Militarization, or militarisation, is the process by which a society organizes itself for military conflict and violence. It is related to militarism, which is an ideology that reflects the level of militarization of a state. The process of militarization involves many interrelated aspects that encompass all levels of society.

Russian military build-up around Ukraine prior to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine



The perceived level of threat influences what potential for violence or warfare the state must achieve to assure itself an acceptable level of security. When the perceived level of threat is low, as with Canada, a country may have a relatively small military and level of armament. However, in Israel, the threat of attack from neighbouring countries means that the armed forces and defense have a high profile and are given significant funding and personnel.

This threat may involve the:



Militaristic ideas are referred to within civilian contexts. The War on Poverty declared by President Lyndon B. Johnson, and the War on drugs declared by President Richard Nixon, are rhetorical wars. They are not declared against a concrete, military enemy which can be defeated, but are symbolic of the amount of effort, sacrifice, and dedication which needs to be applied to the issue. They may also be a means of consolidating executive power, because war implies emergency powers for the executive branch which are normally reserved for the legislature. As well, politicians have invoked militaristic ideas with rhetorical wars on other social issues. Some governments draw on militaristic imagery when they appoint "task forces" of bureaucrats to address pressing political or social issues.



Militarization has been used as a strategy for boosting a state's economy, by creating jobs and increasing industrial production. This was part of Adolf Hitler's plan to revive the German economy after the devastation it suffered after the First World War.



Increasingly, Christian evangelical prayer has taken on militaristic forms and language.[citation needed] Spiritual warfare may involve forms of prayer spoken in militarized discourse. Its adherents, sometimes referring to themselves as "prayer warriors", wage "spiritual battle" on a "prayer battlefield". Spiritual warfare is the latest iteration in a long-standing partnership between religious organizations and militarization, two spheres that are rarely considered[by whom?] together, although aggressive forms of prayer have long been used to further the aims of expanding Christian influence through a variety of conversion tactics.[citation needed] These tactics have begun being articulated in militaristic imagery, using terms such as "enlist, rally, advance and blitz". Major moments of increased political militarization have occurred concurrently with the growth of prominence of militaristic imagery in many evangelical communities, such as the evangelical engagement in a militarized project of aggressive missionary expansion conducted against the backdrop of the Vietnam War in the 1970s.[1]



The military also has a role in defining gender identities. War-movies (i.e. Rambo) associate the cultural identities of masculinity with warriors.[2] Representations of Vietnam in popular culture display the male body as a weapon of war and contribute to ideals of masculinity in American culture.[3][4] Military prowess has been crucial to understandings of contemporary masculinity in European and American culture.[5] During World War I, soldiers who experienced shell-shock were seen[by whom?] as failures of masculinity, unable to withstand war as the ultimate task of manliness.[6] The maintenance of military systems relies on ideas about men and manliness as well as ideas about women and femininity, including notions of fallen women and patriotic motherhood.[7]

Women have been mobilized during times of war to perform tasks seen as incompatible with men's roles in combat, including cooking, laundry, and nursing.[7] Women have also been seen as necessary for servicing male soldiers' sexual needs through prostitution.[7] For example, during the Vietnam War, Vietnamese women who worked as prostitutes were allowed on US bases as local national Jabaits.[7]

Civil-military relations


The role and image of the military within a society is another aspect of militarization. At differing times and places in history, soldiers have been viewed as respectable, honoured individuals (for example, this was the reputation of Allied soldiers who liberated the Nazi-occupied Netherlands in WW II, or the view of Americans and Canadians who placed support our troops car-magnets on their vehicles during the war on terror). Military figures can become heroes (for example, the Finnish people's view of the Finnish sniper nicknamed "White Death", who killed many Russian invaders). Alternatively, one can brand soldiers as "baby killers" (as a few U.S. anti-war activists did during and after the Vietnam War) or as war criminals (the Nazi leaders and SS units responsible for the Holocaust).

Structural organization is another process of militarization. Before World War II (1939-1945), the United States experienced a post-war reduction of forces after major conflicts, reflecting American suspicion of large standing armies. After World War II, not only was the army maintained, but the National Security Act of 1947 restructured both civilian and military leadership structures, establishing the Department of Defense and the National Security Council. The Act also created permanent intelligence structures (the CIA et al.) within the United States government for the first time, reflecting the civilian government's perception of a need for previously military-based intelligence to be incorporated into the structure of the civilian state.

Ex-soldiers entering business or politics may import military mindsets and jargon into their new environments - thus we have the popularity of advertising campaigns, sales break-throughs and election victories (even if Pyrrhic ones).

How citizenship is tied to military service plays an important role in establishing civil-military relations. Countries with volunteer-based military service have a different mindset from those with universal conscription. In some countries, men must have served with the military to be considered citizens.[citation needed] Compare historical Prussia (where every male was required to serve, and service was a requirement of citizenship[citation needed]) to post-Vietnam America's all-volunteer army. In 2016 in Israel, military service is mandatory. This develops a society where almost all people have served in the armed forces.[8]



Racial interactions between society and the military:

  • During imperial Germany, military service was a requirement of citizenship, but Jews and other foreigners were not allowed to serve in the military. (Frevert, 2004, pp. 65–9)
  • During Nazi Germany's Holocaust, SS units committed war crimes and crimes against humanity on a massive scale, including executing millions of civilians.
  • In the United States, beyond the Civil War, military service was a way for blacks to serve the country, and later appeal for equal citizenship during World War II. The military was one of the first national institutions to be integrated. In 1948, President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 9981 establishing equality within the armed services. The military was also a tool of integration. In 1957, President Dwight Eisenhower sent troops to Little Rock, AR to desegregate a school after the Brown v. Board Supreme Court decision in 1954. (See also MacGregor, 1985.)
  • Improved race relations was seen as a national security issue during the Cold War. Communist propaganda cited American racism as a major flaw, and America wanted to improve its image to third-world countries which might be susceptible to Communism.

Eleanor Roosevelt said "civil rights [is] an international question. . . [that] may decide whether Democracy or Communism wins out in the world." (Sherry, 1995, p. 146) and this sort of false dichotomy was continued further throughout the McCarthy era and the Cold War in general.



The military also serves as a means of social restructuring. Lower classes could gain status and mobility within the military, at least after levée en masse after the French Revolution. Also, the officer corps became open to the middle class, although it was once reserved only for nobility. In Britain, becoming a military officer was an expectation for 'second sons' who were to gain no inheritance; the role of officer was assumed to maintain their noble class. In the United States, military service has been/is advertised as a means for lower-class people to receive training and experience that they would not normally receive, propelling them to higher incomes and higher positions in society. Joining the military has enabled many people from lower socioeconomic demographics to receive college education and training. As well, a number of positions in the military involve transferable skills that can be used in the regular labor market after an individual is discharged (e.g., pilot, air traffic controller, mechanic).


Police SWAT team members, some armed with assault rifles, prepare for an exercise.

The militarization of police involves the use of military equipment and tactics by law enforcement officers. This includes the use of armored personnel carriers, assault rifles, submachine guns, flashbang grenades,[9][10] grenade launchers,[11] sniper rifles, Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams.[12][13] The militarization of law enforcement is also associated with intelligence agency-style information gathering aimed at the public and political activists,[14][15] and a more aggressive style of law enforcement.[16][17] Criminal justice professor Peter Kraska has defined militarization of law enforcement as "the process whereby civilian police increasingly draw from, and pattern themselves around, the tenets of militarism and the military model."[18]

Observers have noted the militarizing of the policing of protests.[19][20] Since the 1970s, riot police have fired at protesters using guns with rubber bullets or plastic bullets.[21] Tear gas, which was developed for riot control in 1919, is widely used against protesters in the 2000s. The use of tear gas in warfare is prohibited by various international treaties[22] that most states have signed; however, its law enforcement or military use for domestic or non-combat situations is permitted.

Concerns about the militarization of police have been raised by both ends of the political spectrum in the United States, with both the right-of-center/libertarian Cato Institute and the left-of-center American Civil Liberties Union voicing criticisms of the practice. The Fraternal Order of Police has spoken out in favor of equipping law enforcement officers with military equipment, on the grounds that it increases the officers' safety and enables them to protect civilians.

See also



  1. ^ McAlister, Elizabeth (2016-01-02). "The militarization of prayer in America: White and Native American spiritual warfare". Journal of Religious and Political Practice. 2 (1): 114–130. doi:10.1080/20566093.2016.1085239. ISSN 2056-6093.
  2. ^ Gibson, James William: Warrior Dreams: Paramilitary Culture in Post-Vietnam America, Hill & Wang, 1994. ISBN 0-8090-1578-1
  3. ^ Jeffords, Susan (1989). Remasculinization of America: Gender and the Vietnam War. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. ISBN 9780253331885.
  4. ^ de Pauw, Linda (2000). Battle Cries and Lullabies: Women in War from Prehistory to the Present. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 9780806132884.
  5. ^ Connell, R.W. (2005). Masculinities. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. ISBN 9780520246980.
  6. ^ Mosse, George (2000). "Shell-shock as a social disease". Journal of Contemporary History. 35: 101–108. doi:10.1177/002200940003500109. S2CID 145299126.
  7. ^ a b c d Enloe, Cynthia (2000). Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women's Lives. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. pp. xiii–xiv. ISBN 9780520220713.
  8. ^ See also Frevert, 2004, Ch. 1.4, 1.5.
  9. ^ "SAS - Weapons - Flash Bang | Stun Grenade (The British Army's SAS developed flashbang grenades)". Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  10. ^ The flash from a flashbang grenade detonation momentarily activates all photoreceptor cells in the eye, making vision impossible for approximately five seconds, until the eye restores itself to its normal, unstimulated state. The loud blast is meant to cause temporary loss of hearing, and also disturbs the fluid in the ear, causing loss of balance. The concussive blast of the detonation can still injure, and the heat created can ignite flammable materials.
  11. ^ Texas Rangers, Department of Public Safety, Branch Davidian Evidence, Investigative Report No. 1, September 1999; Investigative Report No. 2, January 2000 (PDFs available at Texas Rangers website). The Rangers found that the FBI used grenade launchers to fire two 40 mm M651 grenades. The Army considers the M651 a pyrotechnic device and that it is known to cause fires. The Army Tech Manual for the M651 warns that it can penetrate 3/4" plywood at 200 meters and "projectile may explode upon target impact." During inventory of the Waco evidence the Texas Rangers also found flashbang grenades.
  12. ^ James Joyner (June 15, 2011). "Militarization of Police". Outside the Beltway.
  13. ^ Paul D. Shinkman (August 14, 2014). "Ferguson and the Militarization of Police". U.S. News & World Report.
  14. ^ Michael German (December 18, 2014). "Why Police Spying On Americans Is Everyone's Problem". Defense One.
  15. ^ Josh Peterson (March 25, 2014). "State lawmakers push to rein in police spying". Fox News Channel.
  16. ^ Ryan Van Velzer (June 24, 2014). "ACLU: Free military weapons making Arizona police more aggressive". The Arizona Republic.
  17. ^ Jodie Gummow (August 29, 2013). "11 over-the-top U.S. police raids that victimized innocents". Salon.
  19. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2016-05-10. Retrieved 2016-05-22.
  20. ^ "Congress scrutinizes police militarization before planned Ferguson protest".
  21. ^ "A solid PVC cylinder, 10 cm long and 38 mm in diameter, fired by police or military forces to regain control in riots."
  22. ^ e.g. the Geneva Protocol of 1925: 'Prohibited the use of "asphyxiating gas, or any other kind of gas, liquids, substances or similar materials"'
  • Bond, Brian. War and Society in Europe, 1870-1970. McGill-Queen's University Press. 1985. ISBN 0-7735-1763-4
  • Frevert, Ute. A Nation in Barracks: Modern Germany, Military Conscription and Civil Society. Berg, 2004. ISBN 1-85973-886-9
  • Gibson, James William Warrior Dreams: Paramilitary Culture in Post-Vietnam America Hill & Wang, 1994. ISBN 0-8090-1578-1.
  • Lotchin, Roger W. Fortress California, 1910-1961: From Warfare to Welfare. University of Illinois Press, 2002. ISBN 0-252-07103-4
  • MacGregor, Morris J. Integration of the Armed Forces, 1940-1965 U.S. Govt. Print Office, 1989. online here
  • Sherry, Michael S. In the Shadow of War. Yale University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-300-07263-5.
  • [1] Army Girls: The Role of Militarization in Women's Lives