Power and Mobilization: The Problem of All-Volunteer Force Enlistment

Doctoral Dissertation


Abolishing the draft and moving to an All-Volunteer Force appears to some scholars including Levy (2014) to be a relinquishment of state power to the labor market for mobilizing recruits. This dissertation argues that state officials did not relinquish power over military recruitment after conscription ended. Transitioning from conscription to the All-Volunteer Force created a collective action problem for state officials: free-riding would be more rational than enlisting, since non-enlistees would receive the same national security benefits as enlistees without having to fight for them. State officials needed to leverage new, non-coercive forms of power to overcome this collective action problem and mobilize an All-Volunteer Force. These new mechanisms of power included offering a set of unparalleled selective incentives for enlistment, using expansive and highly targeted advertising campaigns to align recruitment messages with vulnerable groups, and strategically placing military recruiters in neighborhoods that were disproportionately structurally vulnerable. State officials also capitalized on welfare state retrenchment. In light of the decreasing provision of welfare benefits, incentives offered for military participation were considerable, especially for those most in need. This dissertation theorizes a relationship between mechanisms of state power and more vulnerable groups enlisting for military service. To test components of this relationship, this dissertation draws on data from nationally representative data sets (e.g., PSID, NLSY, YATS, ACS, and CPS) and self-collected data (recruitment office locations and military advertisements), and analyzes the results with mixed methods. Notable findings include significant, positive relationships between increased structural vulnerability and military recruitment office locations, and increased biographical vulnerability and enlistments. A concluding study of intergenerational mobility for veterans and non-veterans finds improved income mobility for veterans over non-veterans working 40 hours per week or less, and for those in the lowest income quintile. By offering increased life chances to those who were most vulnerable, the military performed a social welfare function. In so doing, state officials continued to put those who were most vulnerable in the position of defending the nation.


Attribute NameValues
Author Peter J Barwis
Contributor Rory McVeigh, Research Director
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Sociology
Degree Name Doctor of Philosophy
Defense Date
  • 2016-07-28

Submission Date 2016-12-01
  • Dimensions of Power

  • All-Volunteer Force

  • Structural Vulnerability

  • Social Movement Theory

  • Biographical Vulnerability

  • English

Record Visibility and Access Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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