Updated: Aug 16
Sociologists have lone demonstrated interest in deviant behavior, examining it in a wide variety of interpretive contexts and institutional settings. In recent years, they have shown particular attention to work-related deviancy and crime constituent to various occupation and work system. Curiously, they have largely tended to ignore the unique configurations of crime and deviancy associated with one of the largest work systems in the world, the United States military establishment (or the military establishment of any nation). The US military is an occupational and social system consisting of three and a half million men and women in various armed services (and to some degree, their families as well). The military in this country, and in others, represents formidable population with the attendant need for appropriate mechanisms of social control.
Deviant and criminal behavior is not necessarily “different” or abnormal behavior. For too long, social scientists tender to view such behavior as alien to the mainstream of social life and thus, a king of antithesis to more conventional conforming behavior. Deviant behavior does not occur within a social vacuum. Rather, it is more appropriately viewed alongside the various institutional normative contexts, which it violates. Thus, many configurations of deviant behavior are endemic to, and accordingly, characteristic of, certain major social institutions. What may seem to be normal conforming behavior in one interpretive institutional context may well be labeled as deviant or criminal in another. Deviancy and criminality are, in effect, situational, and more precisely, institutionally situational.
At one time, criminal behavior was thought of essentially as a vocational pursuit, with the pickpocket or burglar simply as an individual with a proclivity for illegal career opportunities. The concept of “white collar” crime, however, sensitized us to the existence of criminal behavioral configurations which were constituent to a larger pattern of middle and upper-class occupational activities which often had a façade of legality, and which were, in effect, not infrequently considered as normative and thus prescribed with the interpretive context of the particular occupational system or work setting. Subsequently, the introduction of additional concepts of occupational deviancy such as “blue collar”, and “blue-coat” crime extended our vistas of insight into other hitherto furtive and obscured modes of occupational deviancy. Additionally, the Watergate scandal afforded even newer and more penetrating perspectives of crime and deviancy, routinized to the point of near normalcy, and conceptualized as appropriate and, which were constituent to yet another institutional system.
Persistent patterns of deviant behavior in the form of varied, clandestine and often elaborate illegal practices and frequently found with the social organization of many legal occupational (and other forms of institutional) pursuits. Because of a unique opportunity structure and work related subculture, these illegal activities are often endemic or distinctive to a special occupational specialty and are therefore, characteristic of a given work system. The relationship between work (or some other form of institutional activity) is not always immediately apparent because the deviant behavior configurations are frequently buried beneath the surface of occupational structure.
Many such unique institutionalized forms of normative deviancy exist, as yet relatively unrecognized, ignored, or neglected, and thus undocumented, by social scientists. Perhaps, among the more neglected of unique patterns of occupational, or other institutionalized, crime and deviancy are those unique patterns of occupational crime and deviancy that are characteristic of and endemic and constituent to, the military institution- “Khaki-collar”, as it were. The military entity is a large and complex social system with its own elaborate normative system of social control.
Military justice, as a separate system of social control, additional to that of the larger society is dictated by the particular characteristics of the military population, the nature of the military mission and attendant operations, and the unique logistical requirements of the military as a work system. Violation of military norms constitutes deviant behavior and such crimes may be subject to severe official sanctions. Thus “fragging” an officer, looting, malingering, going to sleep on duty, insubordination, mistreating prisoners of war, or failing to clean one’s weapon, to name but a few among the myriad military offenses, may all constitute varieties of “Khaki- collar crime”.
Given the magnitude of military crime, and it is not infrequent prominence (especially during the Vietnamese War), it is surprising that it has been largely neglected by sociologists and criminologists, and no effort at systematic review has been attempted.
This thesis attempts to develop that the violation of military norms represents a unique form of criminal behavior. It further will present a conceptual framework for viewing military crime and deviancy, and articulates and develops the various elements of this conceptual framework. The thesis is concerned primarily with military, but takes the position that military crime is characteristic of, and often similar to, the military establishment of any nation or political entity. Thus, the thesis really addresses the generic concept of “the military”, anywhere at any time in history.
The genesis of the exposition lies in the “war stories”, and tales of life and larceny in the military, which I heard as a youngster after World War II.
Many personal accounts of the war anecdotes, reminiscences, and other military chronicles from friends, relatives, and strangers, provided the germ of an idea which was fueled by the more detailed narratives of military history books, the reality of the innumerable “war movies” of recent decades and the humorous and exaggerated, but essentially valid insights afforded by the numerous television series concerning military freebooting such as McHale’s Navy, The Segreant Bilko Show, M.A.S.H. Hogna’s Heroes, Baa Baa Black Sheep, and others of this genre. This discussion is only a beginning. There is much more to be explored about and much to be learned from military crime and deviancy. I hope my paradigm of “Khakhi- collar crime” will provide a useful and productive framework for the further examination within the parameters of, and the interpretive and precipitating dimensions of, deviant behavior in military context.
Author: Navin Kumar Jaggi