Burke's Contribution to the Study of the Military as the Social Institution Cover Image

Берков допринос проучавању војске као друштвене институције
Burke's Contribution to the Study of the Military as the Social Institution

Author(s): Srđan V. Starčević, Ilija Z. Kajtez
Subject(s): Security and defense, History and theory of sociology
Published by: Универзитет у Нишу
Keywords: Edmund Burke; revolution; military; civil-military relations

Summary/Abstract: Criticizing the social events in France during the French Revolution, Edmund Burke also dealt with military issues. He criticized the changes that the Revolution brought in the military organization in order to point up the futility and harmfulness of the revolution. In this paper we have analyzed three types of his arguments against the reform of the army in France in order to check if those aspects of Burke's views on military are still valid. These are the arguments against electing military officers for the officers' duties, the arguments against a weak supreme commander and the arguments against the interfering of political parties in the military and against political engagement of the soldiers. Burke was fully convinced that it was good for the government and the state if there was a reliable and subordinate military force as their instrument, but it was bad if the military force gained social independence and became the master of the state. Burke saw the guarantee that the military would remain an instrument of the politics in discipline as a specific internal social relationship that must prevail in the military, and in the subordination of the military to a single national authority, the supreme command authority, whose legitimate decisions must comply with the entire military hierarchy. Stressing the need for the army to adopt the principle of the supremacy of civilian authority over the military, Burke was one of the forerunners of the modern theories of civil-military relations, those of Huntington and Finer. Burke was the first who highlighted the connection between officers and soldiers as the central point of the structure of a military. The separation of soldiers from the officers was one of the consequences of the French Revolution, and Burke interpreted it as the interruption of the chain of command, the weakening of military discipline, giving the officers the role of candidates to be elected for their positions. The fact that the revolutionary experiments with elections of officers and military gatherings to discuss the orders were soon abandoned as harmful and dysfunctional is a clear argument that Burke was right. Burke noted the danger of politicization of the military, political divisions in the officer corps, soldiers interfering in politics, assemblies of undisciplined soldiers and political extremists, political abuse of military units, and the ability of the military to make and implement its own political decisions. What Burke failed to observe is the fact that military reforms conducted during the French Revolution meant the abandonment of feudal mercenary military as a form of organization, as well as creating conditions for the introduction of a mass military based on general conscription. This led to the creation of a new type of army and the beginning of the development of officers' professionalism that would fully abolish aristocratic principle of co-opting royalty into the officers' corps. He also did not have in mind that the existence of distinct social distance, as a consequence of military stratification, negatively affects the morale of soldiers and the management of human resources.

  • Issue Year: XLII/2018
  • Issue No: 3
  • Page Range: 779-797
  • Page Count: 19
  • Language: Serbian
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