Organizing Societies for War: The Process and Consequences of Societal Militarization

Organizing Societies for War: The Process and Consequences of Societal Militarization

Organizing Societies for War: The Process and Consequences of Societal Militarization

Organizing Societies for War: The Process and Consequences of Societal Militarization

Synopsis

Regan argues that the militarization of a society is a complex political and sociological phenomenon, that can generate a life of its own and that feeds upon itself. Regan combines a statistical and a historical approach with an empirical analysis to serve as the basis for the development of a theory of the power of political symbolism. He examines the extent to which a violent foreign policy and societal militarization are part of a self-amplifying feedback cycle. At a time when permanent and substantial demilitarization are possible, his study reveals the factors that serve to sustain high levels of military mobilization and suggests the keys for defusing them.

Excerpt

Between 1985 when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union, and 1993, there have been vast changes in the international environment. The Soviet Union has dissolved, various other countries that once appeared stable are in a state of disarray, parts of the nuclear arsenals in the United States and the former USSR have been dismantled, and the influence of the United Nations seems to be on the ascendency. To many students of international relations, we are undergoing "natural experiment" in which the ordering in the international system is changing just as we sit back to ponder the effect of system hierarchy on such things as internation conflict. So much has changed in fact that it is sometimes difficult to focus on how much remains the same. For instance, military budgets generally being reduced, but at a much slower rate than international threats seem to be dissipating; international conflict is still quite prevalent, possibility even on the increase, though the Cold War dynamics of it appears to have waned; and the veiled warnings of future doom can still be heard from the various quarters of the private and public sectors.

But even if the global village is in a period of uncertainty, we do stand poised to take advantage of an opportunity that may come along only once in a lifetime. For the first time in over three generations there is the real potential for serious reduction in the size and scope of the world's military forces, though that possibility seems to rest on a very shaky foundation. Many argue that a headlong rush to do away with "things military" would be destabilizing and ultimately threaten the fragile flowers of peace that are pushing up through the virgin soil. They may very well be right. But it seems clear that part of the key to successfully demilitarizing the world is in knowing how to do so, knowing how such policies can be carried out in a controlled and sustainable manner. This is an area for which we have a quite limited knowledge base and only a meager repertoire of proposals on which to draw.

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