Militarization: A Reader

Militarization: A Reader

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Militarization: A Reader offers a range of critical perspectives on the dynamics of militarization as a social, economic, political, cultural, and environmental phenomenon. It portrays militarism as the condition in which military values and frameworks come to dominate state structures and public culture both in foreign relations and in the domestic sphere. Featuring short, readable essays by anthropologists, historians, political scientists, cultural theorists, and media commentators, the Reader probes militarism's ideologies, including those that valorize warriors, armed conflict, and weaponry. Outlining contemporary militarization processes at work around the world, the Reader offers a wide-ranging examination of a phenomenon that touches the lives of billions of people.

In collaboration with Catherine Besteman, Andrew Bickford, Catherine Lutz, Katherine T. McCaffrey, Austin Miller, David H. Price, David Vine

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781478007135
Publisher: Duke University Press
Publication date: 12/06/2019
Series: Global Insecurities
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 424
File size: 20 MB
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About the Author

Roberto J. González is Professor of Anthropology at San Jose State University and author of Militarizing Culture: Essays on the Warfare State.

Hugh Gusterson is Professor of International Affairs and Anthropology at George Washington University and author of Drone: Remote Control Warfare.

Gustaaf Houtman is editor of Anthropology Today at the Royal Anthropological Institute, London.

Read an Excerpt





As an ideology, militarism does a variety of kinds of work, chief among them explaining and legitimating massive economic investments in, and related political and cultural commitments to, war and war preparation. This section includes readings that review several key issues in the political economy of militarization. In each reading, the problem is to explain how militarism shapes economic life, from the class and marriage aspirations of Sri Lankan women to the fortunes of the sports industry in the United States or the mining industry in West Africa. Examining the political economy of militarism means looking at how capitalism and the global flow of arms, soldiers, and military contractors have come to redistribute wealth and shape political life globally. It also means coming to understand why military occupations are so widespread and historically long-lasting in the contemporary world (Visweswaran 2013).

The literature on the political economy of militarism in the United States identifies the mythic status of two popular beliefs. The first is that objective security threats drive levels of military spending, and the second is that the U.S. population has prospered as a result of that spending. This belief is promoted by a media environment structured around the press releases of military and other government officials that inflate threats and celebrate military labor as self-sacrificing. The second narrative about the economic healthfulness of militarism took off most strongly with the aid of an observed correlation between massive federal spending associated with World War II and the end of the Great Depression.

John Bellamy Foster, Hannah Holleman, and Robert McChesney begin the section with a history of U.S. corporations' interest in maintaining a high level of military spending after the end of World War II. They build on an early argument (Baran and Sweezy 1966) that the installation of a massive "peacetime" military in the United States was the result of the desire to absorb extensive surplus production capacity via military production. This was a high-profit and low-risk enterprise in comparison with nonmilitary production and had the added advantage, when that military was widely deployed overseas, of creating a secure international environment for the accumulation of wealth. Research has identified the opportunity costs of government investment in the armaments industry. The siphoning of research and development (R&D) money and scientists to the work of war has resulted in much more effort going into creating baroque warships than efficient fishing vessels or more powerful rocket engines than car motors (Melman 1985). Heidi Garrett-Peltier (2014) has shown how depressed employment rates have been a direct result of outsize military spending in the 2000s.

The next piece in this section includes excerpts from President Dwight D. Eisenhower's famous "Farewell Speech" on the military-industrial complex. In it he observed the installation of a permanently high military budget through the 1950s and compared it with the small peacetime force and government armories when he joined the military in 1911. In the original draft of the speech, he termed this a "military-industrial-congressional complex." William Astore's contribution examines how the military-industrial complex even extends into the U.S. sports industry, which has intensified its celebration of the military — profiting from it, recruiting to it, and using it to support a politics of authoritarianism.

The evolution of capitalism since the last part of the twentieth century has involved both the erosion of the idea of a national economy and the informalization of the labor force, processes that now shape militarized economies worldwide. Informal militarized labor is also on the rise in the form of militias, security guards, and the widespread privatization of military work. In his fieldwork in West Africa, Daniel Hoffman focuses on the labor involved in war-making and argues that it needs to be seen within the context of a larger set of spaces where that labor is alternately deployed and from which its redeployment in war becomes possible. The section ends with excerpts from Carolyn Nordstrom's work, based especially in extensive fieldwork in the war zones of southern Africa. It identifies the special consequences for women of the invisibilization of these processes.


John Bellamy Foster, Hannah Holleman, and Robert W. McChesney

The United States is unique today among major states in the degree of its reliance on military spending and its determination to stand astride the world, militarily as well as economically. No other country in the post–World War II world has been so globally destructive or inflicted so many war fatalities. Since 2001, acknowledged U.S. national defense spending has increased by almost 60 percent in real dollar terms to a level in 2007 of $553 billion. This is higher than at any point since World War II (though lower than in previous decades as a percentage of gross domestic product). Based on such official figures, the United States is reported by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) as accounting for 45 percent of world military expenditures. Yet so gargantuan and labyrinthine are U.S. military expenditures that the above grossly understates their true magnitude, which, as we shall see below, reached $1 trillion in 2007.

Externally, these are necessary expenditures of world empire. Internally, they represent, as Michal Kalecki was the first to suggest, an imperial triangle of state-financed military production, media propaganda, and real/imagined economic-employment effects that has become a deeply entrenched and self-perpetuating feature of the U.S. social order (Kalecki 1972: 96).

Many analysts today view the present growth of U.S. militarism and imperialism as largely divorced from the earlier Cold War history of the United States, which was commonly seen as a response to the threat represented by the Soviet Union. Placed against this backdrop, the current turn to war and war preparation appears to numerous commentators to lack a distinct target, despite concerns about global terrorism, and to be mainly the product of irrational hubris on the part of U.S. leaders. ...

Such a view ... downplays the larger historical and structural forces at work that connect the Cold War and post–Cold War imperial eras. In contrast, a more realistic perspective, we believe, can be obtained by looking at the origins of the U.S. "military ascendancy" (as C. Wright Mills termed it) in the early Cold War years and the centrality this has assumed in the constitution of the U.S. empire and economy up to the present (Mills 1956: 198).

The Permanent War Economy and Military Keynesianism

In January 1944, Charles E. Wilson, president of General Electric and executive vice chairman of the War Production Board, delivered a speech to the Army Ordnance Association advocating a permanent war economy. According to the plan Wilson proposed on that occasion, every major corporation should have a "liaison" representative with the military, who would be given a commission as a colonel in the reserve. This would form the basis of a program, to be initiated by the president as commander-in-chief in cooperation with the War and Navy departments, designed to bind corporations and military together into a single, unified armed forces-industrial complex. ... Wilson went on to indicate that in this plan the part to be played by Congress was restricted to voting for the needed funds.

Wilson ... was articulating a view that was to characterize the U.S. oligarchy as a whole during the years immediately following World War II. In earlier eras, it had been assumed that there was an economic "guns and butter" tradeoff and that military spending had to occur at the expense of other sectors of the economy. However, one of the lessons of the economic expansion in Nazi Germany, followed by the experience of the United States itself in arming for World War II, was that big increases in military spending could act as huge stimulants to the economy. In just six years under the influence of World War II, the U.S. economy expanded by 70 percent, finally recovering from the Great Depression. The early Cold War era thus saw the emergence of what later came to be known as "military Keynesianism": the view that by promoting effective demand and supporting monopoly profits military spending could help place a floor under U.S. capitalism (Cook 1964; Feldman 1989: 149–50; Wilson 1944; "WPB Aide Urges U.S. to Keep War Set-up" 1944).

John Maynard Keynes, in his landmark General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, published in 1936 in the midst of the Depression, argued that the answer to economic stagnation was to promote effective demand through government spending. The bastardized Keynesianism that came to be known as "military Keynesianism" was the view that this was best effected with the fewest negative consequences for big business by focusing on military spending. ... In the 1943 essay "The Political Aspects of Full Employment" and in subsequent essays, Kalecki argued that monopoly capital had a deep aversion to increased civilian government spending due to its intrusion on the commodity market and the sphere of private profit, but this did not apply in the same way to military spending, which was seen by the vested interests as adding to rather than crowding out profits. If absorption of the massive economic surplus of large corporate capital through increased government spending was the key to accumulation in post–World War II U.S. capitalism, this was dependent principally on military expenditures, or what Kalecki in 1956 labeled "the armament-imperialist complex." This resulted in a "high degree of utilization" of productive capacity and "counteracted the disrupting influence of the increase in the relative share of accumulation of big business in the national product" (Kalecki 1972: 75–83, 95–97)....

Mass communication occupied a central place in this imperial triangle. An essential part of Kalecki's argument was that "the mass communication media, such as the daily press, radio, and television in the United States are largely under the control of the ruling class." As none other than Charles E. (General Electric) Wilson, then defense mobilization director, put it in a speech to the American Newspaper Publishers Association on April 26, 1951, the job of the media was to bring "public opinion, as marshaled by the press," to the support of the permanent war effort. ... (Kalecki 1972; Cook 1964).

The result by the mid-1950s was a fairly stable militarized economy, in which intertwined imperial, political-economic, and communication factors all served to reinforce the new military-imperial order. Kalecki (1972: 96–97) observed that U.S. trade unions were "part and parcel of the armament-imperialist set-up. Workers in the United States are not duller and trade union leaders are not more reactionary 'by nature' than in other capitalist countries. Rather, the political situation in the United States, is simply, in accordance with the precepts of historical materialism, the unavoidable consequence of economic developments and of characteristics of the superstructure of monopoly capitalism in its advanced stage." ...

Many of Kalecki's ideas were developed further by Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy in 1966 in Monopoly Capital. Baran and Sweezy argued there were at least five political-economic-imperial ends propelling the U.S. oligarchy in the 1950s and '60s toward the creation of a massive military establishment: (1) defending U.S. global hegemony and the empire of capital against external threats in the form of a wave of revolutions erupting throughout the world, simplistically viewed in terms of a monolithic communist threat centered in the Soviet Union; (2) creating an internationally "secure" platform for U.S. corporations to expand and monopolize economic opportunities abroad; (3) forming a government-sponsored research and development sector that would be dominated by big business; (4) generating a more complacent population at home, made less recalcitrant under the nationalistic influence of perpetual war and war preparation; and (5) soaking up the nation's vast surplus productive capacity, thus helping to stave off economic stagnation through the promotion of high-profit, low-risk (to business) military spending. The combined result of such political-economic-imperial factors was the creation of the largest, most deeply entrenched, and persistent "peacetime" war machine that the world had ever seen (Baran and Sweezy 1966: 178–217).

Like Kalecki, Baran and Sweezy argued that the U.S. oligarchy kept a "tight rein on civilian [government] spending," which, they suggested, "had about reached its outer limits" as a percentage of national income "by 1939," but was nonetheless "openhanded with the military." Government pump-priming operations therefore occurred largely through spending on wars and war preparations in the service of empire. The Pentagon naturally made sure that bases and armaments industries were spread around the United States and that numerous corporations profited from military spending, thus maximizing congressional support due to the effects on states and districts (Baran and Sweezy 1966: 159, 161, 177, 208–11)....

U.S. militarism was therefore motivated first and foremost by a global geopolitical struggle but was at the same time seen as essentially costless (even beneficial) to the U.S. economy, which could have more guns and more butter, too. It was thus viewed as a win-win solution for the U.S. empire and economy....

As Eisenhower's secretary of defense, Charles Erwin (General Motors) Wilson (best known for having created a major flap by saying, "What is good for General Motors is good for the country"), observed in 1957, the military setup was then so built into the economy as to make it virtually irreversible: "So many Americans are getting a vested interest in it: Properties, business, jobs, employment, votes, opportunities for promotion and advancement, bigger salaries for scientists and all that. ... If you try to change suddenly you get into trouble" (quoted in Cook 1964: 277, 299)....

The need for the gargantuan military-industrial complex that the United States developed in these years was not so much for purposes of economic expansion directly (though military Keynesianism pointed to its stimulating effects) but due to the reality, as Baran and Sweezy emphasized, that the capitalist world order and U.S. hegemony could only be maintained "a while longer," in the face of rising insurgencies throughout the world, through "increasingly direct and massive intervention by American armed forces" (Baran and Sweezy 1966: 205). This entire built-in military system could not be relinquished without relinquishing empire. Indeed, the chief importance of U.S. military power from the early Cold War years to today has been that it is used — either directly, resulting in millions of deaths (counting those who died in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Kosovo War, the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, as well as dozens of lesser conflicts), or indirectly, as a means to intimidate.

The most important leftist analysts of these developments in the 1950s and '60s, Kalecki, Baran, Sweezy, and Magdoff insisted — going against the dominant U.S. Cold War ideology — that the cause of U.S. military spending was capitalist empire rather than the need to contain the Soviet threat. The benefits of military spending to monopoly capital, moreover, guaranteed its continuation, barring a major social upheaval. The decade and a half since the fall of the Soviet Union has confirmed the accuracy of this assessment. The euphoria of the "peace dividend" following the end of the Cold War evaporated almost immediately in the face of new imperial requirements. This was a moment of truth for U.S. capitalism, demonstrating how deeply entrenched were its military-imperial interests. By the end of the 1990s, U.S. military spending, which had been falling, was on its way up again.

Today, in what has been called a "unipolar world," U.S. military spending for purposes of empire is rapidly expanding — to the point that it rivals that of the entire rest of the world put together. When it is recognized that most of the other top ten military-spending nations are U.S. allies or junior partners, it makes the U.S. military ascendancy even more imposing. Only the reality of global empire (and the effects of this on the internal body politic) can explain such an overwhelming destructive power....


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Table of Contents

Editors' Note  xiii
Acknowledgments  xv
Introduction / Roberto J. González  and Hugh Gusterson  1
Section I. Militarization and Political Economy
Introduction / Catherine Lutz  27
1.1. The U.S. Imperial Triangle and Military Spending / John Bellamy Foster, Hannah Holleman, and Robert W. McChesney  29
1.2. Farewell Address to the Nation, January 17, 1961 / Dwight D. Eisenhower   36
1.3. The Militarization of Sports and the Redefinition of Patriotism / William Astore  38
1.4. Violence, Just in Time: War and Work in Contemporary West Africa / Daniel Hoffman  42
1.5. Women, Economy, War / Carolyn Nordstrom  51
Section II. Military Labor
2.1. Soldiering as Work: The All-Volunteer Force in the United States / Beth Bailey  59
2.2. Sexing the Globe / Sealing Cheng  62
2.3. Military Monks / Michael Jerryson  67
2.4. Child Soldiers after War / Brandon Kohrt and Robert Koenig  71
2.5. Asian Labor in the Wartime Japanese Empire / Paul H. Kratoska  73
2.6. Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry / P. W. Singer  76
Section III. Gender and Militarism
Introduction / Katherine T. McCaffery  83
3.1. Gender in Transition: Common Sense, Women, and War / Kimberly Theidon  85
3.2. The Compassionate Warrior: Wartime Sacrifice / Jean Bethke Elshtain  91
3.3. Creating Citizens, Making Men: The Military and Masculinity in Bolivia / Lesley Gill  95
3.4. One of the Guys: Military Women and the Argentine Army / Máximo Badaró  101
Section IV. The Emotional Life of Militarism
Introduction / Catherine Lutz  109
4.1. Militarization and the Madness of Everyday Life / Nancy Scheper-Hughes  111
4.2. Fear as a Way of Life / Linda Green  118
4.3. Evil, the Self, and Survival / Robert Jay Lifton (Interviewed by Harry Kreisler)  127
4.4. Target Audience: The Emotional Impact of U.S. Governmental Films on Nuclear Testing / Joseph Masco  130
Section V. Rhetorics of Militarism
Introduction / Andrew Bickford  141
5.1. The Militarization of Cherry Blossoms / Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney  143
5.2. The "Old West" in the Middle East: U.S. Military Metaphors in Real and Imagined Indian Country / Stephen W. Silliman  148
5.3. Ideology, Culture, and the Cold War / Naoko Shidusawa  154
5.4. The Military Normal: Feeling at Home with Counterinsurgency in the United States / Catherine Lutz  157
5.5. Nuclear Orientalism / Hugh Gusterson  163
Section VI. Militarization, Place, and Territory
Introduction / Roberto J. González  167
6.1. Making War at Home / Catherine Lutz  168
6.2. Spillover: The U.S. Military's Sociospatial Impact / Mark L. Gillen  175
6.3. Nuclear Landscapes: The Marshall Islands and Its Radioactive Legacy / Barbara Rose Johnston  181
6.4. The War on Terror, Dismantling, and the Construction of Place: An Ethnographic Perspective from Palestine / Julie Peteet  186
6.5. The Border Wall Is a Metaphor / Jason de León (Interviewed by Micheline Aharońian Marcom)  192
Section VII. Militarized Humanitarianism
Introduction / Catherine Besteman  197
7.1. Laboratory of Intervention: The Humanitarian Governance of the Postcommunist Balkan Territories / Mariella Pandolfi  199
7.2. Armed for Humanity / Michael Barnett  203
7.3. The Passions of Protection: Sovereign Authority and Humanitarian War / Anne Orford  208
7.4. Responsibility to Protect or Right to Punish? / Mahmood Mamdani  212
7.5. Utopias of Power: From Human Security to the Presponsibility to Protect / Chowra Makaremi  218
Section VIII. Militarism and the Media
Introduction / Hugh Gusterson  223
8.1. Pentagon Pundits / David Barstow (Interview by Amy Goodman)  224
8.2. Operation Hollywood / David L. Robb (Interviewed by Jeff Fleischer)  230
8.3. Discipline and Publish / Mark Pedelty  234
8.4. The Enola Gay on Display / John Whittier Treat  239
8.5. War Porn: Hollywood and War, from World War II to American Sniper / Peter van Buren  243
Section IX. Militarizing Knowledge
Introduction / David H. Price  249
9.1. Boundary Displacement: The State, the Foundations, and International and Area Studies during and after the Cold War / Bruce Cumings  251
9.2. The Career of Cold War Psychology / Ellen Herman  254
9.3. Scientific Colonialism / Johan Galtung  259
9.4. Research ni Foreign Areas / Ralph L. Beals  265
9.5. Rethinking the Promise of Critical Education / Henry A. Giroux (Interviewed by Chronis Polychroniou)  270
Section X. Militarization and the Body
Introduction / Roberto J. González  275
10.1. Nuclear War, the Gulf War, and the Disappearing Body / Hugh Gusterson  276
10.2. The Structure of War: The Juxtaposition of Injuried Bodies and Unanchored Issues / Elaine Scarry  283
10.3. The Enhanced Warfighter / Kenneth Ford and Clark Glymour  291
10.4. Suffering Child: An Embodiment of War and Its Aftermath in Post-Sandinista Nicaragua / James Quesada  296
Section XI. Militarism and Technology
Introduction / Hugh Gusterson  303
11.1. Giving Up the Gun: Japan's Reversion to the Sword, 1543–1879 / Noel Perrin  305
11.2. Life Underground: Building the American Bunker Society / Joseph Masco  307
11.3. Militarizing Space / David H. Price  316
11.4. Embodiment and Affect in a Digital Age: Understanding Mental Illness among Military Drone Personnel / Alex Edney-Browne 319
11.5. Land Mines and Cluster Bombs: "Weapons of Mass Destruction in Slow Motion" / H. Patricia Hynes  324
11.6. Pledge of Non-Participation / Lisbeth Gronlund and David Wright  328
11.7. The Scientists' Call to Ban Autonomous Lethal Robots / International Committee for Robot Arms Control  329
Section XII. Alternatives to Militarization
Introduction / David Vine  333
12.1. War Is Only an Invention—Not a Biological Necessity / Margaret Mead 336
12.2. Reflections on the Possibility of a Nonkilling Society and a Nonkilling Anthropology / Leslie E. Sponsel  339
12.3. U.S. Bases, Empire, and Global Response / Catherine Lutz  344
12.4. Down Here / Julian Aguon  347
12.5. War, Culture, and Counterinsurgency / Roberto J. González, Hugh Gusterson, and David H. Price  349
12.6. Hope in the Dark: Untold Stories, Wild Possibilities / Rebecca Solnit  350
References  355
Contributors  383
Index  389
Credits  403

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