‘Your country is my country'
: civil-military relations as social reproduction, 1880-1920

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This dissertation argues that the nature of civil-military relations is integral to a state’s elite social reproduction. It is a riposte to a formidable orthodoxy, at the center of which lies Samuel Huntington's normal theory. Whereas Huntington proposed that a military’s obedience to civilian authority depended upon its officer corps' professional isolation from the society which raised it, this work contends that the acceptable patterns of civil-military relations in the United States, specifically, have always reflected the native dispositions and sociality of the same provincial elite families who together have led the country’s political and military affairs. To build its case, this thesis employs a collective biographic approach guided by Pierre Bourdieu's social reproduction paradigm to reveal the elite origins and social interactions of the 67 army officers commissioned in 1884, a cohort whose career spanned the period Huntington identified as the U.S. Army's professionalizing confinement from American society. By design, this project bridges the macro and micro levels of analysis. Areas of emphasis thus include the historical evolution of commissioning practices as coterminous aspects of military professionalization and American state development, as well as the interlinkages between social capital formation and the proliferation of norms extending individual, group, and intergenerational family advantages. This dissertation concludes at the individual level with an historical case study of the U.S. Senate's disposal in 1917 of cohort member Colonel Carl Reichmann, the U.S. Army's most senior German-born officer, on charges he harbored German sympathies. This case reveals that Reichmann owed his exoneration and subsequent reassignment to counter-subversive operations to his social capital, a durable network of interrelated civilian and military relationships that helped to compurgate an otherwise unpardonable wartime indiscretion. Whereas orthodox approaches typically examine officers in isolation, this dissertation demonstrates that the character of a state’s civil-military relations manifests in its commissioning practices, which themselves reflect the social structure of political and military power. The result is an improved socio-cultural approach that better explains civil-military relations more generally, beyond the limits of the unique American case.
Date of Award1 May 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorRobert Foley (Supervisor) & Helen McCartney (Supervisor)

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