Arms and state: An examination of military influence on democratic development

Everett Carl Dolman, University of Pennsylvania


Military forces have influenced the formation and political development of every Western state. The weight of that influence has favored the establishment and maintenance of authoritarian or aristocratic governing structures. At critical historical junctures, however, the military can contribute decidedly toward participatory democratic political development. If the implicit social contract, in which governing agents provide physical and economic security in return for authority to extract resources, is overcome by events, the state may be compelled to offer political side payments in exchange for military support. The military's impact is multi-dimensional, and must be de-aggregated. The institutional structures of the military forces of eighteen Western states (including Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, and the U.S.) are broken down into eleven characteristics. These are clustered under four headings: preparation for war (setting); composition of forces; strategy and tactics; and professionalism. When a preponderance of these characteristics are aligned toward inclusion of the population, the military will tend to support participatory reform in the authoritarian state and maintenance of democratic values in the liberalized one. These influences are described in several detailed case studies.

Subject Area

Political science|International law|International relations

Recommended Citation

Dolman, Everett Carl, "Arms and state: An examination of military influence on democratic development" (1995). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9543069.