military Competition and bureaucratization of the State

An argument that I’ve read several times in the past few years is the relationship between the military effort of a state and its bureaucratization. In particular, the case of ancient China is an example of it: it Is a state which early develops a strong bureaucracy because of the demands of military competition -in the Spring and Autumn period and the warring states period – and demanded. And as the level of military competence (for example, in the size of the armies) was much higher in China, then the level of bureaucratization was also.

Now, reading recently an article comparing Rome and China (War, State Formation, and the Evolution of Military Institutions in Ancient China and Rome, Nathan Ronstein in Rome and China: Comparative Perspectives on Ancient World Empires, Oxford UP, 2009) which made a couple of interesting observations in this regard. First, that indeed the roman empire had been less bureaucratic than Chinese, based as it was on the use of the urban elites of local for a good part of the administration and with lower professionalism military for much of its history (at least up to the Dominated). The article gives several possible explanations of this -the use of the policy of alliances, for example – but there is one that mentions but that I don’t think you give enough importance: the system of roman military. Because the system of roman military tactics standard of the legions, were good enough that they got good results without the need of a high command professional. Almost any aristocrat amateur could win battles with the legions (and indeed, even when the aristocrats in the Senate were amateur, not ceases to be relevant that a certain experience of military command outside common through the elite: they were not professionals of the topic, but also was a world completely alien).

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In that sense, we can see that the professionalization (bureaucratization in this sense) of the army is one of the possible solutions to the demands of a high military competition between states. The creation of a military system superior (and this is one of the explanations older of the success the roman, as Polybius said that the legion was infinitely superior to the phalanx) also allows, and then have a different impact.

In any case, one of the lessons of this discussion -one that is often forgotten in the social sciences, and indeed not only in sociology – is the importance of social structures and military. The war was the issue of the State, the topic that was the policy, for a long time. Concerned to minimize the importance of the event military (the story does not depend on who won the battle of Waterloo) we forget the importance of the military structure (even though at least in history has recovered in recent decades, as the discussion on revolutions in military attests). But between the material basis of States, technology, and military structure is not one of the minors.

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