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The Combat SoldierInfantry Tactics and Cohesion in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries$
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Anthony King

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199658848

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199658848.001.0001

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The Elementary Forms of the Military Life

The Elementary Forms of the Military Life

Chapter:
(p.1) 1 The Elementary Forms of the Military Life
Source:
The Combat Soldier
Author(s):

Anthony King

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199658848.003.0001

General William Tecumseh Sherman famously declared that ‘war is hell’. This chapter begins by exploring how literary representations of combat in the twentieth century have confirmed his aphorism. Combat is commonly conceived as a domain of inhumane and senseless brutality. However, although undoubtedly terrifying for the soldiers on the battlefield, there is no reason to presume that, in fact, combat is a domain of genuine anarchic and a-social chaos. On the contrary, combat itself is a social activity amenable to sociological investigation as Tony Ashworth and Randall Collins have shown. By focusing on the smallest military group engaged in the simplest but most extreme human activity, the infantry platoon, this book seeks to address the question of how cohesion has been generated and sustained by western armies on the battlefield from the First World War to Afghanistan.

Keywords:   modern representations of combat, Émile Durkheim, small-group sociology, the platoon

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