In This Review

The Sources of Social Power. Vol. 4, Globalizations, 1945-2011
The Sources of Social Power. Vol. 4, Globalizations, 1945-2011
By Michael Mann
Cambridge University Press, 2012, 496 pp

With this volume, Mann, a renowned historical sociologist, completes his magisterial survey of power and society across human history, producing an almost breathtaking synthesis of modern history and social science that depicts the changing character of power and social relations in the post-1945 world system. In Mann’s view, that system is held up by three pillars: capitalism, the nation-state, and the United States, which Mann sees as the last remaining empire. Together, these three organizing forces drive forward globalization, the master process of the contemporary era. In this sense, globalization and the nation-state have been not rivals but companions, pushing and pulling the world into a single system. Mann argues that the United States is more willing to protect capitalism abroad than to safeguard democracy. But the book also shows a pragmatic American embrace of sovereignty and state capitalism among poorer nations, which allows for hegemonic, rather than imperial, U.S. domination. In the end, Mann thinks that a “multilateral order” will tackle global problems such as climate change better than a U.S.-centric one. This may be true, but after four seminal volumes about the role of power in world history, Mann’s post-American vision is strangely devoid of a serious discussion of the realities of power.