Militarism


Militarism
   Militarism is an excessive influence of military over civil institutions in the political realm, customarily combined with the popularization of military virtues in the social sphere. The term became a common pejorative in Europe during the late nineteenth century, usually in criticism of the increasing attention given to military demands and considerations among the priorities of national governments. In the last quarter of the century in particular, critics could point to the sheer ubiquity of the military in the maintenance, by large and small states alike, of heavier armaments and greater land and sea forces than ever before. The public acceptance of such forces as essential to national defense - partly in light of the scale of European conflict during the Napoleonic Wars at the beginning of the nineteenth century, partly due to a perceived need to protect overseas commerce and colonies at its end - afforded the military class enormous social prestige in the high summer of nationalist patriotism in the decades leading to World War I.
   Viewed from this perspective, the father of nineteenth-century militarism was Bonaparte, both in his conception of war as a clash of whole peoples rather than professional armies and equally through Napoleonic France’s intoxication with the martial spirit. Among the nations most traumatized by Napoleonic conquest, Prussia produced not only Clausewitz but also a Junker military class at the head of an army that under Otto von Bismarck united the German states by force. It is no exaggeration to say that, between the victory of 1871 that created a German Empire and the war of 1914, which destroyed it, the army was for many Germans the quintessence of national virtues. It was a society, the novelist Theodore Fontane noted, in which it was hardly possible to turn a corner without bumping into a uniform. Indeed, the militarization of society so ubiquitous in Germany was also evident in the other European powers. Monarchs and their families appeared in public, whenever possible in military dress and wherever possible to review columns of troops. An awed public meanwhile embraced military values of discipline, self-sacrifice, and physical courage - along with the acceptance of the inevitability of major armed conflict as a test of personal and national character.
   See also <>; <>; <>; War Studies.
   FURTHER READING:
    Berghahn, Volker R. Militarism: The History of an International Debate, 1861–1979. Leamington Spa: Berg, 1981;
    Craig, Gordon. The Politics of the Prussian Army, 1640–1945. New York: Oxford University Press, 1955;
    Howard, Michael. War in European Society. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976;
    Vagts, Alfred. A History of Militarism. New York: Meridian, 1959.
   CARL CAVANAGH HODGE

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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