Conservatism, Culture, and the Military: The U.S. Army 1973 to 1991

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This dissertation explores the revitalization of the U.S. army during the two decades following the Vietnam War. It questions how the army went from a nearly broken institution in the early 1970s to, arguably, one of the nation’s most respected institutions after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Through an examination of collections of articles published in the extensive military press of the period, collections of personal papers from both senior and lower ranking army officers, and historical files from the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, this dissertation shows that the army’s revitalization was fundamentally a transformation in the institution’s culture and conceptions of professionalism. The military press articles and officers’ personal papers are used to show both how the army’s culture changed over time, and what ideas informed that cultural change. That exploration shows that the conservative turn shift in American political culture profoundly shaped the U.S. army. Members of the army appropriated many of the terms and languages of the conservative movement of the 1970s and 1980s, and applied those ideas to how they understood and described their institution. Ideals associated with the conservative movement not only shaped how members of the army understood their professional identities, but also how they idealized professional behavior and understood gender equality and race integration.






Swinney, Joseph D (2019). Conservatism, Culture, and the Military: The U.S. Army 1973 to 1991. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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