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The Retransformation of Soldiers’ Identities

By Patrick Hofstetter

Russia’s open invasion of Ukraine is perceived in Western states as a turning point. It poses new challenges for military ethics both in research and in practical applications, for example in personality development training. Breaking this down to four levels – state, armed forces, military leaders and soldiers – we can see that changes in the security policy context have actually triggered reverse transformations on all levels. These differ in their respective speeds. While European states have been swift to revert to national and NATO defense, it will take years to strengthen or restore the conventional capabilities of European armed forces. It remains to be seen how quickly the identity of the soldier will adapt to the new conditions. Acting as a link between the levels, it is up to military leaders to absorb these shear forces. A holistic transformation model can help to lead the debate and create the necessary awareness. Reversing the historical I/O model proposed by Charles C. Moskos, the father of military sociology, an O/I model is described. This posits a retransformation from functional organization to normative institution, which should be accompanied by a corresponding change in the soldier’s identity. Correcting the conceptual and empirical weaknesses of the original model from the outset opens up the prospect of improvements in military ethics education and training, based on empirical findings in today’s armed forces.

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