Conference paper for the 14th biannual conference in Athens 2017
Professor Dr. Ralf Zoll
Founding Chairman of ERGOMAS

Thirty years of ERGOMAS
Everything started already 40 years ago. At that time I was European Representative of the Inter University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society, called IUS, I was member of the Editorial Board of the Journal Armend Forces and Society, I was Vice President of Research Committee No 1 Armed Forces and Society of the International Sociological Association and last not least Head of the German Armed Forces Institute for Social Research, called SOWI.
Why ERGOMAS? Why another scientific association besides the local and the just mentioned international organizations?
Science needs communication, needs exchange of ideas, needs common and comparative research.
Let us have a look at the domestic and international situation then as far as these requirements are concerned.
I start with my home country taking into account 3 indicators:
- courses at German universities 1977 – 1979,
- contributions to the three leading sociological journals between 1954 and 1977 and finally
- pertinent research projects between 1974 -1977.
First indicator:
At that time 33 universities offered Diploma- or Magister-courses in sociology. Available were the data of 27 universities for 70 semesters. We found only three seminars dealing more or less with the military.
Second indicator:
We analysed 52 annual sets and more than 1500 articles of the three leading German sociological jounals and we found only 6 articals and one special issue on military sociology.
Third indicator:
We found 1974 – 1977 110 research projects dealing with the military in a broader sense; 42 projects analysed problems of defense in context of national or international security policy, 39 projects focussed on internal aspects oft he German armed forces and only 19 dealt with civil military relations, as Morris Janowitz pointed out the core of military sociology. The crucial figure here is, that more than 50 percent of the research is done by Bundeswehr offices or Bundeswehr research institutes.
To cut a long story short, a scientific community for military socioloy did not really exist in Germany; to come to more intense scientific communication and cooperation German scientists had to look for outside opportunities. In Europe many countries shared the German situation.
What is left then? The International Sociological Association and first of all the Inter Universitiy Seminar on Armed Forces and Society in the USA. The World Congress of Sociology takes place every four years, a too long interval. The Research Committee on Armed Forces and Society of the ISA holds interim meetings, but there you meet the same poeple as you do at the IUS conferences. The IUS organizes biannual conferences on a very broad level. In these years an average level of 50 panels offered the opportunity to meet the neccessities mentioned above. Additionally IUS publishes the Journal Armed Forces and Society.
Why these huge opportunities for my opinion were not sufficient?
The pope of military sociology, Morris Janowitz, was the promotor of communication and cooperation between the USA and Europe. In difference to the main stream in the States Janowitz was interested in the more theory based approaches of European scientists. Some important comparative projects were initiated by him for example the research on civic education of the military. But his influence on the IUS policy ceased quickly, especially when he started to suffer from Parkinson which was in 1977/78. At the Munich Symposium on Armed Forces and Society 1978 Morris Janowitz presented a paper „On the current state of the socioloy of military institutions“. This paper was something like a last will and is even today after nearly 40 years a landmark in military sociology. His conclusion in the paper sounds very resigning. I quote „At this moment, I do not forsee any great theoretical breakthrough in the sociology of military institutions and in the sociological study of war and peace. Nor do I even forsee any increase in scope and intensity of empirical work… To the contrary, there is real danger that the momentum of the last decades will slow.“ Unquote
Morris Janowitz was right and scientist like David Segal or Charly Moskos, who shared some of his position, could not alter the trend.
As IUS represantative for Europe I had to fight for getting panels for the conferences. I remember a two hours lasting dispute with Sam Sarkesian, at that time IUS chairman, during a conference break at the Palmer House in Chicago. We were not allowed to organize more than two panels, which ment about 5 percent of the whole meeting. Even worse was, that our presentations did not find a broader audiance. The Europeans were quite by themselves.
The desinterests of our colleagues abroad were also mirrored by the Journal Armed Forces and Society. A content analysis of the Journal I presented to the board of editors showed little representation of non american authors as far as the articles were concerned. If you look closer at the articles, you cannot find a remarkable reception of European research results. This has been proofed by analysing the foot notes of those articles, where pertinent European research has been published. Even the two special issues on France and Germany were not of interest.
To sum it up:
In most European countries a scientific community for military sociology did not exist. The IUS-European communication was not able to compensate the deficits as far as exchange of ideas and the development of common research were concerned. Therefore I drew the conclusion from this dilemma:
We have to establish our own association for military sociology.
The idea of ERGOMAS was born.
End of the seventies I started to be a hawker for this project. What I lerned in the past was on the one side concerning positions to avoid non democratic structures. For my just mentioned international jobs I had been appointed, not elected. On the other side to meet the deficits of communication and cooperation such a new association could not be structured in the traditional way. From the beginning I advocated an association organized around groups with common research interest and finally research projects, project coordinators as the core of the association.
It took some years to get enough colleagues motivated to dare the adventure ERGOMAS. In the meanwhile I had left the SOWI in1983 and assumed the first chair in Germany for Applied Sociology at Philipps University Marburg.
In November 1986 27 European scientists established finally ERGOMAS in southern France.
We started with a lot of enthusiasm but we also had to overcome some bumpy periods. Nevertheless at our first conference in Vienna 1988 we could proudly inform the audiance that ERGOMAS had already about 100 members cooperating in four working groups.
Two years later at the Utrecht conference, when I passed the chair to Willem Scheelen I took the opportunity to strike a short bilance. It might be of interest to repeat some of my considerations:
First point: Though we received more public attention than years ago social sciences studying the military and military related issues are still be seen as a second class endeavor, especially at the universities. Therefore ERGOMAS is more than neccessary.
Second point: Some of the members had difficulties with the special structure of ERGOMAS, mainly in the respect that this structure requests high responsibility.
Third point: Working groups as the core of ERGOMAS need funds to start or continue common and comparative research. In this respect we obviously did not invest enough efforts. We have to develop research designs of interest for the big foundations like Ford or Volkswagen.
Fourth point: We should think of publishing a biannual yearbook.
Fifth point: we should reconsider number and topics of the working groups. I propose at least a group dealing with conflict resolution.
So far a part of my bilance 1990.
To come to an end let me spend one more word concerning the fifth point. It was not by chance that Morris Janowitz changed the name of the Research Committee of the International Sociological Association into Armed Forces and Conflict Resolution. At the Torino conference in 1994, by the way excellent organized by Marina Nuciari, I took the opportunity to present a curriculum for an university study program dealing with peace research and conflict resolution. In 1996/97 we started this program, as the first one at a German university. In the meanwhile Marburg offers a master`s degree also at the international level in cooperation with Kent.
ERGOMAS started with three working groups, today the newsletter lists 13. The conference now offers about 175 presentations. I really call this a development. Congratulations again.
Gemünden, June 2017

Thirty Years of ERGOMAS