POLS314-23S2 (C) Semester Two 2023

Militaries and Societies

30 points

Start Date: Monday, 17 July 2023
End Date: Sunday, 12 November 2023
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 30 July 2023
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Sunday, 1 October 2023


This course focuses on civil-military relations. It covers the development of the modern professional military and its role in politics and society over time and in a wide range of countries, including European, Asian, American, and Australasian nations. It analyses the military role in the overthrow of democratic and non-democratic governments. It also examines the authoritarian nature of military regimes and the ways they may collapse or be overthrown by democratic uprisings. The final section of the course is devoted to contemporary issues in civil-military relations, raising questions regarding the emergence of the "post-modern", often politicised, military and how to control it, whether soldiers trained for battle are effective as peace-keepers, and the consequences of the return of mercenary forces.

The soldier today faces a new and complex environment.  A warrior, a peace-keeper, a mediator, a politician, a human rights activist, a propagandist, sometimes all at the same time, she has to make instantaneous decisions not just on whether to attack or retreat, but on whether to offer aid or protection, on whether to treat a bystander as an innocent or an enemy.  And she makes these complex decisions within the context of a military built on tradition, discipline and following orders.

How do soldiers and militaries today resolve these conflicts between tradition and modernity?  Do the new missions of soldiers make them more difficult to control?  Should we expect more coups as we have seen in Egypt, Myanmar, Burkina Faso, Thailand and other places?  More resistance to orders from politicians as we have seen in the US, and, perhaps, in New Zealand?  We will explore these questions through an examination of the origins of modern and post-modern militaries, and their relations with civilians in the field and in the capital city.  Along the way, we will discuss soldiers and coups, soldiers and democracy, soldiers and peace-keeping, soldiers and the “war on terror” and the future of the military in an increasingly globalised world.

Learning Outcomes

Students enrolled in this course will learn key paradigms employed in the study of civil-military relations.  They will learn some concepts used in studying the political role of the military, with a particular focus on the way the military may take power, the way it then governs, and they ways it may leave power.  The course also covers the impact of new roles and missions on the contemporary military.  Attention is paid to differences in the cultural nature of knowledge and norms in models of civil military relations, and to the interaction between military and civilian "cultures".  Readings and assignments are designed to encourage students to think carefully about civil-military relations.  At the conclusion of the course, students should be conversant with all the major debates in the literature on civil-military relations, and prepared to embark on original work in this area.


Any 30 points at 200 level from POLS, or
any 60 points at 200 level from the Schedule V of the BA, or
the Schedule V of the BCom.


ILAP656, ILAP688

Course Coordinator

James Ockey


Assessment Due Date Percentage  Description
Final Exam 40%
Short paper 09 Aug 2023 25% 1,500 words
Research paper 04 Oct 2023 35% 2,500 words

Textbooks / Resources

As we will be focusing on the original work on civil-military relations that shaped the field as we know it today, there is no text book for this course.  Readings can be accessed through Learn.

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $1,641.00

International fee $7,500.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

For further information see Language, Social and Political Sciences .

All POLS314 Occurrences

  • POLS314-23S2 (C) Semester Two 2023