Military Family Industry. The Role of the Family in the Construction and the Development of Military Profession in the Contemporary Army

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 18:15
Oral Presentation
Elena LYSAK, School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences, France
A soldier’s marital status merits concerted reflection when considering the interweaving of work and family in the army. In France, for example, marriage control was exercised in every army corps until 1972. An officer had to pledge in writing that his wife would refrain from any salaried work. Despite the liberalization of military status, it is still not a rarity to encounter wives that also “marry the army”. Taking into account working conditions that feature frequent transfers, the presence of women becomes essential to organizing daily life. Even though the role of the wife is relegated to the private sphere, it becomes recognized as essential for the functioning of the army.

Moreover, according to studies conducted on American and British armies, the “military family industry” aims to foster a “happy family life” in the eyes of society. This phenomenon, observed in the American army since 1930, implies an involvement on the part of wives for the care of every regiment officer, single or married.

It is obvious that women provide a “free service”, favored by army leaders and explained away by the “female nature” of the tasks. Recognizing this reality may help bring about a shift from the private sphere to the professional domain within army workforces.

Our investigations, carried out in France and Russia between 2014 and 2017, show that wifely duties, visible at a family and institutional level, remain socially depreciated in the army, whereas this activity should be considered a real job. Our thinking is thus aimed at understanding in what measure the military family can contribute to the construction and development of the military profession in the contemporary army.