From the mundane to the sophisticated: military innovation studies and the question of power

Speaker: Dr Matthew Ford # University of Sussex

17th Oct 2016

15:30 - 17:00

Crystal MacMillan Building, Staff Room, 6th Floor

Drawing on insights offered in Science and Technology Studies, this paper develops a theoretically informed account of how one of the simplest weapons in the inventory gets into the hands of soldiers. My goal is to establish a vantage point from which we can compare and contrast the way mundane technologies like small arms are developed with the way that more sophisticated weapons come into service. What emerges from my analysis is how power relations between soldiers, engineers, scientists, bureaucrats and industry has shifted in favour of industry. The result is that industry now finds it easier to treat the military as consumers, constructing their needs and getting them interested in buying equipment that may otherwise be unnecessary. They do this by playing with what might be described as soldier status anxiety in the hope of upselling equipment. Government policy has played into this. This paper prompts us to think through how such policies frame technology selection and what the implications maybe in terms of democratic accountability and strategic choice.

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