One nation under arms? Military participation policy and the politics of identity

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Students of comparative military organizations have advanced three hypotheses to explain when armed forces adopt more liberal manpower policies: when a major security threat looms, when the military professionalizes, or when the surrounding society grows more tolerant of difference. This article argues that all three are theoretically and empirically problematic: they potentially have much to contribute, but only in conjunction with a perspective that is more appreciative of the centrality of political processes. Enduring reform of the military's participation policies is more productively viewed through the lens of the struggle over national and communal identity. To illustrate the power of this alternative approach, this article reconsiders cases commonly cited in support of the existing hypotheses: the racial desegregation of the U.S. military, the integration of the Druze into the Israel Defense Forces, and the imperial and independent Indian armies' policies with respect to what the British termed "class."

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)529-564
Number of pages36
JournalSecurity Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2005


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