The Soldier and Liberal SocietySocietal-Military Relations in Germany and the United Kingdom

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Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Original languageEnglish
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Award date02 Jun 2014
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It is a generally accepted view in the literature on civil-military relations and military sociology that the military is a ‘Janus-faced’ organisation. One of its faces has to watch the strategic requirements and the other face looks at its parent society. The Janus-face analogy indicates that the strategic and societal views are intrinsically antithetical. The notion of the antithetical relationship between liberal ideology and military security was established as early as the 1950s in Samuel Huntington’s seminal book The Soldier and the State. This thesis is conceived as a critical debate with Huntington, challenging, in particular, the notion that societal and functional imperatives are inevitably distinct and antithetical.
The aim of this thesis is to analyse in what ways liberalism – as a meta-ideology or a guiding ethos – determines the military capacities of West European societies. The empirical analysis has been carried out on the cases of the German Bundeswehr (from the 1950s onwards) and the British armed forces (from the beginning of the 20th Century onwards). Despite the enormous divergence these two cases represent, a similar pattern of behaviour is recognisable in them. This examination reveals that specific policies, institutions and practices are preferred because of their relation to liberal principles. Sometimes liberal norms are used merely to advocate an otherwise necessary policy, such as universal conscription at the time of emergency. Regarding other issues, such as the right to conscientious objection, liberal principles are the most relevant causal factor. Among the issues affected by liberal ideology are also the varieties of military mission, military ethics and professional identity of soldiers.
The case studies examined in this thesis demonstrate that a meaningful adaptation of the military to the principles possessed by its parent society can be, more often than not, desirable also from the perspective of security strategy.