Ingo Trauschweizer

in Military History

ISBN: 9780199791279
Published online February 2013 | | DOI:

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Contemporary critics and scholars alike have associated militarism both with the military’s predominance in foreign policy and with the employment of military force, rhetoric, and symbols in order to ensure elite control of the populace. Two definitions from German scholars illustrate that range. Walter Benjamin’s “Critique of Violence” (Benjamin 1978, cited under Seminal Critiques) holds that militarism is “the compulsory, universal use of violence as a means to the ends of the state” (p. 284). And for Alfred Vagts (A History of Militarism; Vagts 1959, cited under General Overviews), “militarism . . . presents a vast array of customs, interests, prestige, actions, and thought associated with armies and wars and yet transcending true military purposes. . . . It may permeate all society and become dominant overall industry and arts” (p. 13). More recently, Andrew Bacevich (The New American Militarism; Bacevich 2005, cited under Contemporary) has added an intriguing twist to the discussion of American militarism since the end of the Vietnam War: a shift of agency from the state and its military institutions to civil society, which had previously been regarded as a victim or consumer of militarism and not as one of its originators. As a practical matter, modern militarism evolved from the upheaval of the social, political, and industrial revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries in Western countries and in Japan. Industrialization and the rise of the lower classes threatened reactionary elites, the emergence of mass society forced the state to educate and indoctrinate its citizens, and technological advances made war more lethal and required both specialization of military functions and mass mobilization of society and economy. Proponents of the Sonderweg thesis argue that these developments were felt most intensely in Germany, where the modern nation-state was forged in war and where civil society was overtaken by nationalism and military culture. In public imagination, the two world wars firmly established Germany as the ideal type of modern militarism, in the sense of both aggression toward its neighbors and the predominance of military culture at home.

Article.  13420 words. 

Subjects: Military History ; Pre-20th Century Warfare ; First World War ; Second World War ; Post-WW2 Military History

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