Journal of Political and Military Sociology 1997, Vol. 25 (Winter): 305-332
This article analyzes the ways in which the state in Israel, through an array of material and symbolic practices, constitutes the subjectivity of its members and gears them to participate in the production and reproduction and reproduction of the state's power. By focusing on military service, and particularly on the reserves system, it is claimed that the sustained participation of Israeli-Jewish males in the military rests upon its construction in terms of a community. Belonging to this community of warriors is experienced in terms of embeddedness in society, as a criterion of normalcy and as an entitlement that legitimizes participation in the associations of civil society. The yearly participation in the reserves and its construction in terms of a community both generates and regenerates the subjectivity of Israeli-Jewish males. It is further claimed that conscription frameworks are an integral part of the totalizing and individuating technologies of the state in Israel. The article emphasizes two aspects of these technologies: how human beings are individuated through the signification of their value, and how this statement becomes a cornerstone for the formation of a community. It is concluded that the construction of military service and its perception in terms of a community has allowed the Israeli state to maintain a highly motivated reservoir of manpower, always ready to pursue the state's geo-political goals even under conditions of severe opposition.
The state in Israel has been characterized as strong (Kimmerling 1993b; Migdal 1989) in terms of its ability, through the infrastructure of its agencies, to shape the main contours of the society it claims to rule. In the main, this strength has been conceptualized either in terms of the state's capacity to shape collectivities or in terms of its capacity to extract resources from the population for the management of war and conflict. The former conceptualization refers,for instance,to the development of state-dependent classes (middle and working classes) resulting from differential distribution of resources (Carmi and Rosenfeld 1979), the formation of class structure along ethnic and national lines through the state welfare apparatus (Rosenhek 1995), and the constitution of the ethnic nation through war and military service (Ben-Eliezer 1995). The state's use of population resources to manage war and conflict centers on the successful mobilization of societal resources and of the citizenry to the war effort (Kimmerling 1979b; Kimmerling 1985) and the management and control of subject populations, that is, the Palestinian citizens of Israel and the Palestinian population in the occupied territories (Kimmerling 1993b; Lustick 1980).
The above conceptualizations limit the analysis of the Israeli state's infrastructural capacity to state-society relations, so that attention is diverted from the analysis of relations between the state and its individual members (but see: (Helman 1994; 1996; Peled 1993). In other words, relatively little is known about the ways in which the state in Israel, through an array of material and symbolic practices, constitutes the subjectivity of its members and gears them to participate in the production and reproduction of the state's power.
The purpose of this article is to consider this issue by focusing on one of the organizations that make up the Israeli state: the military. The main question I raise is why individuals are willing to temporarily forego their control over personal resources, such as their time, careers and family life, to engage in activities that do not immediately or directly reward them and that bear a considerable element of risk. What are the social and symbolic mechanisms that have accounted (at least until the beginnings of the nineties) for the yearly participation of Israeli-Jewish males in the military reserves system? …