From “Obligatory Militarism”to “Contractual Militarism”—Competing Models of Citizenship (With Yagil Levy and Noa Harel)

From “Obligatory Militarism”to “Contractual Militarism”—Competing Models of Citizenship (With Yagil Levy and Noa Harel)

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   Yagil Levy, Edna Lomsky-Feder, Noa Harel From “Obligatory Militarism” to “Contractual Militarism”—Competing Models of Citizenship  󰁁󰁢󰁳󰁴󰁲󰁁󰁣󰁴Since the  War, the secular Ashkenazi middle-class groups, which tra-ditionally had constituted the military’s “backbone”, have displayed a lack of enthusiasm to continue to bear the military burden, a phenomenon that was publicly portrayed as a “motivation crisis.” We conceptualize this process as a shift from a “ subjected militarism ” that perceived military service as an unconditioned, mandatory national duty to a “ contractual militarism ,” according to which military service is stipulated by the fulfillment of the individual’s ambitions and interests, although it remained a formal obliga- tion. Two sites of socializations—school memorial ceremonies and prepara- tion for the military service—serve as mediating mechanisms between the structural, social change and the social agency. Both have been utilized by the dominant groups to re-shape the canon, military ethos in a manner that redefines their relations vis-à-vis the military in contractual terms.󰁉󰁮󰁴󰁲󰁯󰁤󰁵󰁣󰁴󰁉󰁯󰁮 I   -,    War and the Lebanon War of , scholars of Israeli society identified a decline in military motivation among Ashkenazi secular youth, mainly pupils from elite, secular high schools¹ and Kibbutz youngsters,² formerly the military’s social “back- bone”. e Oslo peace process, the  withdrawal from Lebanon, and protest against the mass exemption from military service given to Haredi  Yeshiva students, all intensified the process towards the end of the nine-ties. Although the drop in motivation was somewhat tempered after the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada in September , as controversy began    •  ,  ,   to surround the army’s behavior during the Intifada it became clear that the graduates of prestigious high schools had ceased to take their prospective military service for granted.is trend has been expressed in various ways: a clear, slow, and yet continual decline in the general desire to be recruited; a weakened readiness to be recruited into combat units; fewer volunteers for command courses; a rise in the number of youngsters changing their medical profile so as to avoid combat roles; an escalation in the number of soldiers requesting to serve in rear roles; and a significant increase in the number of people drop-ping out before or during their service for mental health reasons.³ An addi-tional phenomenon is that of youngsters from elite high schools exploiting their resources to be assigned to units that do not participate in the Intifada, such as the artillery, anti-aircraft units, and the navy.⁴ is enables them to retain the aura of the combat soldier without putting their lives at risk. Positions vacated by the elite groups are gradually being staffed by other groups that had previously been positioned outside the core of the army, and who saw military service as a suitable location for consolidating their identity, attaining mobility, and leaving an ideological mark. ese groups include the national-religious, immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia,  Mizrachim (who emigrated from Muslim countries during the state’s first years and were relegated to peripheral segments in the labor market) and members of the Druze and Bedouin communities.⁵is process, defined by then Chief-of-Staff Amnon Lipkin Shahak in a speech on the anniversary of Prime Minister Rabin’s assassination as a “motivation crisis”, articulates quite explicitly the erosion of the hegemonic military ethos. In the terms of this article, this “motivation crisis” embod-ies a retreat from “obligatory militarism”, which sees compulsory military service as an unconditional contribution to the state, and the adoption of “contractual militarism”, that is, making service conditional on its meet-ing the individual’s ambitions and interests. In this article, by analyzing institutional sites of socialization that affect Ashkenazi, secular youth, we shall demonstrate how the shift from obligatory to contractual militarism is taking place. We argue that the Ashkenazi, secular group⁶ is devoting its resources into shaping such sites so as to redefine its relationship with the state in a way that furthers its interests. us, the military ethos has become a text subject to various interpretations that replace the state-driven hegemonic canonization that was dominant until the mid-s. We shall examine this claim in two fundamentally different yet central sites of social-ization: the first, school memorial ceremonies, and the second, pre-military preparatory frameworks.  From “Obligatory Militarism” to “Contractual Militarism” •  󰁈󰁉󰁳󰁴󰁯󰁲󰁉󰁣󰁁􀁬 󰁁󰁮󰁁􀁬󰁹󰁳󰁉󰁳 󰁁󰁮󰁤 󰁴󰁈􀁥󰁯󰁲􀁥󰁴󰁉󰁣󰁁􀁬 󰁆󰁲󰁁􀁭􀁥􀁷󰁯󰁲󰁫 e starting point for our explanation of the erosion of the hegemonic military ethos—obligatory militarism—is Yagil Levy’s historical-structural argument, which aims to contend with the level of militarism in Jewish-Israeli society by deploying the concept of “materialist militarism”.  Mate-rialist militarism  is the exchange between the ability of social groups to acquire power within, and owing to, military service—that can be converted into valuable social positions in the civilian sphere—and their willingness to legitimize preparations for war and war itself by sacrificing human and material resources and by reinforcing the military effort (as soldiers and the families of soldiers, and as tax payers). is exchange is defined in terms of convertibility  , which in this context means the ability to exchange an asset accumulated in the military sphere with a resource or asset in the civilian social sphere.⁷ Convertibility largely rests on the republican concept. Historically speaking, the nation state was founded on the republican order that estab-lished a reciprocal relationship between the state and its citizens, according to which citizens were willing to sacrifice their bodies and wealth in bear-ing the burden of war and preparations for it in return for civil, social, and political rights granted to them by the state. is exchange laid the founda- tion for western democratization and the creation of the welfare state. By definition, therefore, modern military service fulfilled a historical role in defining the boundaries of citizenship by equating it with bearing arms. It is against this background that the army became a historical mechanism of mobility for social groups.⁸ In other words, the republican order enhanced the convertibility of one’s contribution to the military into a symbolic resource that could be exchanged for social rights. A high level of convert-ibility, especially in a highly militaristic society, enables the bi-directional replication of the military and civilian social hierarchies.⁹ Based on an exchange of resources in return for military sacrifice, the republican order was thus a veiled arrangement between the state and leading groups of its citizens. is arrangement did not require ongoing negotiation, in particular because it had a universalistic character, at least at the declarative and formal level, in that it posited a uniform set of crite-ria for military service based on universal, and not attributive, criteria for recruitment and promotion. Accordingly, this arrangement assured a high level of citizenship, in other words—internalizing the state’s authority while also internalizing the reciprocal relations established by the state with its citizens.¹⁰    •  ,  ,    An arrangement of this sort was also embedded into Jewish society in Israel. e IDF was organized on the basis of mass compulsory recruitment,  which, under the auspices of the ethos of statism (  Mamlachtiyut  ) tied a Gordian knot between soldiering and citizenship.¹¹ is order was consoli-dated and led by the dominant social group of the middle class—secular,  Ashkenazi men—the group that founded the army, populated its senior ranks, and was associated with its achievements. e army was purportedly built on egalitarian foundations, although in fact, and as a by-product of its being shaped as a western and modern army, the Ashkenazi secular group  was designated to set the tone in terms of its quality. Peripheral social groups, and in particular the  Mizrachim,  were portrayed as able to quantitatively contribute to the army, but not to shape its qualitative values.¹²e high convertibility of resources from sphere to sphere ensured that the military hierarchy definitively shaped the social hierarchy. High convertibility rested on the statist, republican military ethos that defined Israeli society’s devotion to the military effort as a supreme social value. Military service became a decisive standard by which rights were awarded to individuals and collectives acting in the service of the state. Male Ashkenazi  warriors, identified with the military’s glorification, thereby succeeded in translating their military dominance into legitimate social dominance, and thus also to preferentially enjoy the fruits of war, such as land, exploiting cheap Palestinian labor, the arms industry, and more. ese resources could outweigh the sacrifices this group made. For as long as it advanced its social status, the secular Ashkenazi group was the bearer of militaristic ideology.¹³ is is the Israeli version of materialist militarism.is kind of pattern of exchange is modified when the republican equation is violated, that is, when the dominant social groups come to believe that the security provided by the state is too materially or morally expensive, or that it is disproportional to threats on the state (for example, of the diminishing Cold War) or that the rights the state offers its citizens in return are inadequate. Violation of the republican equation, therefore, is no less than a breach of a structural contract between the state and social agents. is state of affairs enables social agents to accumulate autonomous power, particularly when there is a gap between the cost of maintaining militarism and its utility. Social groups are then motivated to place condi-tions on their military service—whether political (see the opposition to the Vietnam War in the United States) or monetary, that is, improved payment for their service. It was this pattern of resistance that gradually led most western states to bring an end to the draft and to move towards a voluntary-professional army. At this stage, the pattern of exchange that
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