The Essence of the “Market Army”

The Essence of the “Market Army”

Levy, Yagil. Public Administration Review70.3 (May/Jun 2010): 378-389,345.

Abstract (summary)

Western armies have undergone substantial organizational and cultural transformations since the end of the Cold War. Two main themes have been suggested to describe these transformations: post-modernity and post-Fordism. Yagil Levy of the Open University of Israel analyzes these profound shifts. He portrays the new Western army as a “market army,” distancing itself from the “citizen army,” and envisions a continuum between these extreme types. The market army emulates market practices in order to adapt to modern strategic, economic, political, and cultural constraints. What typifies the market army is the subjection of military doctrine to the market, a post-Fordist structure, a network-centric hierarchy, market values borrowed by the military profession, the convergence of military and civilian occupations, the commodification of military service, and new contractual forms of bargaining between soldiers and the military. Israel serves as a critical case with which to develop the theory of the market army. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]

Full text


Western armies have undergone substantial organizational-cultural transformations since the end of the Cold War. Two main themes have been suggested to describe these transformations: postmodernity and post-Fordism. This article analyzes these profound shifts. The author portrays the new Western army as a “market army,” distancing itself from the “citizen army,” and envisions a continuum between these extreme types. The market army emulates market practices in order to adapt to modern strategic, economic, political, and cultural constraints. What typifies the market army is the subjection of military doctrine to the market, a post-Fordist structure, a network-centric hierarchy, market values borrowed by the military profession, the convergence of military and civilian occupations, the commodification of military service, and new contractual forms of bargaining between soldiers and the military. Israel serves as a critical case with which to develop the theory of the market army.

Since die end of the Cold War, Western armies have undergone an organizational-cultural transformation, leading to the downsizing of mass armies and the phasing out of the draft. Two main themes have been suggested to describe this transformation: postmodernity and post-Fordism.

Moskos and Burk (1998) claimed that the relationship between civilian society and die military has shifted from a modern to a postmodern paradigm. The postmodern military is characterized by its preparedness to be assigned to new missions, such as international interventionist missions and combat against terrorism and ethnic violence, rather than engage in traditional warfare. It is also characterized by an increasing mutual interpenetrability of the civilian and military spheres, reflected in greater social diversity in the ranks and a growing similarity between military and civilian professions. This transformation is accounted for by the demise of the nation-state and the citizenry’s loyalty to it, the decline of mass production in favor of specialized organizations, and the waning of the values on which military service traditionally was established – in particular, those associated with masculinity and national patriotism.

In this spirit, Shaw (2000) argued that as the military has adopted new roles, traditional military culture increasingly has been questioned from within, a process that also has helped eliminate barriers for women and homosexuals. Dandeker (1994) defined this transformation in terms of “new times,” characterized by the growth of risk complexity, globalization, and financial pressures that have driven armies to modify their structural format and award equal status to women and homosexuals. In particular, he highlighted the importance of pressures to increase governmental control over public expenditures. Thus, armies may be required to implement organizational reforms that demonstrate cost-effectiveness, such as flattening their hierarchy and civilianizing military functions. Nonetheless, Boodi, Kestenbaum, and Segal (2001) argued that these and other reforms are strictly modern rather than postmodern.

Although these scholars certainly acknowledge the market’s impact on military structures, none has allowed it the emphasis that is conveyed by the notion of a post-Fordist military, introduced by King (2006). In general, King notes, post-Fordism is characterized by the replacement of a mass workforce by a specialist core and a part-time periphery, outsourcing, management centralization, and network production. He argues that Western armies have progressively been adopting parallel patterns: downsizing following the abolition of the draft, specializing, outsourcing logistical missions diat lie beyond the military’s “core business,” centralizing the command into unified joint headquarters while at the same time flattening the hierarchy, and moving to network warfare. With the market regulation of enlistment – a result of the vocationalization of armies and post-Fordist reforms – the door gradually has been opened to the supply of supplementary military services by private companies, including the revival of mercenarism in several conflict areas around the world (Shields 1990).

Therein lie the drawbacks of current research. Advocates of postmodern approaches to the army have refrained from addressing the interplay between the market and the military and have neglected changes in the latter’s economic environment, focusing mainly on organizational and operational changes and social pressures. At the same time, the postFordist approach has refrained from dealing with the cultural and societal aspects of postFordism. King restricted himself to discussing the internal workings of the military rather than how its new relationships with society might affect its internal structure. Cultural changes – such as those emphasized by Moskos and Burk – have been overlooked. No less important, the autonomous impact of the market, with the rise of the market economy, has been downplayed, and postFordist reforms have been explained solely in instrumental terms of adaptation to new threats and shrinking resources

The present essay seeks to integrate these themes by portraying the Western army of the early twenty-first century as a “market army,” distancing itself from the traditional “citizen army,” and thus creating a continuum between two extreme types. It is argued that the market army emulates market practices to cope with strategic, economic, political, and cultural constraints. What typifies the market army is the subjection of military doctrine to die market, a post-Fordist structure, a network-centric hierarchy, market values borrowed by the military profession, the convergence of military and civilian occupations, the commodification of military service, and new contractual forms of bargaining between soldiers and the military.

Methodologically, the market army is exemplified by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Israel represents a “critical case” for testing theory in this regard because conditions in the country appear to be generally unfavorable to the emergence of a market army (see Yin 2003, 39-40, at the theoretical level). Particularly relevant are such circumstances as the centrality of security issues in Israeli public life, with its army engaging in an unending conflict with its neighboring armies, leading to military expenditures that are higher relative to other countries; state regulation of the market that is more pronounced in Israel than in other Western democracies; and the country’s continued adherence to the draft system. It is precisely this situation that makes the Israeli army a suitable case study. A critical case is always a unique case, making it applicable to other cases. Given that background, evidence that the IDF constitutes a market army might help confirm and even extend the general theory that attempts to typify the postmodern/post-Fordist army. What is valid in the Israeli case can be assumed to be valid in other democracies, too. Indeed, examples drawn from the U.S. army show that the Israeli case is not an exception to what appears to be a more general trend.

Historical Background

Since the 1980s, as in other Western democracies, there has been growing tension in Israel between the market and militarism, requiring increasing justification for investments in the resources needed to support the use of force.

Until the 1980s, the army was considered to be above the market. The widespread legitimacy enjoyed by the state in controlling the economy, along with its status as the main provider of civil services and a high level of cultural militarism, ensured that military expenditures as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP) rose steadily from about 1 0 percent in the first years of statehood (1948-50) to a peak of about 30 percent in 1 974-76. Military expenditures competed with other items in the state budget, but not with the market.

Conversely, during the 1980s, an equation that positioned financial growth alongside cutbacks in the security budget was presenred as a way of routing resources away from inherently wasteful (purely military) activities and toward activities that would promote economic growth. The Economic Stabilization Plan, implemented by the government in 1985 to eliminate Israel’s hyperinflation, incorporated deep cutbacks in military spending, a reduction in governmental military-industrial activity, and a toning down of the army’s belligerent profile, as manifested in 1985, when the government ordered the IDF to effect a unilateral partial withdrawal from Lebanon, which Israel had invaded in 1982. This confluence of events marks the period of time during which Israel became a “market society.” State involvement in the economy was shaped largely by the neoliberal agenda. This agenda called for minimizing the role of the state in favor of the market and sanctified the values of the free market in the name of individual freedom, while portraying government interference as an obstacle to economic growth. This trend intensified during the early 1990s with the acceleration of the regional peace process, at the center of which was the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo Accords, as warfare was seen as hindering Israel’s integration into the global economy (on the cultural and political changes in Israel, see Levy 2007; Shafir and Peled 2002; Shalev 2000).

Gradually, rather than standing above the market, or even competing with it, the IDF was subordinated to the market. According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, during the years 1985-2006, while GDP rose by about 200 percent, military spending as a proportion of GDP dropped by more than 50 percent. Most of the money saved was diverted to private consumption. True, the defense budget rose during emergencies, but overall, real defense expenditures in 2006 were 17 percent lower compared to the mid-1990s (Shiffer 2008, 220-21). In other words, private consumption was favored over military consumption. The neoliberal doctrine created a broad political-cultural base from which to criticize the extent of the army’s resources, thereby forcing the military to adapt its internal management to the new cultural rules. A gradual transformation from a “citizen army” to a “market army” was set in motion.

Characterizing the Market Army

The notion of the “citizen army” refers to the Western historical pattern in which, from the 1 800s on, mercenarism gradually declined and was replaced by citizen armies, recruited exclusively from the local citizenry. Beginning with revolutionary France, the model of a mass army that was based on conscription, especially in wartime, gradually began to evolve. At the height of this process, during World War II, even the United States enacted a draft. The “citizen army” has several characteristics beyond its source composition, central to which is the supremacy of military values over those of the market: (1) the essence of military service is a monopolistic public service regulated by administrative provisions, in which servicepeople believe they have a national calling that they are committed to as a civic duty. In return, the fulfillment of this duty grants them rights, and in this way, the army also performs social functions such as integrating new immigrants or marginal groups; (2) there is a Fordist structure with a vertical hierarchy, typical of other modern mass organizations that have developed since the eighteenth century; (3) professional military values dominate the organizational culture through which the military traditionally has claimed its monopolistic jurisdiction as the state’s controller of society’s violent resources; (4) inasmuch as recruitment is regulated by administrative provisions, the military’s main constitutive features (social composition, recruitment policy, military doctrine, etc.) are determined by republican-type bargaining between the state and the social groups staffing the ranks.

Since the 1960s, however, most Western democracies have abolished the draft and turned to all-volunteer forces instead. As the studies cited earlier concur, not only has the model of recruitment changed, but this change, along with market-oriented pressures, has intensified broader shifts in the military format in the spirit of postmodernity/post-Fordism. While formally remaining citizen armies for as long as they continue to draw on the local citizenry, the broader changes occurring in Western militaries nonetheless justify their reclassification as “market armies.”

The demise of the “citizen army” means the supremacy of the values of the market over those of the military. Military service is no longer valued as a civic duty, and it does not establish the criteria for the allocation of social rights; a combination of contracted soldiers and companies has supplanted the “citizen” as the fundamental building block of the military institution. Not only has the market come to regulate human resource policies, but also it has gradually extended its governance over other military practices as well, mainly the organizational culture, the military profession, and organizations’ relations with its recruits. Vocationalization made human resources costly, and thus encouraged the pursuit of organizational and operational policies that would reduce costs with retreat from traditional social roles. This demand explains the growing pressure to reform the army’s internal structure in ways that would grant it legitimacy in the eyes of market society advocates.

Israel is a unique case: it has remained faithful to the draft system, and the IDF traditionally has been portrayed as the “people’s army.” As such, it is considered an extremely efficient nation builder in a young immigrant society, and it enjoys the image of a universal force that rises above the class divisions of Israeli Jewish society. Together with a militaristic political culture that accepted the use of force as the only way to protect the Israeli Jewish community against the ever-present Arab threat, the IDF’s populist glow made compulsory military service an article of faith in Israel. Indeed, for many years, the draft was beyond debate. However, with declining conscription rates – in 2010, less than 75 percent of Jewish males of draft age (Palestinian citizens are exempted from service) enlisted in the IDF – the demobilization of the “people’s army” and its replacement with a professional voluntary military no longer appears to be so distant a prospect (see Levy 2007, 236-45). As part of this trend, which has occurred in conjunction with economic and cultural pressures, the IDF has emulated market principles, progressively becoming a “market army.” Table 1 presents the main general differences between the two types of armies.

Value System

In general, in the post-Fordist age, military values gradually have been subjected to the market. “Free market fundamentalism,” with its concomitant antagonism toward public expenditure, has become dominant in both thought and practice since the 1970s under a neoliberal ethos. This cultural barrier prohibited governments from increasing military expenses unless they served economic or business interests (Harvey 2005). National security issues are evaluated against the defense costs as much as against the economic benefits that may offset the costs (see, e.g., Nordhaus 2002). In this spirit, economists have often debated whether military expenditure plays a critical role in maintaining low levels of unemployment and contributing to growth, or whether it is a burden on growth. The intensification of this debate since the 1 970s signals the new ethos of endeavoring to rein in defense budgets (Pivetti 1992). Specifically, neoliberal pressures to increase governmental control over public expenditures have been extended to the military and have driven it to implement organizational reforms that demonstrate cost-effectiveness considerations (Dandeker 1994).

In Israel, market principles are increasingly superimposed on military professional considerations, despite the centrality of the external security threat. In 1985, reforms were made to the reserve army, which is the IDF’s principal component. At that time, reserve service was not only a legal obligation imbued with symbolic meaning, but also was constructed in terms of a community that was experienced by its members as overlapping with society, and as one of the main embodiments of Israeli masculinity (Helman 1997). Moreover, because the daily cost of a reserve soldier’s service (primarily compensating him or her for rhe loss of earnings) was not borne by the defense budget but by the National Insurance Institute, the reserve army was largely managed in isolation from economic considerations. With the reform, however, the cost of reserve duty was transferred directly to the IDF, and a price tag was attached to the service of reserve soldiers. This change provided an incentive for the army to rein in its use of reservists and to divert resources to other purposes, resulting in a dramatic reduction in the number of overall reserve duty days (from some 10 million days in 1985 to about 3 million days in 2006; see Knesset 2003, 2007). Consequently, only about 5 percent of the Jewish male population participates in significant yearly service (Heimann 2004). In short, the reform of the reserves brought about a semiselective recruitment model for the first time, one that deviated from universalist principles. In practice, the ethos of the “citizen army” is barely evident in the reserve system.

No less important, new market-oriented manpower policies were instilled at die unit level, overshadowing professional values. A battalion commander in the reserves summed up the new situation when he complained, “At the end of the tour of reserve duty the officers would count up for the commander how many reserve days the battalion had used up. Nobody was interested in how many soldiers were trained to perform ambushes on Mount Hermon [one of the most sensitive areas on the Israeli-Syrian border], In the IDF of 1998, the only measurement that matters is economic” (Landsberg 1998).

Likewise, during the 1990s, economic calculations led to what Stuart Cohen (2008, 93-96) termed the shift from a posture of role expansion to one of role contraction. In other words, the IDF retreated from its traditional role of nation builder and cut back on missions, such as enlisting immigrants ages 22 to 25 for a short period as a mechanism for absorbing and recruiting undereducated youngsters for service in a special track that combined military training with basic education.

Faced with budgetary shortfalls and a price tag attached to reserve soldiers, the IDF also cut back on the training of reserve divisions during the years prior to the Second Lebanon War of 2006. In practice, the reserve forces ceased to be the core of the IDF. Consequently, when the war broke out, Israel mainly deployed the air force, though this alone failed to achieve the goals of the war. In other words, market-oriented constraints dictated Israel’s military doctrine.

After the Second Lebanon War, the market-oriented approach was taken one step further. Sever Plocker (2006), an editorial writer at Israel’s most popular daily, Yediot Ahronoth, conducted a cost-benefit analysis of the war in order to challenge the government’s decision to increase the defense budget following the war. According to Plocker’s calculations, it cost the IDF $3.5 billion to kill 250 Hezbollah fighters (the number of reported casualties) – that is, each terrorist cost Israel $14 million. For a billion dollars, Plocker suggested, Israel “could have bought the retirement of 2,000 Hezbollah fighters – and saved the economy $2.5 [billion]. This would have been done without a war.”

Indeed, a few months after the war, the government appointed a special committee (Brodet Committee 2007) to examine the defense budget, and subsequently approved its recommendations. The committee found a number of significant flaws in the IDF’s economic management. In practice, the committee advocated that not only should the IDF’s management be subjected to the strictures of the market economy, but so, too, should aspects of its operations. Among the committee’s recommendations were proposals that the IDF emulate management practices now common in business organizations, that it build training programs in collaboration with businesspeople, that it implement pay incentives for units and commanders who meet efficiency targets, and that it outsource and civilianize missions that are not part of the IDF’s core business. Moreover, the committee called for the development of a model that would calculate the munitions costs of destroying certain targets, and it recommended that this model be incorporated into evaluations of commanders’ performances. In other words, for all intents and purposes, the report recommended instigating the economic measurement of military activities.

The implication of this approach is not just budget cutting, but also its effect on preferences and priorities, such as subordinating the defense of perceived national assets to economic calculations and even weighing casualty rates against munitions costs. An example is the argument against using nonstealth bombers equipped with longrange standoff weapons, which allow planes to hit targets without entering hostile airspace because these weapons are too expensive (Thompson 2001).

Military Structure

The IDF has taken on a post-Fordist form very similar to that of its Western counterparts, as King elaborated. Training, logistics, maintenance, medical services, catering, and other services have been partly outsourced to private suppliers. In 2005, Major General Udi Adam, head of the Technological and Logistics Directorate of the IDF, stated that the military had adopted the “lean manufacturing” concept developed by Toyota, with its central “just-in-time” component and “just enough” logistics, instead of costly “just-incase” logistics (Adam 2005).

Even though an army is always preparing for the next round of hostilities, at this point, the market ethos was powerful enough to mute any serious public debate concerning the risk of relying on private suppliers and the implications for performance and cohesiveness. Indeed, the Winograd Committee (2008), which investigated the IDF’s flawed performance in the Second Lebanon War, highlighted the IDF’s faulty logistics, but without relating these problems directly to the reforms.

More significantly, the IDF adopted a unique post-Fordist model by relying on the business community to fund some of its human resource and equipment costs. Conscripts are paid “pocket money,” which leaves them economically reliant on their families. However, about 10,000 soldiers from poor families are defined as “needy soldiers,” to whom the military pays supplementary allowances in a number of ways. Part of this effort is funded by philanthropy. The Association for Soldiers of Israel (a public nongovernmental organization) solicits private donations to help soldiers from poor families buy food, furniture, and electrical equipment and later provides discharged combat soldiers from low-income families with opportunities for higher education by awarding generous grants.2

In practice, then, the Israeli version of post-Fordism extends to the partial privatization of the wage system. Instead of paying a minimum wage that would enable needy soldiers to support their families, this task has been transferred, in part, to the private sector. Furthermore, unit commanders often try to elicit contributions from private donors and companies to supplement funds for necessary equipment. As noted in the State Comptroller’s Report (no. 56a, 2005, 86-91), units have acted autonomously and without sufficient control in fund-raising and allocating money. Furthermore, during the Second Lebanon War, private companies donated ceramic bullet-proof vests, clothing, and even food to certain reserve units (Ben-Yehuda 2006). In a more institutional manner, business corporations permanently and generously support field units’ social activities.

This pattern is liable to undermine the contractual relations between conscripts and the state that underpin the draft system. With the end of mercenarism, the idea of the draft system is that the state no longer “buys” its soldiers, but rather cultivates them through investment in education and welfare programs (Thomson 1990, 32-33). It is, moreover, the state’s responsibility to equip the soldiers. With the market-driven demise of the welfare state, and with conscription in Israel showing signs of having run its course, unit commanders have partly returned to a kind of mercenarism, according to which it is also the commanders’ responsibility – and not solely the state’s – to feed and even equip their soldiers. Broadly speaking, post-Fordist armies in general are loose organizations, especially when the “econometric” mind-set dominates (Moskos 2001).

One may argue, however, that when Israel fully adopts the vocational model, the wage system will have to be renationalized, as the army will have to offer reasonable compensation to its recruits without relying on sponsorship. This prospect would imply that die IDF is not a suitable model for theorizing about the “market army.” However, even in Great Britain, with its long tradition of volunteer forces, the Afghanistan Trust was formed in 2007 to support wounded soldiers who had served with the 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment.3 Indeed, philanthropy traditionally has been used to raise money for military tasks (such as war relief funds during the early twentieth-century South African War; see Thompson 2002). In the United States as well, hundreds of private groups assist Iraq War veterans financially, filling the gap between government aid and the vets’ needs.4 Occupationalization, moreover, does not necessarily enhance internal ties. Sponsorship may take on the new form of business sponsorship of units as a means of leveraging the enlistees as potential customers. The marketization of the education system, including that in Israel, suggests a similar pattern.

Military Hierarchy

In light of financial and strategic pressures – adaptation to the new battlefield typified by insurgency warfare and the end of conventional war – militaries have not only become smaller, but also have sought to achieve greater strategic flexibility in their organizational structures (Dandeker 1994, 645). Arguments in favor of flattening the military hierarchy – namely, moving down from the division to smaller units as the primary maneuver units – are increasingly heard as one of the most conspicuous post-Fordist constructs.

A flattened hierarchy is a clear case of armies being inspired by the practices of business corporations. Ostensibly, armies have always been affected by the surrounding markets, with wealth and military capability working together to shape military doctrine ever since the sixteenth century (Howard 2001). However, what is new is that armies are now borrowing from the world of business to a far greater extent than the latter is adapting models from the military sphere. At the level of warfare, in contrast to the era of industrial wars, when the “mode of warfare” dominated and shaped the “mode of production” (Kaldor 1982), in the era of information warfare, the mode of warfare has lost much of its strength to inspire the mode of production. Information warfare increasingly relies on the nonmass production orientation of business corporations, which, in turn, affects military doctrine (Toffler and TofHer 1994). At the level of military structure and culture, financial and union pressures in the industrial era led to the increased standardization of workplace routines. As Clegg, Kornberger, and Pitsis claimed, “[I]t was not the market but the military model that provided the best template for this organization design” (2004, 13). Taylorism, for example, which formulated the principles of scientific management, was borrowed from the lessons learned in drilling soldiers in the use of weapons (Dandeker 1990). Now, the direction of influence has been reversed.

Flattening may save costs by reducing the number of management layers, but more importantly, it speeds up the flow of information from central command to the unit, as well as among units, and creates incentives for using more detailed and timely information. This model allows the lower levels of the hierarchy to exercise initiative, thus enabling units to react more quickly to events, especially those that are unforeseen (Fukuyama and Shulsky 1997). “Networkcentric warfare” is an operative manifestation of the flat hierarchy. Its advocates (among them an admiral and an advisor on the Joint Chiefs of Staff) called on the U.S. Navy to imitate the new models adopted by business organizations, namely, the shift in focus from the platform to the network, from viewing actors as independent to viewing them as part of a continuously adapting ecosystem. These models, they said, “have changed the nature of American business today, and they also have changed and will continue to change the way we conduct the sometimes violent business of the military” (Cebrowski and Garstka 1998, 28). Network-centric warfare was inspired, as the authors suggested, by the experience of Walmart and other firms.

Indeed, this concept integrates the logic of the horizontal hierarchy with the metaphor of the “virtual corporation.” The warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan exemplified this new model, which built strategically on the assumption that warfare no longer follows the traditional state-based pattern, thus favoring a new division of labor between globally connected societies (see Dillon 2002).

However, flattening has two problematic implications for the military organization: (1) the larger the span of control, the harder it is for superior commanders to provide training and instructions to their subordinates, and (2) with the removal of mid-level echelons of command, officers may be upgraded without sufficient preparation, a process that may impede their growth within the organization and increase die recruitment of trained outsiders (Fukuyama and Shulsky 1997). Thus, borrowing from business corporations may affect the military’s ethos and professionalism.

The Israeli army has adopted network-centric methods – successfully in the battle against Palestinian militias, and less successfully in Lebanon. In the Israeli version, the notion of “diffused warfare” was promoted. It was anchored in the fundamental shift from a military doctrine based on a linear approach, which concentrates masses of forces on a few points on the battlefield, to diffused and distributed warfare, which takes place simultaneously on the entire battlefield, distributing the force to a multitude of separate pressure points rather than concentrating it. “Dynamic molecules” became the new maneuver units, each of them containing an independent multidimensional sensor and shooter component, capable at all times of tying into the other molecular systems operating in their proximity. These structures can expand to the size of traditional units of action, such as platoons or regiments (Yaari and Assa 2005).

“Swarming,” a concept borrowed from the U.S. Army, was among the doctrinarian expressions of diffused warfare. The IDF’s version of swarming involves a number of units simultaneously arriving at a target, preferably from 360 degrees, and includes “noisy humming,” a tactic that makes it very difficult for the enemy to know where the attacker is coming from. Swarming embodies the idea of die flat hierarchy by lowering the thresholds of decision making to the immediate tactical level and encouraging local initiative (Weizman 2007).

The immediate motivation for developing the network-centric concept was to provide an answer to the new, twofold challenge facing Israel in the war against the Palestinians: to quell the uprising without reconquering the densely populated Palestinian cities, which would cause heavy casualties, and to fight effectively against a network of unorganized guerillas. However, as with other Western armies, market-based ideas also inspired the IDF. First, swarming is a marketing concept – “swarm theory” refers to the notion that people and rlieir opinions coalesce to form critical forces that have a massive influence on marketplace ideas and concepts (Brymer 2007). In other words, both sets of doctrines, military and marketing, believe in nonhierarchical, diffused methods. Although swarm theory was articulated for marketing long after it had been practiced by armies, the role of networks is not new to marketing.

Both ideas, moreover, have a common intellectual source: as the Israeli intellectual architect of the swarming approach, Brigadier General Shimon Naveh, has revealed, the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze profoundly influenced the IDF’s new mode of thinking (Feldman 2007). Deleuze (1992) analyzed the transition from the “disciplinary society” of the eighteenth to the twentieth century, in which the individual was always moving from one territorially closed environment to another (from school to the barracks, from the barracks to the factory, etc.), each having its own laws, to a “society of control,” in which one is never finished with anything. The new spheres of the “society of control” are “metastable states coexisting in one and the same modulation, like a universal system of deformation.” It is organized by information rather than walls, so the access is by code, a password, replacing the watchwords that regulated die disciplinary societies.

This transition partly correlates with the shift from Fordism to postFordism (Buchmann 2005). “Diffused warfare” echoes this idea: diffusion instead of concentration, information-based coordination displacing physical proximity under a unified command, hierarchies broken down and replaced by networks. In this regard, the dynamic molecule is the military embodiment of the virtual corporation. Furthermore, diffused warfare renders land occupation unnecessary. Because of the flexibility of the molecule, its versatility, and the difficulty the enemy has in detecting and predicting its patterns of conduct, it can thwart guerrilla or terrorist actions without physical occupation (Yaari and Assa 2005). Again, the traditional form of territoriality typified by “disciplinary societies” is fractured and replaced by a new form of information-based remote control, epitomized in “control societies.”

Military Culture

Over the past decades, armies in general have embodied a duality of organization and profession. Recently, though, they increasingly have begun to use organizational concepts in designing and structuring the institution’s systems instead of professional military concepts. Thus, more space is opened up for market-inspired methods, increasing their impact on the military culture (on the U.S. Army, see Snider and Watkins 2000).

As part of this trend, the U.S. Army adopted the philosophy of total quality management (TQM) in the late 1980s. In general, TQM aimed at ensuring customer satisfaction through continuous improvement of the production process by involving all of the organization’s customers. The army was driven by its shrinking budget, the subsequent need to maximize scarce resources, and the increased competitiveness within the Department of Defense, which required agencies to practice common business techniques, such as lowest cost per unit. Some cultural barriers were encountered during the learning process, including the hierarchical nature of the army versus the decentralized nature of TQM, and the army’s focus on action-oriented, short-term results (Zimmerman 1992).

A few years later, the IDF embarked on the same project, with a similar market logic. Philosopher Ilan Gur-Ze’ev (1997) argued that this philosophy reflects a deeper change by showing that in developed capitalism, there is hardly any difference between the economy of death production and the production of other commodities. IDF commanders understand themselves as embedded within and reflecting advanced capitalism, in accordance with which the IDF’s activities have no inherent value, but are measured in terms of “quality” alone. Small wonder, argues Gur-Ze’ev, that this strategy has extended to the very practices of war.

For example, the commander is officially conceptualized as a professional who provides services to his clients, namely, other units. Training troops and war preparations are “input,” war is the “output,” and the principle of performance is the only valid criterion for evaluating commanders’ behavior. Accordingly, “control centers” are places where the army “manages the war,” while the commanders themselves have internalized managerial habits.

Later, in the early 2000s, the new operative terminology drawn from the “diffused warfare” concept adopted more market-oriented terms. For example, units competed for missions in “open tenders”; missions were used as “leverage” to influence third parties; and the IDF wanted its message to be “burnt into (the Palestinians’) consciousness,” a notion drawn from branding and marketing. Units even presented their “vision,” rather than talking in terms of “targets” (see Rappaport 2006).

Again, the IDF has mirrored broader processes, specifically, the emergence of the Revolution in Military Affairs and the progress of “network-centric warfare” in the U.S. Army and the new jargon that it spawned. Some of the market-originated terms, such as “just-intime warfare” (Kaldor 2002), embodied an effort to adapt to the new qualities of the modern American economy, which, like “network-centric warfare,” favored adventurousness, spontaneity, and a willingness to share information (Freedman 1998).

Military Profession

In addition to borrowing organizational methods from business corporations that derive from an increasing isomorphism with the business sphere, Western militaries have also been experiencing a growing convergence of military and civilian occupations. “Postheroic” warfare – that is, warfare that minimizes the risk to soldiers by relying on advanced technologies and information technology – brought about more similarities than ever between combat roles, which increasingly involved operating technology, and civilian roles. Much of this trend can be attributed to the post-Cold War policy of “dual use” technology, that is, the attempt to develop technologies that can be used in both the military and the civilian sectors (Etzkowitz 1996). Another important driving force behind the “civilianizing” of military occupations is the “second-career” transition for military personnel (Biderman and Sharp 1968). Furthermore, the military increasingly highlights the transferability of skills from the military to society to show that skills learned in the army are usable in the civilian labor market and that public budgets are therefore not being wasted (Dandeker 1994, 646).

Going one step further, the convergence between military and technological firms may lead to the execution of military rasks by private firms. An example of this trend is the military’s reliance on commercial space technology for communications, even during war (WaIdrop 2004). In this sense, a market army means that future warfare may be conducted by a “network military” composed of civilian firms and traditional military units. Thus, as Snider and Watkins (2000) concluded, militaries find it increasingly difficult to distinguish their jurisdiction from those of other organizations and professions.

Israel offers a number of clear examples of such convergence. For instance, the Israel Air Force has intensified the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to the point that they have become an integral part of its arsenal. It would appear that UAVs are deployed to conduct targeted assassinations in the Gaza Strip (Whitaker 2004). Because UAVs are increasingly operated for civilian operations and by civilian operators (e.g., air traffic controllers), there exists a greater potential for joint civil-military operations. Furthermore, the Israel Air Force even recruits UAV operators among youngsters with experience in flying model airplanes (Washier 2000). In orher words, the market trains potential soldiers, not the opposite.

Robotics provides another illustration of how a civilian development came to be emulated by modern militaries as a means of saving human costs. Not only does the civilian robotics industry produce the robots, but, owing to its capabilities and ideas, it also plays a leading role in defining the military use of robotics (NATO Studies 2006). Military robotics has thus taken advantage of civilian advances, where economic factors have prompted the search for substitutes for human labor. Driven by the need for economic efficiency and casualty-averse policies, military robotics has become more relevant, especially given the future dynamics of the new urban battlefield. Future robotics describes the development of “autonomous weapon systems,” that is, an artificially intelligent “killer robot” (Sparrow 2007). In this regard, Israel is following the global path. Beyond the traditional use of robots in bomb defusal, Israel is developing a “patrolling robot” capable of guarding the country’s borders with its Arab neighbors without human contact, and hence with fewer risks. The prototype for this model is a Japanese vacuum cleaner robot (Feldman 2008).

Convergence is also evident at a more structural level. A navy brigadier general and another senior officer proposed that risk capital funds should invest in developing military technologies that are transferable to the civilian sector, with the IDF serving as a technological incubator (Bar-Yosef and Arbel 2002). Indeed, alongside the increased convergence between the market and the military, this initiative may make military projects far more market oriented, as the writers acknowledged.

The Essence of Military Service and Mode of Bargaining between the Military and Its Recruits

According to Moskos’s well-known argument (1997), since the 1970s, the U.S. Army has undergone a transition “from institution to occupation” – in other words, from an institution that is legitimated in terms of values and norms to an occupation that is legitimated in terms of the marketplace, in which remuneration is determined by the laws of supply and demand and recruits are motivated by self-interest rather than the organization’s interest. Vocationalization embodies the institutional aspect of this transition, which has largely mirrored the severance of the traditional link between soldiering and citizenship (Burk 1995). Military service was eroded as a route to active citizenship for the middle class, who resisted the draft and thus paved the road to a vocational army.

Vocationalization increasingly has become entwined with contracting out. In the United States, the current ratio of contractors to military personnel in the Iraq theater is 1:1, higher than the ratio of 1:5 in Vietnam and 1:7 in World War II. It has largely resulted from reductions in the size of the post- Cold War military, which increased the reliance on contractors for support functions (CBO 2008).

It follows that new contractual relations are formed between the recruits (and again, contractors are increasingly replacing recruits) and the state through the military. In other words, the military profession has been commodified. Advocates of the republican conception of citizenship have criticized this trend on the grounds that “to turn such service into a commodity – a job for pay – is to corrupt or degrade the sense of civic virtue that properly attends it” (Sandel 2003, 90). Thus, the mode of bargaining that typified the citizen army vanishes. When imbued with symbols of civic duty, conscription may construct political expectations that derive from the very nature of the military mission (such as ideological fulfillment or a desire to serve the nation). Therefore, dissenting views breed republican-type collective action, such as antiwar movements populated by veterans and draft dodgers.

Commodified military service, however, lowers such expectations, and the exchange between the state and social groups shifts to the level of employer (military) vis-à-vis employees (recruits). What is at stake is the ability of enlistees to support their families, not their ideological grievances. Solthers’ support for military missions, then, is often “purchased” rather than politically mobilized. In the same way that labor is hired through the market, rather than conscripted through coercive state mechanisms, so must the military, as an employer, persuade the labor pool that working for it is attractive. Marketing military service means relying on monetary attractions rather than reinforcing the political legitimation of war among potential enlistees and their social networks.

This is not to say that patriotism lost its grip, especially in the United States; however, it is not enough. It would appear that only very generous financial bonuses have enabled the U.S. Army to meet its recruitment quotas since 2006 and to implement the administration’s decisions to send more troops to Iraq (see Korb and Duggan 2007). On the other hand, despite the vocationalization of the army, the republican rhetoric of the citizen-solther tradition has dominated the public discourse, with voices claiming or granting special rights in return for military service, praising solthers and veterans as paragons of patriotism and good citizenship, and hailing the fallen as model citizens, devoted to the political community. One explanation for this trend may be that in order to reduce the costs of a volunteer force, the polity offers solthers social approbation to compensate for their sacrifice and relatively low pay (Krebs 2008). In sum, solthering is regulated by the market. And as long as the transition to the market army proceeds, the market’s role may increase.

Commodification thus paves the way for more extensive bargaining, and Western armies are indeed typified by increasing rates of unionization. Unionization results from the disappearance of the guarantees that the state can offer to professionals in uniform, especially following demilitarization and neoliberalization (see Cafo rio 2003). While unionization is outlawed in the U.S. Army, the concept has been the subject of a long political and professional debate (Caforio 2003, 315-16).

Against this background, even the mode of solthers’ protest has changed. Contractual solthers typically prefer a “contractual exit” from the ranks to an independent “political voice” expressed through their social networks, a form of protest that is more typical of the citizen army. And when they choose to protest, the mode of protest changes. During the Iraq War, a new antiwar movement was established by a group of junior members of the military, including reservists, who called for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq within the framework of An Appeal for Redress from the War in Iraq. As of December 2008, about 2,200 solthers had signed the appeal. “Implicit in the appeal is the suggestion that national-security policies somehow require the consent of those in uniform,” claimed Bacevich (2007), because “those choosing to serve do not represent a cross section of America, and most are presumably well aware ofthat fact.” In other words, with the waning of the republican model of the citizen army, in which civilian networks (including veterans and potential draftees) expressed the solthers’ voice, much of this political task has now been transferred to the solthers themselves.

Furthermore, some of the postmodern components described by Moskos (2001), such as growing religious diversity, can be accounted for as a mode of bargaining. Identity politics among minority groups manifests itself within the ranks, with such groups finding themselves with increased bargaining power to create a culturally suitable service environment. It follows that unionism extends to nonmaterial, political, and cultural forms as well.

Because the IDF is a conscript force, the space for commodification and unionization is naturally limited. Nonetheless, as shown by the reforms to the reserve army described earlier, by attaching a price tag to reserve service and making economic considerations paramount in manpower policies, contractual relations with the reservists were modified. As has been the case in the European and American experiences, the institution/occupation shift encourages unique forms of military unionization.

The reform to the reserve system in the IDF reduced the equal distribution of burden to a point that only a minority was performing the bulk of reserve service. Reaching its peak during the mid-1990s, this trend encouraged reservists to organize in unprecedented ways. In 1999, reserve pilots staged what was effectively a revolt, when they refused to fly until full insurance coverage was provided for pilots who might be injured during service. In 2001, this revolt widened to include a number of reserve battalion commanders (Limor 2001).

Concurrently, new reservist organizations were established that lobbied for better conditions for reservists, formed ad hoc coalitions with politicians to promote reservists’ interests, and organized protest actions. They were recognized by the government as semirepresentative organizations with which officers formally negotiated. Gradually, these new forms of protest propelled the IDF and the government to reform the reserve army, mainly by reducing the load on army reservists and by institutionalizing a package of financial benefits. Barriers to unionization thus generated alternative modes of revolt and other extramilitary organizations (Levy and Mizrahi 2008).

At the same time, bargaining between conscripts and the military command emerged as well. Since the 1990s, solthers have begun to negotiate with the army in person or through their families or other networks. These negotiations can determine the individual’s role in the army, the conditions under which he or she serves, restrictions on his or her service and military function, and even the very fact of his or her serving at all. Growing rates of avoidance of military service because of purported physical health or menral problems and “gray” and selective forms of disobethence resulting from political objections to the nature of military missions (among left- and right-wing solthers alike) were among the main forms of such bargaining. They derived from the drop in motivation to serve, mainly among the secular middle-class sector, previously the social backbone of the IDF (for evidence, see Levy 2009). This trend caused a shift in soltherarmy relations from a subjected militarism that perceived military service as an unconditioned, mandatory national duty to a contractual militarum, according to which military service, although it remains a formal obligation, is stipulated by the fulfillment of the individual’s ambitions and interests (Levy, Lomsky- Feder, and Harel 2007).

Of great importance was the tendency of solthers’ parents, generally from the secular middle-class stratum, to openly involve themselves in the affairs of the army by leveraging their increasingly unlimited access to their sons’ and daughters’ commanders. In the face of the erosion of the motivation to serve, the IDF has increasingly relied on “mediators” through which to encourage recruitment, among them parents (see Herzog 2004). Military parenting reached new heights in September 2007. In response to a Qassam rocket attack from Gaza on the basic training base at Zikim that left four solthers seriously wounded, many parents, in a typical form of collective bargaining, besieged the camp and demanded that “the children” be removed from the facility to a safer base. Although the IDF rejected this demand, it provided better shelters for the camp.


Armies have gone through a dramatic change, from citizen to market armies. On the continuum between these two extreme types, the Israeli model is still located closer to the “citizen” pole, while its American counterpart is closer to the “market” pole. The intersection of the postmodern format with post-Fordist reforms elicits a new model that represents both transformations, while at the same time transcending them. Therein lies the advantage of the concept of the “market army” over the postmodern/post-Fordist approaches. The market army does not only emulate post-Fordist principles, but increasingly subjects its internal management, mode of operation, and working relations to the principles of the market economy. Diverse forms of unionization and the changing pattern of the military profession and culture all go beyond the structural transformations captured in the post-Fordist account. Post-Fordist structural changes are part of the rise of the market society, and so the interplay between the market and the army has been transformed to a greater extent than is claimed by rhe post-Fordist account. Some of the cultural and professional trends have been recognized by proponents of the postmodern military, but not the aforementioned interplay with the market.

Israel has served here as a “critical case” with which to develop the theory of the market army. With its draft system and an environment that is highly sensitive to security issues, we would hardly expect the IDF to emulate market-based principles. Given that it has done so, however, broader theoretical conclusions can be drawn from the Israeli case. Still, as the basic evidence was drawn from other armies, especially the U.S. Army, it is clear that the IDF is not an exception to what appears to be a more general trend.

King (2006) countered the argument that post-Fordist military reforms originated in the militaries’ need to acquire legitimacy by implementing practices derived from the commercial and industrial sectors, as a form of “institutional isomorphism.” Instead, he claimed that the post-Cold War military cannot fulfill its core role without major institutional changes in light of its competition with private military companies, shrinking resources, and the need to address new threats. Hence, post-Fordist reforms were set in motion. And when the United States adopted the post-Fordist approach within its armed forces, other Western militaries began to follow its lead (Demchak 2003).

To bypass this argument, it could be suggested that Western armies, including the IDF, are indeed faced with real needs for institutional reform rather than simply imitating corporate practices. Be that as it may, neoliberal “free market fundamentalism,” with the antagonism it entails toward public expenditure, including that for the military, has become dominant in both thought and practice since the 1 970s (Harvey 2005). Thus, it is reasonable to assume that governmental reforms seek forms that will potentially reduce the antagonism of free marketeers. The assimilation of market practices can be instrumental in this regard. Given the neoliberal agenda, business corporations offer the most accessible repertoire from which the army can choose practices in its attempt to face these new challenges. Reforms are not necessarily driven by the pursuit of market legitimation, but the market repertoire is emulated as the alternative that is expected to be recognized as legitimate in terms of the market economy.

Furthermore, following the neoinstitutionalist account, past experience affects behavior in new situations (Greif 2006). Reforms implemented in business corporations offer a repertoire of perceived success (such as that learned from Toyota and Walmart) from which other organizations can choose when facing a new organizational situation, such as the new challenges confronting post-Cold War militaries (see Florensa 2004). Given that organizations, including armies, apply similar reforms, it would seem that a broader cultural trend has been affecting organizational practices rather than simply being a problem-solving mechanism.

An analogous process can be seen in the marketization of nonprofit organizations (including hospitals and schools). Environmental constraints have led nonprofit organizations to adopt certain methods and values of the market, driving them to incorporate the practices and procedures dictated by the prevailing concepts of organizational work (Eikenberry and Kluver 2004). Like the military, nonprofit organizations have gone a long way in their attempts to imitate business organizations.

Moving one step further, militaries could have selected other, less market-oriented modes of operation. Arguably, the theory of “network-centric warfare” failed to anticipate or provide solutions to the counterinsurgency conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, just as it failed in the Second Lebanon War, in the sense that combat operations are not necessarily the right tool to stabilize or reshape political order. In the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan, interaction with local population requires the creation of social networks rather than technological networks that destroy military targets (Sellin 2008). In the case of Lebanon, the post-Lebanon IDF’s shirking of market-inspired approaches in favor of traditional ones provides additional evidence for the road not taken. In all cases, the “economization” of firepower could lead to a fatal overestimation of combat capabilities and a failure to consider other options.

It is safe to assume that in the future, armies will be more marketized than they are today. As the movement from citizen to market armies continues, the remaining “citizen” component may be gradually rooted out by “market” elements, to the point that mercenarism will once again become dominant. The growing presence of private security contractors in Iraq is a case in point (CBO 2008). The army of the future may be dominated by networks of business suppliers of combat services and pure military suppliers enmeshed in a broader military supply chain. In other words, the core functions of the military may be contracted out.

Four political problems thus arise: (1) This new mode presents a huge challenge to the ability of the political community to monitor the army. The more military activities are institutionally diffused, the harder it is to control them relative to the old system of a coherent institution. (2) Contracting out missions to private security companies reduces public transparency, favors the executive branch over the legislature, and may empower private corporations to influence and even carry out policies that deviate from agreed national goals (Avant 2007, 458-59). This situation may aggravate the already recognized threat that overreliance on the “military-industrial complex” poses (see Kettl 1993, 199-200). “The logic of the market could be extended to challenge the notion that armies should be run by the government,” warned Sandel (2003, 92). (3) The deployment of technologically advanced, commodified forces for previously disputed missions will be easier, a flaw that has already been detected with the current all-volunteer force. (4) Market-oriented constraints on military doctrines and operational plans may lead to favoring “wars of interest” aimed at protecting economic interests over other missions, especially those aimed at stopping large-scale human rights violations.

Against this background, the ability to stop the “market army” from moving from a conventional post-Fordist model that limits itself to contracting out mainly logistics to a model that is consistent with the privatization of war is a real challenge for liberal democracies.


I would like to thank Stuart Cohen, Elisha Efrat, Eran Feitelson, Tamar Hermann, Rasern Khamaisí, Amiram Oren, Zeev Rosenhek, Zalman Shiffer, Erez Tzfadia, and three anonymous reviewers for their valuable remarks.


Advocates of postmodern approaches to the army have refrained from addressing the interplay between the market and the military and have neglected changes in the latter’s economic environment, focusing mainly on organizational and operational changes and social pressures. At the same time, the post-Fordist approach has refrained from dealing with the cultural and societal aspects of post-Fordism.


[This] essay seeks to integrate . . . [postmodern and postFordist] themes by portraying the Western army of the early twenty-first century as a “market army,” distancing itself from the traditional “citizen army,” and thus creating a continuum between two extreme types.


The notion of the “citizen army” refers to the historical Western pattern in which, from the 1800s on, mercenarism gradually declined and was replaced by citizen armies, recruited exclusively from the local citizenry.


Armies have gone through a dramatic change, from citizen to market armies. . . . The intersection of the postmodern format with post-Fordist reforms elicits a new model that represents both transformations, while at the same time transcending them.


Western armies have undergone substantial organizational and cultural transformations since the end of the Cold War. Two main themes have been suggested to describe these transformations: post-modernity and post-Fordism. Yagil Levy of the Open University of Israel analyzes these profound shifts. He portrays the new Western army as a “market army,” distancing itself from the “citizen army,” and envisions a continuum between these extreme types. The market army emulates market practices in order to adapt to modern strategic, economic, political, and cultural constraints. What typifies the market army is the subjection of military doctrine to the market, a post-Fordist structure, a network-centric hierarchy, market values borrowed by the military profession, the convergence of military and civilian occupations, the commodification of military service, and new contractual forms of bargaining between soldiers and the military. Israel serves as a critical case with which to develop the theory of the market army.



1. Association for Soldiers of Israel, AWIS_MENU_PAGE.ASP?RUNPOPUP= 1.

2. Afghanistan Trust,

3. See php?storyId=99478227.



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Yagil Levy

Open University of Israel

Yagil Levy is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology, Political Science, and Communication at the Open University of Israel. His research interests include the theoretical aspects of societymilitary relations and the linkage between Israel’s war/peace policies and the social structure of the military. His recent books Include Israel’s Materialist Militarism (Lexington Books, 2007) and Israel Since 1980 (Cambridge University Press, 2008).


Copyright American Society for Public Administration May/Jun 2010

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