The social science literature on civil-military relations—a concept that encompasses the entire range of interactions between the military and civilian society at every level—falls into a sociological and a political science strand. The former is concerned primarily with the military as a social organization and the social functions of military systems, as well as the ways in which these factors have changed over time. The political science strand, in contrast, more narrowly focuses on political-military relations, that is, the structures, processes, and outcomes of the interactions between the institutions and organizations of the political system on the one hand, and the armed forces and their members on the other. As is the case with other continents, the study of civil-military relations in Asia is both normative and positive, often within the same work. While normative contributions ask what “good” civil-military relations should look like, positive analyses seek to describe and explain the actual relationship between the soldier and the state in Asia, examine the effects of military coups and military rule on other political or socioeconomic activities, and predict the consequences of political-military relations for the persistence and performance of political regimes. Perhaps as a consequence of the highly diverse cultures, colonial histories, political legacies, and modes of postcolonial governance, single-case studies, and small-N comparative analyses dominate the field and systematic intra-regional comparisons and cross-national studies are rare. Since its inception in the 1960s, the research on Asian civil-military relations in social science has moved in various directions: as elsewhere, its initial preoccupation was with the role of military institutions in processes of decolonization, modernization, and nation building. In the 1970s, the scholarship moved toward analyzing the origins of military coups d’état and policy consequences of military rule. A second line of research investigated party-military relations in communist party regimes, which operated under societal and institutional circumstances that were quite different from those in the non-socialist states. From the late 1980s onward, the so-called third wave of democratization inspired a new generation of civil-military studies, which illuminate the military’s role in the breakdown of authoritarianism and how young democracies struggle with the double challenge of creating and preserving a military that is strong enough to fulfill its functions, but that is subordinate to the authority of democratically elected institutions. In the 2000s, the study of security sector reform has become the most recent addition to the literature. This article is primarily concerned with the political science strand of civil-military research. It focuses on the positive literature and gives priority to the research on Southeast and East Asia, but also includes comparative works and collections that illuminate civil-military relations in South Pacific countries.
Prior to the 1960s, historical work on the political evolution of the armed forces in countries such as China, India, and Japan were a domain of historical studies, whereas social science literature on Asian civil-military relations was virtually nonexistent. However, in response to the surge in military governments in the region, case studies on the military’s role in political development and modernization in countries such as Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, South Korea, Indonesia, and Pakistan started to appear in edited volumes and academic journals. Since these early days, scholars demonstrate a strong affinity for single-case studies and—compared to other regions—little emphasis on cross-national comparative analyses. The seminal edited volume Johnson 1972 includes comparative chapters on civil-military relations in Latin America, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa, but, interestingly, separate case studies on three Asian countries. Until today, there is not a single monograph that would provide a comparative analysis of civil-military relations in East, Southeast, or South Asia, but there are several anthologies with collections of country studies, as well as some journal articles or book chapters that provide general overviews on parts of Asia, though often with a particular emphasis on the issue of military institutions and civilian control of the military in transitions to democracy and in emerging democracies. Guyot and Willner 1970 is the first overview of military elites as political elites in Asia, and Hoadley 2012 provides the first comparative analysis of civil-military relations in Southeast Asia. This work is followed by Crouch and Ahmad 1985, an edited updated survey of the state of the art in the study of civil-military relations in Southeast Asian countries. Olsen and Jurika 1986 is the first edited volume on the armed forces in contemporary Asia that covers East, Southeast, and South Asia. More recent volumes such as Alagappa 2001 and May and Selochan 2004 provide detailed country-specific chapters and give good overviews of current civil-military relations in different parts of Asia and the Pacific. Alagappa 2001 on the declining political role of the military in Asia has led to Mietzner 2011, which contests this view in regard to Southeast Asia.
Alagappa, Muthiah, ed. Coercion and Governance: The Declining Political Role of the Military in Asia. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001.
This work analyzes sixteen East, Southeast, and South Asian countries. Key finding is the overall decline of military influence in Asian politics. Connects explanations for the changing state-soldier relationship with processes associated with nation building and state building, the development of state capacity, economic growth, and changes in the international system.
Crouch, Harold, and Zakaria Ahmad, eds. Military-Civil Relations in South-East Asia. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.
Twelve chapters identify three patterns of civil military relations. Argues that military involvement in politics stems from internal characteristics of the military and the external environment in which it operates. Identifies intra-military consensus, safeguards for military interests, and strong civil governance as preconditions for military withdrawal from politics.
Guyot, James F., and Ann Ruth Willner, eds. “The Military as Political Elites in Asia.” Journal of Comparative Administration, o.s. 2.3 (1970).
Five case studies constitute the first systematic analysis of the roles of military elites as ruling elites in Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, Pakistan, and South Korea. Case studies are preceded by an examination of the underlying assumptions and arguments of the theoretically oriented literature.
Hoadley, J. Stephen. Soldiers and Politics in Southeast Asia: Civil-Military Relations in Comparative Perspective, 1933–1975. New Brunswick, NJ and London: Transaction, 2012.
The only comparative analysis of the causes and consequences of military involvement in politics in Thailand, Burma, South Vietnam, Indonesia, and Cambodia from the postcolonial period until the end of the Vietnam War. Originally published in 1975.
Johnson, John J., ed. The Role of the Military in Underdeveloped Countries. 4th ed. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1972.
Gives the first systematic, theory-driven analysis of the military’s political role in some Asian countries (Thailand, Burma, and Indonesia). Additional chapters on the political development of new states and the military’s roles in processes of political modernization provide cross-regional comparisons. Originally published in 1962.
May, Ronald J., and Viberto Selochan, eds. The Military and Democracy in Asia and the Pacific. Canberra, Australia: Australian National University, 2004.
Collection of essays that consider the military’s changing role in Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Burma, Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Korea, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea, particularly with regard to the countries’ performance against criteria of democratic government.
Mietzner, Marcus, ed. The Political Resurgence of the Military in Southeast Asia: Conflict and Leadership. New York: Routledge, 2011.
Contesting the conclusion of Alagappa 2001 regarding the declining political significance of the military for Southeast Asia. Identifies ineffective (civilian) leadership and intra-civilian conflicts as decisive factors for the political resurgence of the military and fragile civil-military relations across the region.
Olsen, Edward A., and Stephen Jurika Jr., eds. The Armed Forces in Contemporary Asian Societies. London and Boulder, CO: Westview, 1986.
Sixteen country studies analyze military or military-dominated regimes, civilian-led autocracies, and democracies; diagnose a crisis of legitimacy in military regimes; and examine difficulties of Asian armed forces in amassing popular support.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
Purchase an Ebook Version of This Article
Ebooks of the Oxford Bibliographies Online subject articles are available in North America via a number of retailers including Amazon, vitalsource, and more. Simply search on their sites for Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guides and your desired subject article.
If you would like to purchase an eBook article and live outside North America please email email@example.com to express your interest.
- Advanced Democracies, Electoral System Reform in
- Advanced Democracies, Public Opinion and Public Policy in
- Advertising and Election Campaigns in the United States
- Africa, Comparative Politics of
- American Indian Politics
- Arab-Israel Conflict, The
- Arendt, Hannah
- Aristotle's Political Thought
- Arms Race Modeling
- Australia and New Zealand, Comparative Politics of
- Authoritarianism in Russia
- Bicameralism in Stable Democracies
- Big Data in Political Science Research
- Biopolitics and State Regulation of Human Life
- Brazilian Political Development
- Business-State Relations in Europe
- Campaign Finance in the Era of Super-PACS
- Canadian Foreign Policy
- Candidate Emergence and Recruitment
- Channels of Electoral Representation in Advanced Industria...
- China's One-Child Policy
- China-Taiwan Relations
- Chinese Communist Party
- Chinese Economic Policy
- Chinese Nationalism
- Civil Society in South Asia
- Civil War in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Civil-Military Relations in Asia
- Civil-Military Relations in Latin America
- Class in American Politics
- Comparative Capitalism Theory
- Comparative Industrial Relations in Europe
- Comparative Politics of Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bis...
- Comparative Politics of Chile and Uruguay
- Comparative Politics of Federalism
- Comparative Politics of the Middle East and North Africa
- Congress, Defense, and Foreign Policy
- Congressional Reassertion of Authority
- Conservative Litigation Strategies and Groups in US Judici...
- Corruption in China
- Cosmopolitan Political Thought
- Crisis of European Integration in Historical Perspective, ...
- Critical Theory and the Frankfurt School
- Cuban Political Development
- Cycles of Protest
- Democracy and Authoritarianism in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Democracy and Dictatorship in Central Asia
- Democracy in Latin America
- Democratic Citizenship
- Democratic Consolidation
- Democratic Peace Theory
- Democratic Theory
- Democratization in Africa
- Democratization in Central America
- Democratization in Mexico
- Development of Survey Research
- Direct Democracy in the United States
- East Africa, Politics of
- Economic Voting
- Election Forecasting
- Election Laws in Democracies
- Electoral and Party System Development in Sub-Saharan Afri...
- Electoral Change in Latin America
- Emotion and Racial Attitudes in Contemporary American Poli...
- Environmental Governance
- Environmental Politics among Advanced Industrial Democraci...
- Ethnic Diasporas and US Foreign Policy
- Ethnic Politics
- Eurasia, Comparative Politics of
- European Social Democracy
- European Union, Politics of the
- Failed and Weak States in Theory and Practice
- Far-Right Parties in Europe
- Federalism in the United States
- Field Experiments
- Filibuster, The
- Gender and Electoral Politics in the United States
- Gender and International Relations
- Gender, Behavior, and Representation
- Global Inequality
- Globalization and the Welfare State
- Globalization, Health Crises, and Health Care
- Governance in Africa
- Governmental Responses to Political Corruption
- Gridlock and Divided Government in the U.S.
- Historiography of Twentieth-Century American Conservatism,...
- Hobbes’s Political Thought
- Hume’s Political Thought
- Hybrid Regimes
- Identity and Political Behavior
- Ideological Reasoning in Politics
- Immigrant Incorporation in Canada
- Immigrant Incorporation in Western Europe
- Immigration and International Relations
- Immigration Politics and Policy in the United States
- Impact of Campaign Contributions on Congressional Behavior...
- Implicit Attitudes in Public Opinion
- Income Dynamics and Politics in North America and Europe
- Income Inequality and Advanced Democracies
- Income Inequality in the United States, The Politics of
- Indian Democracy
- Indigenous Rights and Governance in Canada, Australia, and...
- Informal Practices of Accountability in Urban Africa
- Institutional Change in Advanced Democracies
- Intellectual Property in International Relations
- Interest Groups and Inequality in the United States
- Interest Groups in American Politics
- International Conflict Management
- International Criminal Justice
- International Law
- International NGOs
- International Political Economy of Illegal Drugs
- Internet and Politics, The
- Iran, Political Development of
- Israeli Politics
- Judicial Supremacy and National Judicial Review
- Judiciaries and Politics in East Asia
- Kant's Political Thought
- Labor Politics in East Asia
- Land Reform in Latin America
- Latin America, Democratic Transitions in
- Latin America, Environmental Policy and Politics in
- Latin America, Guerrilla Insurgencies in
- Latin America, Social Movements in
- Legal Mobilization
- LGBT Politics in the United States
- Liberal Pluralism
- Local Governments in the United States
- Machiavelli’s Political Thought
- Marx's Political Thought
- Mass Incarceration and US Politics
- Mechanisms of Representation
- Media Effects in Politics
- Media Politics in South Asia
- Minority Political Engagement and Representation in the Un...
- Modern Dynastic Rule
- Modern Elections and Voting Behavior in Europe
- National Interbranch Politics in the United States
- NATO, Politics of
- Negative Campaigning
- Neoclassical Realism
- New Institutionalism Revisited, The
- North America, Comparative Politics of
- Oil, Politics of
- Origins and Impact of Proportional Representation, The
- Outcomes of Social Movements and Protest Activities
- Partisan and Nonpartisan Theories of Organization in the U...
- Partisan Polarization in the US Congress
- Partisan Polarization in the US Electorate
- Party Networks
- Peace Operations
- Personality and Politics
- Plato's Political Thought
- Policy Responsiveness to Public Opinion
- Political Economy of Financial Regulation in Advanced Ind...
- Political Economy of India
- Political Economy of Taxation, The
- Political Geography in American Politics
- Political Obligation
- Political Parties and Electoral Politics of Japan
- Political Thought, Hegel's
- Political Thought of the American Founders, The
- Politics and Policy in Contemporary Argentina
- Politics of Anti-Americanism
- Politics of Class Formation
- Politics of Disaster Prevention and Management
- Politics of Financial Crises
- Politics of Foreign Direct Investment in South Asia
- Politics of Higher Education in the U.S.
- Politics of Internal Conquest in the United States and Can...
- Politics of Japan
- Politics of Natural Disasters, The
- Politics of North Korea
- Politics of Science and Technology
- Politics of South Africa
- Politics of Southern Africa
- Postcolonialism and International Relations
- Post-Communist Democratization
- Preferential Trade Agreements, Politics of
- Presidential Persuasion and Public Opinion
- Presidential Primaries and Caucuses
- Private Governance
- Public Opinion in Advanced Industrial Democracies
- Public Opinion in New Democracies and Developing Nations
- Public Presidency, US Elections, and the Permanent Campaig...
- Qualitative Methods, The Renewal of
- Race in American Political Thought
- Racial and Ethnic Descriptive Representation in the United...
- Regime Transitions and Variation in Post-Communist Europe
- Regional Integration in Latin America
- Regional Security
- Regulating Food Production
- Religion in American Political Thought
- Religion in Contemporary Political Thought
- Religion, Politics, and Civic Engagement in the United Sta...
- Rousseau's Political Thought
- Rule of Law
- Russia and the West
- Science and Democracy
- Social Policy and Immigrant Integration
- South Korea, Politics of
- Spectacle, The
- State Building in Sub-Saharan Africa
- State Formation
- State, The Nature of the
- Supreme Court of the United States, The
- Systemic Theories of International Politics
- Taiwan, Politics of
- Tea Party, The
- The New Right in American Political Thought
- Transitional Justice
- Transnational Private Regulation
- Turkey, Political Development of
- US Military Bases Abroad
- US Presidency, The
- Voter Turnout
- Welfare State Development
- Welfare State Development in Latin America
- Welfare State Development in Western Europe
- West Africa, Politics of
- Worker Politics in China
- Youth and Generational Differences in US Politics