mad." Michael Mann undoubtedly has a point here. IR seems to take great pleasure in the academic labeling games' mudslinging. Many of these concepts are extremely simplistic. For example, being interested in meaning, perception, and ideology indicates one is a constructivist, as does noting the importance of states and statesmen. This is a terrible situation, and Michael Mann is correct to reprimand IR's navel-gazers. The more important question is whether Michael Mann is blinded by the various ways that international processes affect world-historical development because of his narrow understanding of what IR is and should be about. It's possible that Mann's necessary ruthless interdisciplinarity—a type of intellectual asset stripping in which Michael Mann conducts what he calls "looting and pillaging raids'' on other disciplines—is the root of this lack of focus on a broader understanding of international relations, both as a subject and as a discipline. Maybe these raids focus too much on the details and not enough on the discussion that surrounds them. In either case, there is no doubt that this is a problem that, like a good play, will continue to exist. 

V. Michael Mann on Empire, Democracy and Globalization

1. Empire & Democracy

John Hobson also accuses Mann of accepting a primarily Weberian, Eurocentric narrative of the miraculous rise of the west. Michael Mann responds to Hobson by pointing out that one need not necessarily have the same ethical standards to understand the "superiority" of contemporary western forms of technological advancement, modes of production, institutional structures, and forms of governance. In addition, Mann's opinions on the "dark side" of western "civilization" seem to support his belief that the west is exceptionally bad rather than that it is exceptional! Therefore, according to Michael Mann, militarism, imperial atrocities, and ethnic cleansing have their origins and apex in the west. Additionally, Michael Mann seems to have been so incensed by the sorry state of current international affairs that he has turned back to the more overtly normative concerns of his early sociology, particularly in his most recent book on the stillborn US empire. The book Incoherent Empire is a potent polemic against the justifications and moral justifications that support efforts to establish an American imperium.

Michael Mann has occasionally linked his research to a democratic-socialist agenda, or perhaps more recently, a social-democratic agenda, but when it comes to formal politics, he is more concerned about the blending of politics and ethics. In fact, a significant portion of Mann's writing on fascism, ethnic cleansing, and empire has focused on criticizing the blending of ethics and political authority. Therefore, Michael Mann views fascism as a movement that offered a reasoned response to a systemic crisis within western liberal civilisation itself rather than as an extreme deviation from normalcy. For Michael Mann, the notions of organic nationalism, the radical state, and the concept of virtue all became allies with paramilitarism and a movement that united a coalition of disaffected groups. A fearsomely potent concoction was the end result. Michael Mann contends that fascism has a close family resemblance to both imperialism and ethnic cleansing in this union of political and normative force. The idea that these movements are in any way an afterthought to modernity, democracy, and liberalism is rejected by Michael Mann. Instead, the unique ferocity of contemporary forms of ethnic cleansing and the sense of purpose that motivates America's neoconservatives are the result of confusion between the concepts of demos and ethnos in modern western societies.

Mann's primary concern in his examination of social power, empire, and democracy's "dark side" is instability—the emergence of a systemic or organic crisis and the opening that this presents for extremist movements capable of mobilizing support for radical agendas. In this regard, some democracies—especially those that are still forming—present a greater potential for extreme violence than stable governments, whether democratic or authoritarian. According to Michael Mann, every macro-context has a dark side, and every social order has the seeds for its own "solutions" to unstable times. This mix of idealism and realism produces both liberal democracy and fascism, as well as imperialism and ethnic cleansing. Progress is, in Mann's opinion, at best a relativist process, as he makes clear in the interview. 

2. Globalization

As he prepares for the next phase of the Sources project, Mann's current work is structured around the idea of globalization(s), which he sees as the macro-context of the modern world. While globalization undoubtedly has a constraining effect on state capacities, according to Mann's previously published work on the topic, this process is far from being one-sided. Therefore, globalization also includes international, transnational, regional, and local processes—pluralities that have an impact on state capacities, though they do not always erode them. Linda Weiss expands on this idea in her forum post, contending that Mann's work on globalization can be used to understand globalization as both state-enabling and state-restraining. Weiss argues that globalization is a process that intertwines national and international power networks by using case studies of the European Union (EU) and the World Trade Organization to support her claim (WTO).

VI. Michael Mann books

Global Empires and Revolution 1890-1945 and Globalizations 1945-2011, the final two volumes of The Sources of Social Power, were released by CUP in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Several books have been written about Mann's work, including those by J.A. Hall and R. Schroder. Global Powers: Michael Mann's Anatomy of the 20th Century and Beyond, edited by R. Schroder, and The Anatomy of Power: Social Theory of Michael Mann, published by Cambridge University Press in 2006 .

“ The Sources of Social Power “ , “ An Anatomy of Power “  are some of his most famous books.

Michael Mann books

1. The Sources of Social Power - Michael Mann

The Sources of Social Power examines the interrelationships between the four distinct sources of power in human societies—ideological, economic, military, and political—throughout human history. Michael Mann explores the connections between these elements in this first volume, starting with the neolithic era and continuing through ancient Near Eastern civilizations, the classical Mediterranean era, medieval Europe, and ending in England just before the Industrial Revolution. It provides explanations for the development of the state and social stratification, city-states and militaristic empires, as well as the ongoing interactions between them, as well as the world salvation religions and the unique vibrancy of medieval and early modern Europe. It concludes by making generalizations about the character of social development as a whole, the various manifestations of social cohesion, and the historical significance of classes and class conflict.

2. An Anatomy of Power - Michael Mann

One of the most important sociologists in recent years is Michael Mann. His contributions have significantly influenced the fields of sociology, history, political science, international relations, and other social sciences. This volume contains a systematic and critical evaluation of Mann's work by eminent academics who evaluate both Mann's overall methodology and his accounts of various historical eras and cases. In this timely volume, Mann also responds to his critics and vehemently restates his position. It will be appealing to academics in all fields of social sciences.

VII. Michael Mann Quote

“You stay alive, no matter what occurs! I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you.” 

― Michael Mann


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