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A military design movement: Postmodern comedians of war

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Ben Zweibelson
Publication date5/01/2021
Number of pages468
Awarding Institution
Award date16/12/2020
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Across the security studies discipline and beyond, the security community is now questioning whether legacy systems of thought and organization as practiced by American armed forces are still relevant for the application of organized violence in the twenty-first century. There is a growing sense that military frames for thought and action concerning contemporary and future war are increasingly insufficient or unsuitable for how societies are currently expressing conflict. There is a growing interest in security studies, as well as within military organizations, on how design logic and practice could be useful for navigating this dynamic, complex landscape described by some as the ‘postmodern world’, composed of ‘post-industrial societies’ engaging in ‘post-conventional warfare.’ The confusion between war in a postmodern context and reinterpreting war within a postmodern frame will be addressed so that readers appreciate the distinctions as well as the ongoing arguments between military practitioners, academia, and other stakeholders in contemporary as well as complex defense challenges. Postmodernists provocatively suggest that war has changed, with still others suggesting war has entered postmodernity, and others still advocating ‘new rules for war’ in postmodern stylings; with this change there is also an emerging methodology for security forces to deal with this change in the warfare within this new ‘war’ context. While this methodology uses the term ‘design’, it is not interchangeable with civilian or commercial design applications in most cases, particularly in the complex, strategic, and systemic security challenges where military design is being employed with more frequency. Lastly, military design continues to spread across the Anglosphere and beyond in post-industrial societies while also shifting and adapting to cultural, geo-political, and social nuances of the nation itself. These examples of military design results do not fall neatly into the traditional security categories of ‘victory’, ‘achieved end-state’, or ‘failure’ as earlier efforts in organized state violence could. Instead, this research provides a rich tapestry of military design experimentation, scattered adaptation and variation, institutional resistance, and in some cases assimilation. In some instances, there is a destruction of new and radical ideas so that the established and deeply ritualized military belief systems remain intact despite their growing irrelevance in this emergent postmodern security context. Yet these battles are expected in any paradigm shift, including one of how and why to engage in warfare as well as what ‘war’ has now become for humanity.