Demilitarization refers to the dismantling or deconstruction of militarism. Militarism is the influence of the military as an institution and of the preparations to use military force on the overall social organization of society. Demilitarization can be seen as taking place along several dimensions, which may or may not be aligned with each other. The implication is that a society might be in the process of becoming demilitarized in some areas but not in others.
One key element of militarism is the direct participation of the armed forces in the governing structures of society. In this case, demilitarization signifies the reduction of this practice by the introduction of new legislation, stronger democratic electoral procedures, and the strengthening of other norms encouraging civilian participation, or by the actions of citizens who become less inclined to vote or otherwise support military leaders. Since the end of the cold war, Latin America and some parts of Africa have seen a dramatic reduction of this form of militarism.
Militarism also finds expression as an aggressive foreign policy that relies on the actual and threatened use of armed force. In this respect, demilitarization is proceeding, at least in parts of the world where international organizations such as the United Nations and International Criminal Court, new treaties between nations, and commercial transactions, tourism, and professional and educational exchange are gradually replacing geopolitical competition. At the same time, it should be noted that some powerful nations continue to rely on the projection of military force. Furthermore, many parts of the globe remain violent. The demilitarization of some countries and some features of international relations is not incompatible with continued economic, political, and cultural inequality.
Demilitarization also includes the replacement of values and norms that glorify military conduct and the reduced impact of preparations to use military force on key institutions. During World War II, defense spending accounted for 40 percent of the gross national product of the United States; now it is about 5 percent (although the absolute size of military spending remains very significant). The process of demilitarization is also likely to limit conscription and the search for external and internal enemies. Fully demilitarized societies are also more likely to embrace formal and informal forms of conflict resolution, nonviolence, and a more elaborate peace culture. These developments may be the result of institutional changes or more deliberate efforts to create political will through concerted peace movements and other forms of activism.
- Fellman, Gordon. 1998. Rambo and the Dalai Lama: The Compulsion to Win and Its Threat to Human Survival. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
- Marullo, Sam. 1993. Ending the Cold War at Home: From Militarism to a More Peaceful World Order. New York: Lexington Books.
- Meyer, David. 1990. A Winter of Discontent: The Nuclear Freeze and American Politics. New York: Praeger.
- Shaw, Martin. 1991. Post-military Society: Military Demilitarization and War at the End of the Twentieth Century. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
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