ABSTRACT

Militarism – understood as the social and international relations of the preparation for, and conduct of, organized political violence – is an abiding and defining characteristic of world politics. Recent and ongoing wars in Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Libya and Sudan, plus at least 30 lesser armed conflicts (Themnér and Wallensteen, 2011), and rising global military expenditures since 2001 (Perlo-Freeman et al., 2010), are but the most conspicuous contemporary indications of this. Successful military coups in Fiji and Thailand (both 2006), Mauritania and Guinea (2008), Madagascar and Honduras (2009), and Niger (2010), and the entrenched power of Middle Eastern military actors, even in the face of the Arab Spring protests (2011), all speak to the enduring power of military actors within political, economic and social life. In a very different but far from unrelated way, the recent record of the British state in supporting its domestic arms industry through a range of morally and legally questionable means – from facilitating the early release of Abdelbaset Megrahi from Scottish jail in order to promote arms (and oil) interests in Libya, to unlawfully quashing investigation of corrupt activity by BAE Systems, to collaborating with defence contractors to systematically under-budget military capital projects (Quinn, 2010; Peel et al., 2008; Haynes and Coghlan, 2010) – clearly suggests that militarism is characteristic of global North and global South alike. Yet despite the ongoing social, political and economic reach of military institutions, practices and values, the concept and subject of militarism have not received significant attention within recent debates in International Relations (IR). A great deal of scholarly work was produced during especially the late Cold War era on arms races, military expenditure, arms sales to the Third World, the vast numbers of people under arms, and those militaristic attitudes, structures and practices that produce, or are shaped by, modern warfare (e.g. Albrecht et al., 1975; Eide and Thee, 1980; Enloe, 1988; Thompson, 1982). Extensive work was also undertaken on the concept of militarism itself (e.g. Berghahn, 1981; Mann, 1987; Skjelsbaek, 1979; Vagts, 1959; Shaw, 1988). But such sustained research and reflection has largely disappeared since the early 1990s, revitalized only in part by US adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan (e.g. Bacevich, 2005; Johnson, 2004). In some fields, most notably political geography, discussion of militarism and militarization remains strong, so much so that political

geographers can claim with some merit that ‘the topic of militarization has been resurgent in recent years’ (Bernazzoli and Flint, 2010; Bryan, 2010; Kuus, 2009; Loyd, 2009; Woodward, 2005). The same could not be said from the perspective of International Relations, however. Some, especially historical sociologists (e.g. Mann, 2003; Shaw, 2005) and feminist scholars (Enloe, 2000, 2004; Sjoberg and Via, 2010; Whitworth, 2004), have kept discussion of militarism alive. But there has been little uptake of their concerns in the wider discipline. Contemporary textbooks on world politics, IR theory, and security and strategic studies make few, if any, references to militarism and militarization. Even more tellingly, while since the mid-1980s IR has gone through an intellectual revolution – marked by the collapsing hegemony of conservative realism and a proliferation of assorted critical approaches, as well as a huge amount of epistemological, conceptual and theoretical innovation – none of this seems to have inspired much reflection on militarism. The systematic academic study of militarism and IR appears to be a thing of the past. The evident contradiction between militarized social and international relations on the one hand, and little or no academic debate on the other, is paradoxical, and provides the motivation for this volume. Based on papers presented at an international, interdisciplinary conference held at the University of Sussex in May 2009, plus additional invited contributions, it brings together researchers working on militarism, militarization and international politics from a diverse range of theoretical perspectives. The guiding objectives of the conference were to identify the current state of play in the recent literature on militarism; to reflect on what we might learn from earlier discussions of militarism, as well as how these earlier understandings might require updating and revision; to analyse a wide range of contemporary practices and dimensions of militarism; and to consider how both the concept and practices of militarism and militarization might be studied, empirically and theoretically, at the crossroads between international political economy, security studies and IR theory. The resulting book has a two overarching aims: to make the case for a renewed research agenda for IR centred on the concept of militarism; and to provide a series of empirically focused and theoretically informed case studies of contemporary militarism in practice. It does not, and is not intended to provide either a comprehensive survey of contemporary militarism, or a unified or exclusionary theoretical framework. The individual chapters’ substantive focuses vary widely, some considering militarism and militarization in specific national or regional contexts, from the US to China to the Middle East. Others concentrate on the extension or expansion of militaristic practices into new social, political and economic domains such as space, or popular culture. But there are many countries and domains on which the book does not touch, or discusses only in passing. Theoretical frameworks also vary widely, with chapters being variously informed by liberal, realist, Marxist, Gramscian, post-structuralist, constructivist and Weberian understandings of militarism. To this extent, the book aims to present a diverse and eclectic body of research on militarism, which hopefully is a stimulus to further research and debate.