Military sociology

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Military sociology is the study of individual and group actions when they are part of a military organization. There may be aspects that are culturally specific, such as the warrior traditions of Japanese bushido, European chivalry and Pashtun pashtunwali, but, in every society, there are specifics that deal with issues of motivation to risk life, to withstand hardship, and to have a sense of justice — or lack thereof.

Certain areas of study are interdisciplinary with military sociology, such as the study of killing, termed "killology" by Grossman,[1] which blurs into the area of operant conditioning of combat skills. Others deal with the issue of selecting people who will perform well under stress.

The professional soldier

Traditionally, there have been three components:

  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Technical skills

with a strong shift, in recent years, to the latter two.[2] Militaries have always had technical skills; a longbow archer spent as much or more time training as a fighter pilot.


Classic leadership could extend to the mystical, and the idea of a warrior spirit is not dead. [3] John Keegan wrote about five key styles of leadership:[4]

Even in technological war, there are the leaders who show direct example, such as Theodore Roosevelt, Jr..


As armies grew in size and technology, the need for organization became critical. Formal mobilization planning probably first was seen in the German General Staff. For all the value Napoleon placed on key officers such as Berthier, Napoleonic military staff was just that -- an organization built around him personally, rather than as a continuing entity. Recognizable staff organization, which split planning and supervisory functions into reasonably well-defined functions, usually are attributed to the Prussians, especially to Helmut von Moltke. Von Moltke did not invent the general staff, but created its modern shape. [5] Their earliest staffs did not follow the current model, but began with a military historian that would record how things were done in a given conflict, so officers could study and avoid mistakes of the past. Current staffs still have a historical function, which sometimes is formalized as a center for "lessons learned", as with Australia, [6]Canada[7] and the United States of America.[8]

Group dynamics

In almost all militaries, there is an intense bonding to members of the group.[9] Especially in wars of the 20th and 21st century, failing in one's obligation to a fellow soldier is just as important as patriotism, religion, or other more transcendental factors.


  1. Ken Grossman, On Killing
  2. Donald R. Baucom (Fall 1985), "The Professional Soldier and the Warrior Spirit", Strategic Review
  3. Richard Strozzi-Heckler (2003), In Search of the Warrior Spirit: Teaching Awareness Disciplines to the Green Berets (3rd edition ed.), North Atlantic Books, ISBN 1556434251
  4. John Keegan (1988), The Mask of Command, Penguin (Non-Classics), ISBN 978-0140114065
  5. Goerlitz, Walter (1962), History of the German General Staff, 1657-1945, Praeger
  6. Australian Army, Welcome to the Centre for Army Lessons (CAL)
  7. Centre for Army Lessons Learned, Department of National Defence (Canada)
  8. Center for Army Lessons Learned, Combined Arms Center, United States Army
  9. Morris Janowitz, The Professional Soldier