The Military Mind and American Public Philosophies: A Q-Methodology Approach

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Darrell W. Driver


This article examines the veracity of longstanding claims that military leaders
develop a coherent public ideology that is, first, distinct from the
mainstream of their parent society and, second, that this military
belief system is predictably conservative in character. In the American
case, these claims depict self-selected and socialized military leaders
as sharing in a conservative "military mind" that remains isolated from
the mainstream of the American liberal tradition. Using a combination of
Q-methodology public values sorting exercises followed by
semi-structured, in-depth interviews, these arguments are tested through
an intensive examination of the public philosophies of forty-five
mid-level and senior U.S. Army officers and forty-five civilian
community and business leaders. The result was the organic construction
of four primary public belief systems, labeled here as Triumphant
Individualism, Communitarian Democracy, Traditionalism, and
Neo-Traditionalism. When these belief systems are matched to the
conventional military mind wisdom, however, the basic claims of
distinction, coherence, and conservatism are not supported. In place of
ideological solidarity, one finds a diversity of value orderings and
descriptions that do not easily fit the typical military-civilian
categories and often belie the military respondents’ own self-identified
political labels. These findings challenge existing shibboleths
regarding the prospect of a "military mind," while questioning attendant
claims regarding the capacity of military service to shape individuals'
public values.

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How to Cite
Driver, D. W. . (2008). The Military Mind and American Public Philosophies: A Q-Methodology Approach. Operant Subjectivity, 31(1). Retrieved from