Sunday, July 6, 2014

Caforio, ed. 2006. Handbook of the Sociology of the Military (sociology)

Giuseppe Caforio is an eminent Italian sociologist and one of the leading military sociologists in the European Research Group on Military and Society (ERGOMAS). He has assembled this superb collection with some of the leading lights of both ERGOMAS, and the US-based Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society (IUS). James Burk, Joel Soeters, Christopher Dandeker, Michael Pugh, Bernard Boene, Mady and David Segal, Rene Moelker, and Gerhard Kummel will be familiar names.  There are some new ones, too, with important contributions to make.  Caforio has written or co-written six of the 25 chapters himself, including work on military education and unionization. 

Chapters are grouped to address theoretical and methodological orientations, armed forces and society, military culture, conversion and restructuring, and new missions.  

This is unquestionably a basic reference and a significant body of scholarship on military sociology, strongly recommended for anyone studying the military from within a variety of disciplines.  But there are two gaps that strike me, reading it as an academic ex-soldier concerned with the management of violence. The first is that the role of the military as specialists in violence is not as prominent as it should be, even in the section on civil-military relations and democratization.  Here I think sociologists need to read carefully Charles Tilley’s (2003) The Politics of Collective Violence to give them a fresh focus on aspects of military sociology that need a fresh look.  Related to this is the problem that organized and uniformed military forces are only a small fraction of the world’s specialists in violence, or violent specialists as Tilley calls them. Police, paramilitary, and irregular violent specialists need to be studied with the same rigour that has been applied here to soldiers. 

David Last,  6 Jan 2014

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