Military sociology is a relatively new field of study within sociological research, emerging as a result of the World War II and Cold War era.¹ The relationship between military and society obviously pre-dates the post-war era but this is the first time dominant assumptions about the socio-institutional structure of the military was questioned on a societal level.
For many, the military is seen as a lifestyle in itself and many of those in the profession view it as unique. According to Sam C. Sarkesian and Robert E. Connor, there are six elements that shape the character of this lifestyle¹:
- The profession has a defined area of competence based on expert knowledge;
- There is a system of continuing education designed to maintain professional competence
- The profession has an obligation to society and must serve it without concern for remuneration;
- It has a system of values the perpetuate professional character and establish and maintain legitimate relationships with society;
- There is an institutional framework within which the profession function; and
- The profession has control over the system of rewards and punishments and is in a position to determine the quality of those entering the profession.
In many cases throughout world history, the status of a nation’s military has run parallel with it’s progression as a society.¹ There are distinct correlations between the structure and prevalence of military and the same society’s methods and styles of governance, politics and general social attitudes. For instance, most countries, including the United States measures their social, geographic and political histories on a war-by-war basis.
Within the field of military sociology, there are many key topics explored. These include political control of the institution, military’s use of research and industry, transition to and from civilian lifestyle and veteran affairs issues.² Subtopics within these include dominant assumptions held by those in the military, changes in ‘fighting’ philosophies, military unionization, problems of governance, foreign policy, ethnic/religious/territorial conflict, secession and irredentism, international migration and armed conflict.²
1. Sarkesian, Sam C. and Robert E. Connor, Jr. The US Military Profession into the 21st Century. Frank Cass Publishers; Portland, c.1999