Tensions in Retention during Military Transformation: Lessons from Re-establishing a Total Defence in Sweden

Book chapter

Olsson, Louise & Chiara Ruffa (2023) Tensions in Retention during Military Transformation: Lessons from Re-establishing a Total Defence in Sweden, in Total Defence Forces in the Twenty-First Century. McGill-Queen’s University Press (97–76).

Publication presentation on the McGill-Queens University Press website

The military sociological literature has widely explored the tensions inherent to the military as a male-dominated, cohesive, total and greedy institution and its needs to transform to better mirror normative, societal, and operational requirements, notably include greater diversity – of gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. These tensions have become pronounced as most northern European military organizations transition back to a concept of total defense – thereby adding and reinforcing the important civil-military diversity dimension and potentially generating heightened competition between civilian and military agencies over specific individuals and professional groups. Key components of this process of military diversity transformation involves the review of perceptions of who constitutes ‘the right people’ to retain within a military organization and tensions between maintaining a focus on the military profession as a core versus creating a more flexible military organization dependent on a variety of professional groups for delivering on its responsibilities. In this chapter, we explore these tensions in retention concept at periods of swift military organizational transformations. We place a particular focus on gender dimensions for two reasons. First, these are argued to go the core of the military profession, culture, and organization and, second, the societal gender equality levels constitute a fundamental difference in the social and political makeup during the ongoing transformation to a total defense compared to earlier transformation phases. We illustrate these tensions with examples from the process to establish a total defense in Sweden.

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