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Michael Mann is our Max Weber. For one thing, he equals the great German sociologist in range and in command of the historical record. For another, he argues—indeed demonstrates—that social life can only be understood once attention is paid to the interaction of different types of social power. Furthermore, he extends Weber: He adds military power to the political, economic, and ideological types distinguished by his predecessor and goes beyond him in a series of middle range theoretical contributions all his own. Finally, he replaces the rather decisionistic, implicitly authoritarian politics of Weber with modern social democratic principles—in part taken as sociology, in part as prescriptions that he has sought to justify.

Mann was born in 1942 to a lower middle-class family. He attended Manchester Grammar ...

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