The citizen-soldier tradition in the united states: Has its demise been greatly exaggerated?

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Many contend that the citizen-soldier tradition in the United States is dead. They argue that the elimination of the draft in 1973, and the establishment of the all-volunteer force (AVF), severed the link between military service and citizenship. The author maintains that this conventional wisdom is wrong. Critics of the AVF have idealized the pre-AVF U.S. military; they have failed to recognize that the AVF was more a product of change in U.S. citizenship ideals than a cause of them; and they have asserted a homology between institutional design (military recruitment system) and a cultural phenomenon (the citizen-soldier tradition) that has little historical purchase. This article reconceptualizes the citizen-soldier tradition as a set of rhetorical conventions, and it demonstrates that these tropes continue to shape political debate in the United States. From this perspective, the AVF did not condemn the citizen-soldier to death: it gave him or her a new lease on life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-174
Number of pages22
JournalArmed Forces and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 2009


  • All-volunteer force
  • Citizen-soldier
  • Citizenship
  • Military service

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