Orphan of military psychology

Authored by: Jacques J. Gouws

The Routledge International Handbook of Military Psychology and Mental Health

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  December  2019

Print ISBN: 9780367237066
eBook ISBN: 9780429281266
Adobe ISBN:


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In the scientific study of war, a foundation for the structured and systemised study of the war phenomenon has existed for decades. This is unknown to most military psychologists. Gaston Bouthoul (1896–1980) found and promoted the new discipline, “polemology,” with the aim to scientifically study war and its organised forms of aggression in society. The goal was to understand the place of these phenomena in human history and to propose alternatives. Bouthoul envisaged polemology as a positive approach and effective alternative to the moralism of militant pacifist movements. Central to his aim of creating a better understanding of conflicts and wars was the identification of positive ways to prevent them. Failure to do so would maintain war engagement from lack of understanding of the psychological factors that perpetuate conflicts. This chapter proposes that it is imperative for military psychology, as an applied science in the military, to include polemology as a primary tool to limit or reduce short-sighted engagement in war and regional conflicts. Military psychology should not only create better soldiers, but contribute to the prevention and/or resolution of armed conflicts.

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