The Taming of the Troops: Social Control in the United States Army

The Taming of the Troops: Social Control in the United States Army

The Taming of the Troops: Social Control in the United States Army

The Taming of the Troops: Social Control in the United States Army

Excerpt

This study emerged out of conversations with anti-war Army soldiers during the Vietnam War. These men were asking themselves why they were so ineffective as resistance organizers at a time when there seemed to be such strong anti-war and anti- Army feelings among both soldiers and civilians. There are many ways to answer this question, but one answer that kept cropping up in our discussions was in the nature of the Army itself, particularly its techniques of social control. But in looking at how the Army prevented leftist political expression among its troops, I was drawn to some wider issues. I found the Army used techniques of control on dissidents that it had been developing for use on a much wider array of deviant soldiers and personnel problems. It seemed that anti-military political dissent was only one (and probably a minor) form of deviance for which the Army has developed its modern social controls. As a result, this project became a general study of social control in the United States Army.

I wrote this book with a concern for what I see as the progressive erosion of freedom in bureaucratic contexts. In my view, the widening span of control of bureaucracies results in a declining spontaneity, a delimiting of the human variety, and a diminution of the power of lower participants within organizations. This can occur through manipulative controls as well as coercive ones. The difficulty with manipulative controls is that they extend the sphere of control into wider areas of thought and feeling. Herbert Marcuse , in One Dimensional Man, argues that the most gratifying, rational, inclusive controls can also be the most de-politicizing. I think the capabilities of suppressing resistance through these co-optive techniques are frequently underestimated, even by those with some political organizing experience. Manipulative controls are difficult to recognize because they are subtle and rational and seem liberal in contrast to coercive controls.

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