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.
The perceived level of threat influences what potential for violence the state must achieve to assure itself an acceptable level of security. This threat may involve the:
Militaristic ideas are referred to within civilian contexts. The war on poverty declared by President Johnson, and the war on drugs declared by President 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.
- military-industrial complex
- metropolitan-military complex (Lotchin, 2002, Ch. 1)
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.
The military also has a role in defining gender identities. War-movies (i.e. Rambo) reflect the cultural identities of masculinity with the warrior. (See Gibson, 1994.)
- The role and image of the military within a society is another aspect of militarization. At differing times and places in history, soldiers are alternately viewed as rowdy or respectable, (for example - soldiers viewed as baby killers during the Vietnam war, vs. the support our troops car-magnets during the war on terror.
Structural organization is another process of militarization. Before World War II, 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.
How citizenship is tied to military service. Volunteer, draft, or universal conscription reflect whether or not one must have served to be considered a citizen. Compare historical Prussia, where every male was required to serve, and service was a requirement of citizenship, to post-Vietnam America's all-volunteer army. See also Frevert, 2004, Ch. 1.4, 1.5.
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)
- The Holocaust.
- 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 maintained their noble class.
In the United States, military service has been/is advertised as, as means for lower-class people to receive training and experience that they would not normally receive, propelling them to a higher position in society.
- 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.
-  Army Girls: The Role of Militarization in Women's Lives