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The Officer-Enlisted Distinction and Patterns of Organizational Reaction to Social Deviance in the U.S. Military

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Abstract

Deviance management (the identification and sanctioning of norm breakers) practiced in the military enhances the legitimacy of social-control agents, in part, by keeping intact the social distinctions between leaders and followers. Three “turning points” in organizational reaction to social deviance since World War II (shifts in the severity of sanctions, court expulsions, and the rate at which “bad paper” discharges were given) are examined in light of the war-peace cycle, the changing social qualifications of the forces, and contingencies commonly thought to characterize the Vietnam War. Official responses to deviance became more intense during periods when the social superiority of those in charge was most problematic Moreover, after experiencing hegemony with regard to educational credentials which set them apart from the troops, the rate of discretionary sanctioning used by the officer corps expanded significantly.

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