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Military Rituals. The Aesthetics of State Violence. Critics and Analysis of an Instrument of Dominance in its historic-systematic Context

by Markus Euskirchen

In military rituals modern nation states present themselves by showing their monopoly on violence in a ritualized manner. This work asks How are military rituals working? and Why do they exist? (and: How influences one answer the other?). A discussion of notions of ritual in social sciences on one hand and of the modern nation states monopoly on physical force on the other are the theoretical core and the context which is needed to understand military ritual as a socio-political phenomenon.

The empirical description of military ritual is structured by a typology. Five basic types are presented, analyzed, and interpreted: the „Wachbataillon“ as german military special force in an introducing excursus; the pledge of recruits as a ritual of initiation with an excursus about the role of the church; the „Staatsempfang“ as a ritual of protocol and impression; honor guards and state funerals as rituals of honor and grief; wreath givings as rituals of memory and history construction; and finally the „Großer Zapfenstreich“ as a particular German military ritual. Military rituals symbolize the possibility and preparedness for the defense of state sovereignty resp. of the claims of power (lately mantled by human rights issues and/or the so called War on Terror). They symbolize the so called ultima ratio of state logic that often is used instead of non-violent alternatives: military organised use of violence.

This work finally attends to protest movements agains public military rituals that span different forms from pacifist critics to direct resistance actions i.e. the “ GelöbNix“ campaign. I argue that criticising military rituals does not necessarily lead to criticising military (or even state or capitalism) in general. Different positions concerning military ritual depend on the underlying socio-political perspective of the protesters.


There are two detailed reviews (sorry, only in German language) in the german magazine „Das Argument“ [pdf|html] by Henrik Lebuhn and by IMI (Informationsstelle Militarisierung) [pdf].

See also the english language presentation of the topic with slides: „Military Rituals. Frequently Asked Questions“.

For more reviews, materials (movies) and links see the „Militärrituale“-section of this blog.

Now I’m looking for a grant or sponsorship to translate my work and to pay a native speaker for final editing. 10.000 € should pay the bills. Part of the work would be to rewrite the introduction and to add a chapter about non-german, more general aspects of military rituals on the base of material mainly from the USA. If you want to support the english language publication of this work, contact me or donate Bitcoins: 165zmx1VWrjhz8FL6EzxEgtQLkWrEK1LxX