In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Military Sociology

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Foundational Works
  • Classic Works
  • Cross-National Studies
  • Associations
  • Primary Journals
  • Secondary Journals
  • Theoretical and Conceptual Developments
  • Methods
  • Military Life
  • Demographics
  • Deviance
  • Attitudes
  • Cohesion
  • Social Class
  • Women
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Sexuality
  • Age
  • Families
  • Veterans
  • Civil-Military Relations
  • Death and Dying
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Military Academies
  • War
  • Military Operations Other than War
  • Mass Media and Social Media
  • Recruitment
  • Civilians
  • Culture

Sociology Military Sociology
Morten G. Ender
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 February 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 February 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0079


Military sociology is a subfield of sociology. Military sociology is similar to medical sociology and other institutional studies such as the sociologies of education, family, sport, and religion, taking organization matters as the main focus and studying them systemically. Military sociology as a substantive field within sociology transcends the institutional and examines a broad range of social activities. Military sociology is sociological in the sense of capturing the breadth and depth of the field of sociology to include social psychology and small groups to management and leadership to societies and cultures. One perspective is within the organization and culture of the military. Another perspective looks outward at the intersection of the military and the larger society. Analyses within military sociology include the micro, mezzo, and macro levels. Military sociology is military in the sense that it captures the full range of human armed services activities from the management of violence and peacekeeping to soldier and civilian attitudes about defense matters. Military sociology can be traced to studies in the United States during and immediately after World War II (WWII). The field matured during the early 1960s at the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago, and by the 1980s graduate programs in the United States including those at the University of Maryland, Northwestern University, and Texas A&M University regularly began producing MAs and PhDs in military sociology. Military sociology is an international discipline, with military sociologists around the world, including in western and eastern Europe, Latin and Central America, Australia, India, Japan, Russia, and Canada. Since the end of the 20th century, generalist sociologists have been noted for researching military matters, as have been specialized sociologists such as marriage and family specialists, cultural sociologists, demographers, and theorists among others. Military sociology is interdisciplinary as well, with sociologists working closely with sister disciplines in military psychology and military anthropology in addition to political science and history.

General Overviews

Military sociologists have long attempted to synthesize and unify the field. Kurt Lang provided some baseline reviews—first in Lang 1965, a brief journal article, and later in a lengthier book, Lang 1972. Some disciplinary legitimacy was later garnered by Moskos 1976, an Annual Review of Sociology (ARS) selection highlighting some of the main substantive focuses of our field. Segal and Segal 1983 is another ARS article, anchoring military sociology in classical Weberian rationality. Specific ARS topics include life course research and the military, in MacLean and Elder 2007, and an examination of research on race relations within the military, in Burk and Espinoza 2012. Kestnbaum 2009 is an ARS article expanding the substantive field of the sociology of war and the military. For post–World War II (WWII) America military sociology, few exceed the exhaustive review provided by Boëne 2000 in terms of richness and thoroughness. Finally, Caplow and Hicks 2002 provokes sociologists to consider how war, peace, and the military can be linked to a whole host of areas in social life.

  • Boëne, Benard. 2000. Social science research, war and the military in the United States: An outsider’s view of the field’s dominant national tradition. In Military sociology: The richness of the discipline. Edited by Gerhard Kümmel and Andreas D. Prüfert, 149–254. Baden-Baden, Germany: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft.

    A comprehensive review of US military sociology pre-9/11. Included are 1,000 in-text references referencing 4,228 publications between 1892 and 1992. Topics include theories of war, contributions of sociology to the WWII effort, war as a social institution, revolution and terrorism, key military sociologists and affiliations, and the study of war.

  • Burk, James, and Evelyn Espinoza. 2012. Race relations within the US military. Annual Review of Sociology 38:2.1–2.22.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev-soc-071811-145501

    Reviews race-relations research within the military and reveals some ongoing racial disparities. The authors review the literature in five areas: racial patterns in enlistment, officer promotion rates, administration of military justice, risk of death in combat, and health care for wounded soldiers. The authors conclude that racism exists more than less in terms of bias and institutional mechanisms. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Caplow, Theodore, and Louis Hicks. 2002. Systems of war and peace. Lanham, MD: Univ. Press of America.

    An approachable book that covers a breadth of topics associated with war, peace, social conflict, and the military institution. Included are peace and war as social institutions, military organization, culture, technology, and war’s associated effects on a bevy of social areas, among them the family, science, leisure, education, and religion.

  • Kestnbaum, Meyer. 2009. The sociology of war and the military. Annual Review of Sociology 35:235–254.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev-soc-070308-120004

    Reviews scholarship on waging war at the intersection of state, armed forces, and society concentrating on reviews of literature associated with sociology and the military. Topics include mobilization, enemies, signification, the state, memory, the militarized self-armed, and civilians and citizenship. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Lang, Kurt. 1965. Military sociology. Current Sociology 13.1: 1–26.

    DOI: 10.1177/001139216501300101

    An overview of military sociology dating to works of Herbert Spencer in the 19th century and William Graham Sumner to the 1960s. It annotates the military sociology literature sociology around four areas: (1) military organization, (2) the military system, (3) civil-military relations, and (4) the sociology of war. Sample topics include stratification, attitudes, and national loyalty. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Lang, Kurt. 1972. Military institutions and the sociology of war: A review of the literature with annotated bibliography. Beverly Hills, CA, and London: SAGE.

    Reviews five substantive areas: (1) the profession of arms, (2) military organization, (3) the military system, (4) civil-military relations, and (5) war and warfare. The second half includes 1,325 sources with brief but useful descriptions. The author includes journal special issues as well. Useful author and subject indexes are included.

  • MacLean, Alair, and Glen H. Elder. 2007. Military service in the life course. Annual Review of Sociology 33:175–196.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.soc.33.040406.131710

    Reviews the more recent literature intersecting veterans and their life courses from WWII to the present. Areas of focus include four: criminal careers, marital status, health, and socioeconomic status. A major conclusion from the review is that veterans with combat exposure suffer more than noncombat veterans and nonveterans more generally. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Moskos, Charles C., Jr. 1976. The military. Annual Review of Sociology 2:55–77.

    DOI: 10.1146/

    Reviews extant literature at the intersection of armed forces and society from the standpoint of types of soldiers: the power elite, the professional, the common, the third-world, and the citizen. Reviews themes of professionalism, peacekeeping, military enlisted military culture, combat, race relations, military socialization, selective service, the all-volunteer force, veterans, and Third World soldiers. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Segal, David R., and Mady Wechsler Segal. 1983. Change in military organization. Annual Review of Sociology 9:151–170.

    DOI: 10.1146/

    Anchors military sociology in the tradition of Weberian rationalization. Compares individual and collectivist approaches to military orientation. Sample topics include the roots of military history and military sociology, including affectivity, solidarity, symbols, econometrics, willingness to fight, military unionism, military professionalism, leadership, management, the utilization of women, military families, communities, and scientific research. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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