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Culture and military power

Review of International Studies / Volume 24 / Issue 03 / July 1998, pp 407 - 416
DOI: null, Published online: 08 September 2000

Link to this article: http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0260210598004070

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THEO FARRELL (1998). Culture and military power. Review of International Studies, 24, pp
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Review of International Studies (1998), 24, 407416 Copyright British International Studies Association

Culture and military power


Ken Booth and Russell Trood (eds.), Strategic Cultures in the Asia-Pacific Region,
Basingstoke, Macmillan, forthcoming
Alastair Iain Johnston, Cultural Realism: Strategic Culture and Grand Strategy in Chinese
History, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1995
Peter J. Katzenstein, Cultural Norms and National Security: Police and Military in Postwar
Japan, Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 1996
Peter J. Katzenstein (ed.), The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World
Politics, Columbia, NY, Columbia University Press, 1996
Elizabeth Kier, Imagining War: French and British Military Doctrine between the Wars,
Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1997

How do states generate military power? This question is of obvious importance to

policy-makers and international relations scholars alike. The dominant paradigm in
international relations, neorealism, emphasizes the importance of military power to
states. But it cannot explain how states generate military power. Neorealists estimate
the power of states on the basis of resources, but they give scant attention, if any, to
the process whereby states produce military power. For the most part, they simply
assume that states will be driven by international competition to organize their
militaries functionally to make best use of available resources.1 Thus, according to
Kenneth Waltz, Contending states imitate the military innovations contrived by the
country of greatest capability and ingenuity.2
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that this does not always happen. For
example, Stephen Rosen notes that [s]mall European armies defeated much larger
South Asian armies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Clearly, the European armies were much better at generating military power from a given number of
soldiers. For Rosen, the military success of the Europeans cannot be explained in
terms of technological superiority: he argues that in the technologies pertinent to
military capabilities, India was the equal if not the better of Europe. Neorealists
cannot explain the military subjection of India by European states. As Rosen points

Only Barry Posen has offered a neorealist account of the process whereby states organize for war. See
Posen, The Sources of Military Doctrine: France, Germany and Britain between the Wars (Ithaca, NY,
Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics (New York, 1979), p. 127.



Theo Farrell

out, [a]ccording to the realist argument, there should not be the gross disparities in
power given equal resources.3
Clearly, an explanation of how states generate military power is needed. Now
culture can be a powerful conceptual tool for explaining state action, and the actions
of military organizations within states. In his own study of military power, Rosen
rejects a cultural approach, because of the difficulty of ascertaining the content, and
casual impact on state policy, of elite belief-systems.4 However, the books reviewed
here suggest that cultural approaches to strategic studies are much more userfriendly than Rosen would have us believe.

Using culture in strategic studies

The books under review suggest three questions to be considered when adopting a
cultural approach to strategic studies.
First, should culture be considered a cause or a context of strategic action? This
question lies at the heart of the debate between Alastair Johnston and Colin Gray
over how to conceptualize strategic culture. Johnston is highly critical of early works
on strategic culture (by Colin Gray, among others) for their everything but the
kitchen sink approach to the concept. These early scholars saw strategic culture as
being shaped by a wide range of factors (e.g., national character, technology,
geography) and as encompassing (as Gray put it) both modes of thought and action
with respect to force.5 Johnston finds this concept of strategic culture methodologically flawed as it cannot be falsified: by including all possible causal variables for
state action, it does not allow conceptual space for any non-cultural account of state
action. In addition, by lumping behaviour in with beliefs, it does not recognize the
possibility of inconsistency between strategic thought and state action. For Gray,
separating out the components of strategy, and strategic ideas from action, is
artificial and meaningless. He chides Johnston for complaining, accurately but
misguidedly, that there is little conceptual space remaining for explanations of
behaviour beyond strategic culture. Gray considers there to be no such conceptual
space, because all strategic behaviour is effected by human beings who cannot help
but be cultural agents.6 Each approach has its uses. Grays all-encompassing concept of strategic culture is useful for considering the cultural context of state action.
However, if one wishes to explore culture as a cause of state action, then Johnston is
quite right in arguing for a narrower conceptualization, which allows for consideration of rival, non-cultural causal variables, and which avoids being deterministic by
excluding behaviour.


Stephen Peter Rosen, Military Effectiveness: Why Society Matters, International Security, 19:4
(1995), pp. 223.
Stephen Peter Rosen, Societies and Military Power: India and its Armies (Ithaca, NY, 1996).
Johnston, Cultural Realism, pp. 7, 13.
Colin S. Gray, Strategic Culture Reconsidered, draft chapter from Understanding Modern Strategy
(Oxford, forthcoming), p. 172.

Culture and military power


Second, what kind of outcomes are best explained by a cultural approach?

Judging by the literature, the answer appears to be: puzzling ones.7 Elizabeth Kier
claims that cultural explanations are not about explaining dysfunctional behaviour.8 Yet she herself sets out to explain why the French and British armies adopted
doctrines which served them poorly on bureaucratic and real battlefields. There is
the risk that by concentrating on empirical puzzles, cultural accounts of behaviour
will continue to be seen by many as an explanation of last resort, that is, one to be
turned to when more concrete factors have been eliminated.9 But, in a sense,
advocates of cultural approaches have little choice. Given the intuitive attractiveness
of rationalist approaches to strategic studies, the onus appears to be on cultural
approaches to prove their worth, and this can best be done by explaining
behavioural outcomes that are puzzles for rationalists.10
Third, what level of analysis should be adopted in cultural approaches to strategic
studies? As I have argued elsewhere, this decade has seen a revival in organizational
analysis in strategic studies which strongly establishes the advantages of the intrastate (over inter-state or individual) level of analysis.11 Stephen Rosen kicked off this
revival with his superb book on military innovation. Rosen clearly demonstrated
that military organizations choose for themselves how they should organize for and
conduct war, and that political leaders have only a marginal influence on these
organizational choices.12 In this way, he provided a powerful critique of Barry
Posens sophisticated neorealist explanation of how states prepare for war. Posen
had maintained that, driven by concern over military incompetence, particularly
after suffering defeat or in the face of war, civilians intervene to force the military to
adopt more effective fighting ways.13 Rosen shows that militaries do not have to be
pushed by defeat in war or prodded by civilians to innovate. His work strongly
suggests that the most effective way of understanding how states organize for war is
to examine how militaries organize themselves.14 Kiers work confirms the validity of
this approach: she seeks to explain why the French Army chose a defensive doctrine
in the late 1920s, when it had the money, ideas, and freedom to adopt an offensive
doctrine.15 Ironically, military organizations are likely to have even more control
over national military strategy in wartime, just when it will be of most concern to






All of the following books use cultural approaches to explain puzzling military behaviour. Jeffrey W.
Legro, Cooperation under Fire: Anglo-German Restraint during World War II (Ithaca, NY, 1995); Erik
Ringmar, Identity, Interest and Action: A Cultural Explanation of Swedens Intervention in the Thirty
Years War (Cambridge, 1996); Katzenstein, Cultural Norms; Gregory Hanlon, The Twilight of a
Military Tradition: Italian Aristocrats and European Conflicts, 15601800 (London, 1998); Lynn Eden,
Constructing Destruction: Organizations, Knowledge, and the Effects of Nuclear Weapons (Ithaca, NY,
Kier, Imagining War, p. 38.
Eric Herring, Nuclear Totem and Taboo, paper presented at BISA annual conference, Leeds,
1517 December 1997, p. 8.
This is argued in Andreas Hansenclever, Peter Mayer and Volker Rittberger, Theories of International
Regimes (Cambridge, 1997), pp. 1734, 190.
Theo Farrell, Figuring out Fighting Organisations: The New Organisational Analysis in Strategic
Studies, Journal of Strategic Studies, 19 (1996), pp. 122135.
Stephen Peter Rosen, Winning the Next War: Innovation and the Modern Military (Ithaca, NY, 1989).
Posen, Sources of Military Doctrine.
This is also shown in Kimberley Martin Zisk, Engaging the Enemy: Organization Theory and Soviet
Military Innovation, 19551991 (Princeton, NJ, 1993); and Deborah D. Avant, Political Institutions
and Military Change: Lessons from Peripheral Wars (Ithaca, NY, 1994).
Elizabeth Kier, Culture and Military Doctrine: France Between the Wars, International Security,
19:4 (1995), p. 74.


Theo Farrell

civilian policy-makers. This is because military organizations generally have a

monopoly on expertise, military operations are complex and not easily understood
by nonspecialists, and [in war] the time for altering prearranged plans is limited.16
This all goes to suggest that the most fruitful way of explaining how states generate
military power is to examine how militaries organize themselves for war.

How culture shapes military action

So, why do military organizations choose the particular structures and strategies that
they do? Culture helps us to explain organizational choice. Broadly defined,
organizational culture consists of beliefs, symbols, rituals and practices which give
meaning to the activity of an organization. But in order to examine culture as a
cause (as opposed to context) of organizational action, we must focus on cultural
norms, i.e., those beliefs which prescribe action for organizational members.17 Peter
Katzenstein distinguishes between constitutive norms, which express actor
identities, and regulatory norms, which define standards of appropriate behavior.18
Taken together, these norms establish expectations about who the actors will be in a
particular environment and about how these particular actors will behave.19
Kiers book on the French and British militaries suggests how norms affect the
way militaries organize themselves for war. Kier argues that culture shapes behaviour by providing the means of action, not the ultimate ends. She draws on Ann
Swidlers argument that [c]ulture influences action not by providing the ultimate
values toward which action is orientated, but by shaping a repertoire or tool kit of
habits, skills and styles from which people construct strategies of action .20 In
explaining why the French Army switched from an offensive to a defensive doctrine
in 1928, Kier argues that it was responding to the introduction of short-term
conscription. It did not value a defensive doctrine, rather it adopted one because
French officers believed that conscripts were incapable of implementing an offensive
doctrine. Kiers study shows how norms define organizational capacity and activity;
the French Army probably could have used conscripts for offensive operations, as
the German Army was doing at the time. Indeed, the French Armys dim view of
conscripts is all the more amazing given Germanys extensive and successful use of
reserve forces during World War I. Kier notes that of the thirty-four corps that
attacked France in August 1914, twelve were reserve units and all of them were used





Jeffrey W. Legro, Culture and Preferences in the International Cooperation Two-Step, American
Political Science Review, 90 (1996), p. 122.
This view of culture is adopted in Legro, Cooperation under Fire, p. 19. While IR scholars define
norms in a bewildering variety of ways, most favour deontic definitions. For a comprehensive review,
see Gregory A. Raymond, Problems and Prospects in the Study of International Norms, Mershon
International Studies Review, 41 (1997), pp. 205246.
Katzenstein, Cultural Norms, pp. 1819.
Ronald L. Jepperson, Alexander Wendt and Peter J. Katzenstein, Norms, Identity and Culture in
National Security, in Katzenstein (ed.), The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in
World Politics (Columbia, SC, 1996), p. 54.
Ann Swidler, Culture in Action: Symbols and Strategies, American Sociological Review, 51:2 (1986),
p. 273.

Culture and military power


in the front line of the attack.21 In spite of the German example, French officers
continued to be blinded by their organizational culture to the offensive capabilities
of conscript forces.
Kier demonstrates how norms shape action by providing actors with ways of
defining problems and responding to them appropriately; these are regulatory norms.
Constitutive norms also shape action by enabling actors to construct identities which
give meaning to their actions and the actions of others. In other words, in addition
to asking themselves, What kind of situation is this? and What am I supposed to
do?,22 actors may also ask What am I supposed to do as (say) a French Army
officer?. For instance, Craig Cameron shows how the conduct of operations by the
First Marine Division in the Pacific during World War II was shaped by imaginary
constructions of the Marines as a warrior elite and the Japanese as subhuman. In
Camerons account, Marine operations, characterized by costly frontal assaults and
unnecessary brutality against surrendering Japanese soldiers and civilians, were
products of how members of the First Division identified themselves and their
Those who adopt a cultural approach (who may loosely be termed constructivists) are highly critical of neorealists for treating the preferences of actors as
given.24 By providing identities and prescribing action, norms shape the way actors
define their interests and form preferences from them. By telling actors who they are
and what they can do, norms also suggest to actors what they should do. In this way,
constructivists are able to explain how actors form preferences and act on them.

The social power of military professionalism

Where do norms come from, however? This crucial question has been neglected to
date in strategic studies on organizational culture. For Legro, Cultural birth and
change are large topics that generally lie outside the scope of [his] study, while Kier
puts them on an agenda for future research.25 It is certainly ironic that those
adopting a cultural approach, who are highly critical of neorealists for treating the
construction of political actors and their preferences as exogenous, . . . tend to treat
their own core concepts as exogenously given.26
Sociologists working in a branch of organization theory called new institutionalism (so called because they use the term institutions to mean norms) present
the components of organizational culture as coming from the environment of an
organization, which they define in functional terms as organizational fields that are





Kier, Imagining War, p. 78.

Martha Finnemore suggests only that actors may ask the first two questions. Finnemore, National
Interests and International Society (Ithaca, NY, 1996), p. 29.
Craig M. Cameron, American Samurai: Myth, Imagination, and the Conduct of Battle in the First
Marine Division, 19411951 (Cambridge, 1995).
Alexander Wendt, Anarchy is What States Make of It: The Social Construction of Power Politics,
International Organization, 46:2 (1992), pp. 391425; Finnemore, National Interests, pp. 710.
Legro, Cooperation under Fire, p. 24; Kier, Imagining War, p. 157.
Paul Kowert and Jeffrey Legro, Norms, Identity and their Limits, in Katzenstein (ed.), Culture of
National Security, p. 469.


Theo Farrell

roughly coterminous with the boundaries of industries or professions. New institutionalists argue that organizational fields start out displaying considerable diversity,
but once a field becomes established, there is an inexorable push towards homogenization.27 Actors in a particular organizational field gradually develop
understandings of appropriate organizational form and behaviour. Organizations, in
turn, fall into line with the prescriptions that flow from these understandings which
have been institutionalized in the organizational field. In this way, norms encourage
isomorphism within organizational fields. More recently, new institutionalists have
argued that the rationalized modern environment has rapidly developed at the
world level, producing worldwide isomorphism in organizing.28
As Martha Finnemore has argued, new institutionalism has much to offer IR and
yet it has attracted little attention from the discipline.29 This is particularly true of
the study of military power.30 New institutionalism tells us that norms come from
global profession-wide organizational fields. This suggests that the structures and
strategies of military organizations will be fundamentally similar throughout the
world. This point has been noted by Finnemore: Even state defense apparatus, the
component of the state that realism would expect to be most constrained by task
demands imposed by a self-help world, exhibits this kind of isomorphism.31
Neorealism does suggest that isomorphism by militaries will occur, as the survival
imperative encourages states to learn best military practices and weeds out those
that do not. As Waltz puts it, Competition produces a tendency towards sameness
of the competitors . . . And so the weapons of major contenders, and even their
strategies, begin to look much the same all over the world.32 But this is a very
different kind of isomorphism, produced by market forces. New institutionalists
call this competitive isomorphism which they distinguish from their own concept of
institutional isomorphism. With institutional isomorphism, mimetic processes lead
organizations to model themselves on similar organizations they perceive to be more
professional and hence legitimate. Professionalization, in turn, fuels institutional
isomorphism by legitimating and perpetuating certain organizational forms and
practices through formalization of education, certification of the knowledge base,
and creation of social networks.33 For instance, in a tentative discussion of how
world-level cultural models shape the [arms] acquisition behaviors of nation-states,
Dana Eyre and Mark Suchman suggest an important role is played by transnational
connections within the military profession, in the form of officer exchanges, foreign
military education and the development of an international defence literature.34





Paul J. DiMaggio and Walter W. Powell, The Iron Cage Revisited: Institutional Isomorphism and
Collective Rationality, in Walter W. Powell and Paul J. DiMaggio (eds.), The New Institutionalism in
Organizational Analysis, (Chicago, 1991), p. 64.
John W. Meyer, Rationalized Environments, in W. Richard Scott, John W. Meyer, and Associates
(eds.), Institutional Environments and Organizations: Structural Complexity and Individualism
(Thousand Oaks, CA, 1994), p. 31.
Martha Finnemore, Norms, Culture, and World Politics: Insights from Sociologys Institutionalism,
International Organization, 50:2 (1996), pp. 32547.
As I noted previously; see Farrell, Figuring out Fighting Organisations, pp. 1323.
Finnemore, Norms, Culture, and World Politics, p. 336.
Waltz, Theory of International Politics, p. 127.
DiMaggio and Powell, Iron Cage, p. 71.
Dana P. Eyre and Mark C. Suchman, Status, Norms, and the Proliferation of Conventional
Weapons, in Katzenstein, (ed.), Culture of National Security, pp. 110, 112.

Culture and military power


Sociologys new institutionalism suggests a new focus for cultural studies of

military organizations. Both Kier and Katzenstein conceive militaries as operating in
national environments and therefore place organizational culture in the context of
national historical experience. Kier traces doctrinal change in the French Army to
the organizations reaction to domestic political developments, namely, the introduction of conscription in 1928, while Katzenstein portrays the Japanese Army (and
Police) as being shaped by norms which emerged after intense domestic political
conflict in the 1950s over the future shape of the state. By defining organizational
fields in functional (as opposed to geographical or national) terms, new institutionalists focus attention on historical developments which are profession-wide and
increasingly global. As Ramesh Thakur suggests, certain homogenising trends
(cross-fertilisation of ideas through a shared military literature, staff exchanges,
common training establishments and doctrines, etc) [may lead] the military establishments across countries [to] have more in common with one another than with other
subsets of culture within countries.35 In addition, while Kier uses a cultural
approach to explain why armies in similar material conditions act differentlywhy
the British Army adopted an offensive doctrine and the French Army a defensive
one when both were facing similar budgetary and strategic conditions in the
interwar periodnew institutionalists seek to understand why organizations in
different material conditions, such as hospitals, schools and museums around the
world, fundamentally look and act the same.
There is much evidence that military organizations have imitated each other on a
profession-wide basis for centuries. Military imitation played a pivotal role in the
development of military organizations and military practice in Europe in the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries.36 Military organizations in developing states, in turn,
copied European military structures and practices in the eighteenth to twentieth
centuries.37 There is also evidence of increasing homogenization within the field of
military organizations. Janice Thompson reminds us that from 1600 to 1800, states
relied heavily on a wide range of non-state actors, such as mercenaries, privateers
and mercantile companies, for military force. By 1900, states had abolished all these
non-state actors in favour of one type of military actor, i.e., state-based military
organizations. This homogenization was not driven by market forces, as neorealists
would suggest. In other words, it was not a process driven by the more powerful
states, seeking to improve their comparative advantage by preventing weaker states
from using hired military help. Rather, it was the product of an institutional
isomorphism across states so that, regardless of huge differences in wealth, power,
and location, all states adopted the prohibition on nonstate violence.38





This point aside, Thakur does not adopt a new institutionalist approach. Ramesh Thakur, New
Zealand: The Security and Tyranny of Isolation, in Booth and Trood (eds.), Strategic Cultures,
p. 348.
Geoffrey Parker, The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West 15001800,
2nd edn (Cambridge, 1996); Samuel Huntington, The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics
of Civil Military Relations (Cambridge, MA, 1957), pp. 1158.
David B. Ralston, Importing the European Army: The Introduction of European Military Techniques
and Institutions into the Extra-European World 16001914 (Chicago, 1990); Parker, Military
Revolution, pp. 11545.
Janice E. Thompson, Mercenaries, Pirates and Sovereigns (Princeton, NJ, 1994), p. 147 (emphasis


Theo Farrell

Looking at military development this century, Alexander Wendt and Michael

Barnett find increasing homogenization in the form taken by state-based military
organizations. They draw attention to the distinction between capital-intensive
militarization, which generates conventional armies of professional forces based
around advanced weapon systems, and labour-intensive militarization, which
results in unconventional armies based on mass mobilization of lightly armed
militias. By measuring the personnel-to-weapons ratio of all armies in the world,
Wendt and Barnett find that, despite some variation in actual capital-intensity, most
armies in the modern world are organized along basic [conventional] lines.39 They
seek to explain the relative predominance of conventional armies in the Third
World, given that these states have less strategic need and less financial ability to
undertake capital-intensive militarization, in terms of dominant political, economic
and cultural world-system structures which produce and shape dependent stateformation in the Third World. Wendt and Barnett reach a conclusion consistent with
sociologys new institutionalism: the cultural dominance structure conditions elites
ideas about what constitutes a modern army, and as such affects their preferred
means for achieving security.40

Military culture as social structure

As Kiers and Katzensteins work suggests, the most popular way of bringing culture
back into strategic studies is to examine how national attitudes and behaviour are
shaped by distinct cultures. Thus, Alan Macmillan, Ken Booth and Russell Trood
argue that a states strategy may be usefully thought of as comprised of two interlocking parts, namely, statist military logic, by which they mean the (almost)
universal instrumentalist logic of survival in international anarchy, and national
military traditions. Notice that under this formulation beliefs which are peculiar to
a distinctive identity group are contrasted with beliefs that are held to have
universal appeal by virtue of their instrumentality.41 By distinguishing between
institutional and competitive isomorphism, new institutionalism highlights the fact
that universal appeal does not equate with universal instrumentality. What is
normatively right for all states may not be instrumentally right for every state.
Take the puzzling, and dysfunctional, choice of strategy and force structure by the
Army in independent Ireland. In the mid-1930s, the Armys intelligence branch
warned that strategic imperatives could well lead Britain to re-invade the Irish State
in the next great European war. However, as a consequence of government neglect,
the Army was simply too poorly resourced to develop a force structure capable of
repelling an invading force through sustained conventional operations. In drafting
the Armys first war plan in 1934, intelligence officers warned that ill-trained Irish
brigades should [not] be permitted to sit down to be battered up to pulp by vastly
superior British forces. Thus they called for the Army to develop a strategy and


Alexander Wendt and Michael Barnett, Dependent State Formation and Third World
Militarization, Review of International Studies, 19 (1993), pp. 3245.
Ibid., p. 330.
Alan Macmillan, Ken Booth and Russell Trood, Strategic Culture, in Booth and Trood (eds.),
Strategic Cultures, p. 17.

Culture and military power


force structure based on a combination of conventional and guerrilla warfare.42 Two

years later they reiterated that it would be military suicide for the Defence Forces as
they exist at present to make more than a show of organized resistance, they must of
necessity revert to guerrilla warfare as soon as possible.43 However, the actual Irish
Army war plans of 19401, and Army exercises in 1942, show the Army preparing a
static line of defence in conventional fashion against British invasion.
Why did the Irish Army organize itself along conventional lines, when it lacked
the money to do so effectively and had the ideas and freedom to build on its
experience in guerrilla warfare? The explanation is that it acted according to the
dominant norms within the organization of what a professional army should look
like and do. The Irish Army was born into a civil war in 1922, and was too busy
defending itself and the state to give much thought to its future shape. So the Irish
Army decided to model itself on its former British enemy which, after all, had
extensive experience of suppressing rebellion. After the Civil War, the Army turned
its attention for most of the 1920s to demobilizing surplus troops, professionalizing
its officer corps and deciding on a strategy and structure for external defence of the
state. To this end, it established a Temporary Plan Division in 1928, staffed with
officers who had received professional training at the US Military Academy at West
Point two years earlier. These officers concluded that the Irish Army should continue
to model itself on its British counterpart. Hence, the Army leadership pressed ahead
with a massive expansion and modernization programme in the 1930s, despite a
decade of clear evidence that the civilian government had no intention of providing
the finance necessary for such a conventional force structure. The alternative, as
recommended by Army intelligence officers in 1934, for the Army to take advantage
of its operational experience in guerrilla warfare, was never seriously considered by
the General Staff. The syllabus of the Armys Command and Staff Course in the
mid-1930s, and the content of its professional journal, An t-glch (192733), testify
to a striking lack of interest in guerrilla warfare amongst Irish officers.44 It is quite
evident that the Irish officer corps came to believe that guerrilla warfare was not the
business of professional solders.
While the Irish Army did imitate more professional armies, clearly its choice of
structure and strategy cannot be explained in terms of a universal instrumentalist
logic. Neither can it be explained in terms of national military traditions, which
were rooted in its guerrilla warfare past. Rather, in line with new institutionalism, I
argue that Army leaders acted according to norms which were institutionalized in
global, profession-wide organizational fields. The Irish case also suggests that it is
not simply the case that material conditions, such as statist military logic, structure
the parameters of action within which national military traditions (or culture)
operate to shape actual choice.45 In addition to material conditions which structured




General Staff, Estimate of the situation that would arise in the eventuality of a war between Ireland
and Great Britain, No. 1, October 1934, DP/00020, pp. 89, 91, Military Archives (MA), Dublin.
General Staff, Fundamental factors affecting Saorstt defence problem, May 1936, G-2/0057,
pp. 778, MA.
For more detail, see Theo Farrell, Professionalization and Suicidal Defence Planning by the Irish
Army, 192141, Journal of Strategic Studies (forthcoming); and Theo Farrell, The Model Army:
Military Imitation and the Enfeeblement of the Army in Post-revolutionary Ireland, 192242, Irish
Studies in International Affairs, 8 (1997), pp. 11127.
This is suggested in Alan Macmillan and Ken Booth, Strategic Culture: Framework for Analysis, in
Booth and Trood (eds.), Strategic Cultures, p. 402.


Theo Farrell

their range of optionsBritains geographical proximity, the British Armys conventional superiority, and a lack of resourcesIrish Army choices were structured
by social conditions, namely, professional norms which delegitimized guerrilla
More work needs to be done on the cultural boundaries of organizational fields,
and on how such worldwide social structures define the range of organizational
choice. Indeed, as Kier, Katzenstein and Legro point out, some organizational
choices are best explained by aspects of organizational culture rooted in unique
historical experiences.46 Their work suggests that we need to examine how national
history and political culture shape the way military organizations construct norms
from their profession-wide organizational fields.
Again, the Irish case is instructive. Irish political culture contained two disparate
traditions, revolutionary nationalism and constitutional nationalism. The former
advanced the cause of Irish nationalism by operating outside the British political
system, through secret societies and rebellious movements, while the latter advanced
the nationalist cause by operating within the British system, chiefly through representation in Parliament. Historically, constitutional nationalism was more prominent
in Ireland, but clumsy British Government reprisals following the 1916 rising in
Dublin mobilized popular support for revolutionary nationalism. The Irish
Republican Armys successful guerrilla campaign in 191921 was the product of this
shift towards the revolutionary tradition in Irish political culture, just as the
adoption of British administrative structures and practices by the Irish Government
after 1921 expressed a return to dominance of the constitutional tradition.47 Thus,
the political culture of the new Irish state provided fertile ground for the growth of
an Army organizational culture based on professional norms, which operated
contrary to Irelands military tradition in guerrilla warfare.
Culture, as both professional norms and national traditions, shapes preference
formation by military organizations by telling organizational members who they are
and what is possible, and thereby suggesting what they should do. In this way,
culture explains why military organizations choose the structures and strategies they
do, and thus how states generate military power.



This is most forcibly put in Jeffrey W. Legro, Which Norms Matter? Revisiting the Failure of
Internationalism, International Organization, 51 (1997), pp. 3163.
Brian Farrell, The Foundation of Dil ireann: Parliament and Nation Building (Dublin, 1971); and
Tom Garvin, 1922: The Birth of Irish Democracy (Dublin, 1996), pp. 12355.