The Postmodern Military: Armed Forces after the Cold War

The Postmodern Military: Armed Forces after the Cold War

The Postmodern Military: Armed Forces after the Cold War

The Postmodern Military: Armed Forces after the Cold War


The end of the Cold War has brought about momentous changes within the armed forces in Western societies. The Postmodern Military examines these changes by presenting a general theoretical model of national military transformation--what the editors define as the "postmodern" military. This book examines contemporary civil-military trends by looking at the militaries of the United States and twelve other Western democracies. An international team of leading military sociologists assesses the postmodern thesis in Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The Postmodern Military gives the general reader an opportunity to learn what life is really like in today's military and how it is both the same and different around the world.


The armed forces of the United States and those of other Western developed democracies are moving from what can be termed Modern to Postmodern forms of military organization. This is the core argument of this volume. The Modern military that fully emerged in the nineteenth century was inextricably associated with the rise of the nation-state. Though the Modern military organization was, of course, never a pure type, its basic format was a combination of conscripted lower ranks or militia and a professional officer corps, war-oriented in mission, masculine in makeup and ethos, and sharply differentiated in structure and culture from civilian society. The Postmodern military, by contrast, undergoes a loosening of the ties with the nationstate. The basic format shifts toward a volunteer force, more multipurpose in mission, increasingly androgynous in makeup and ethos, and with greater permeability with civilian society.

The term Postmodern as applied to the armed forces must imply some significant departure from Modern forms of military organization. Otherwise Postmodern is just another misapplication of an overworked adjective. Drawing heavily on the historical experience of the United States and Western European nations, we present a threefold typology of the military and society.

The first is the Modern type, which we can date from the nineteenth century to end of World War II. Of course, the Modern era can be traced as far back as the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 signed by the Holy Roman Empire, France, Sweden, and various German principalities. The treaty not only ended the Thirty Years War, but proclaimed the principle of national sovereignty, one that has echoed down the three and a half centuries since. But the hallmark of the Modern military is better traced to the levee en masse of the French Revolution in 1793, when the concept of citizen soldier enters the European continent.

The second is the Late Modern type that prevailed from the midtwentieth century into the early 1990s and is essentially coterminous with the Cold War. Along with the mass-conscripted armies, the Late Modern . . .

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