For a Kinder, Gentler Society
Organizational Reaction to Social Deviance: The Military Case
  • Robert J. Stevenson
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Organizational Reaction to Social Deviance: The Military Case.
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Military justice issues have become increasingly salient since 9/11. And indeed, the types and frequency of sanctioning in the military have changed substantially since World War II. This study explores differences in how officers and enlisted men are treated, how the different branches of the military have imposed sanctions, and changes in severity and frequency of sanctions during different periods of different wars.

The character of social institutions is known by the nature of rule breakers discovered, or created, within them. The US Military produces casualties in terms of due to physical risk and offenders (those charged with Deviance/Crime) due to social risk: the likelihood of being identified as a rule violator). This case study shows that while the rates of casualty and offender are somewhat inversely related to each other, the latter are much more solidly influenced by the techniques of social control used by officers on their charges than by the war/peace cycle.


About the Author

Robert J. Stevenson taught undergraduate and graduate courses in Criminology/Deviancy, Military Sociology, and Social control, at SUNY Stony Brook and the University of Maryland.

After earning his PhD in sociology, he served in the Dept. of Military Psychiatry, Walter Reed Army Inst. of Research, as a military sociologist and research scientist, where he organized a program to assess leadership climate, cohesion and morale in over 100 units surveyed at five points in time. He has taught courses in criminology and delinquency at the Sociology Dept. of the George Washington University and at Davis and Elkins College in West Virginia. More recently, Dr. Stevenson has served as an expert witness, consultant and freelance writer.

About the Book

This study in criminology, sociology, and the US Military, explores changes in the meaning and production of deviant populations in American military settings since 1941. It is designed to highlight the operation of an ethos of control as armed...

This study in criminology, sociology, and the US Military, explores changes in the meaning and production of deviant populations in American military settings since 1941. It is designed to highlight the operation of an ethos of control as armed forces and society undergo historically unstable accommodation and conflict. The author examines time series data on organizational reaction to deviance in military settings ('Bad Paper Discharges,'¯ courts-martial, and administrative controls) in light of central characteristics of military settings (the social composition of officer and enlisted ranks, force levels, technological changes in war hardware and the distribution of risks faced by various kinds of soldiers).

Propositions from the deviance literature concerning 1) the constancy of punishment, 2) the duration, intensity, and priority of sanctioning, and 3) cohesion and stress are examined in military contexts to discern the changing social control climates therein.

Some sources of the shift are located in the role that risk plays in the system and the function of the officer corps as agents of social control.

In short: the character of social institutions is knowable, in part, by studying the manner in which deviants therein are controlled, stigmatized and expelled.

Grad students in the social sciences are under intense pressure to write articles, and they need data. Organizational Reaction to Social Deviance: The Military Case is jam-packed with hard-to-find data that Sociology departments and research librarians will appreciate. As the Table of Contents immediately shows, the book provides data on the US military that are both rare and hard to pull together.

The 50-page bibliography is particularly valuable as the author set out, as one of his objectives, to define the rather exotic and highly-specialized field of military sociology so as to make it available to deviance researchers and criminologists.

Scholars who teach (or create anthologies) will see that many of the chapters stand alone and are suitable for inclusion in a Reader and/or for classroom/seminar adoption.

The data in the book and the author’s arguments make this a major reference work. One can disagree with arguments — but to do so the relevant research literature is required.


More . . .

Military institutions require that varying degrees of coercion be used against their members as well as against enemies. On one level, the military is an agent of the state; on another, it imposes demands on citizens who must serve therein. The military also exposes soldiers to the authority of its officers and to certain physical risks. There is also the possibility that time spent in the soldier role may result in formal sanctions being applied to soldiers if they are identified as...

Military institutions require that varying degrees of coercion be used against their members as well as against enemies. On one level, the military is an agent of the state; on another, it imposes demands on citizens who must serve therein. The military also exposes soldiers to the authority of its officers and to certain physical risks. There is also the possibility that time spent in the soldier role may result in formal sanctions being applied to soldiers if they are identified as having failed to meet the expectations of their superiors.

In this book I address the problem of social order within the American military. It is an examination of how and when commanders used various sanctions over four decades. As such, it identifies the changing patterns of organizational reaction to deviance and offers an interpretation that these represent the changing social control requirements of a complex organization.

The role officers play in controlling their troops gives meaning to an important part of the institution of soldiering. It also forms the social basis upon which “command” is predicated: that order takers in the ranks must comply with the demands and expectations of order givers. An internally coercive structure—the hierarchy of command—thus attempts to produce predictable behavior on the part of soldiers. This is a study of how such order is imposed.

The data used in this study show the different rates at which commanders sought to punish soldiers for shortcomings: through the courts (courts-martial); by discharge under less than honorable conditions (bad paper discharges) and through the use of non-judicial sanctioning (Article 15). That is, rates of organizational reaction to deviance are examined. . . .

There is an unmistakable diminution of controls used against soldiers for offenses other than AWOL and Desertion until 1971, and an unmistakable increase of such actions by commanders thereafter. This adds valuable information to the overall relation between deviance and sanctioning during the Vietnam War. AWOL and Desertions were clearly coming to compose the bulk of all offenses as the war escalated.


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Pages 292
Year: 2010
BISAC: HIS027130 HISTORY / Military / Other
BISAC: SOC030000 SOCIAL SCIENCE / Penology
BISAC: LAW027000 LAW / Criminal Procedure
Soft Cover
ISBN: 978-0-87586-789-2
Price: USD 23.95
Hard Cover
ISBN: 978-0-87586-790-8
Price: USD 33.95
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