Conference Paper

French Military Transformation: A Cultural Approach to Evolutionary Innovation?

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Since the end of the Cold War, many scholars have contributed to the military transformation literature and discussed the critical changes taking place in land forces today – but few have addressed France in depth. This paper aims at filling a gap in the current literature by exploring the ongoing operational transformations in the French army in the post-cold setting. A threefold analysis will be used to identify the key contemporary drivers of change ultimately leading to military transformation. A global level of analysis will point out the necessity for the French nation to adapt its military to confront the evolution of the threats and the changing face of the enemy. A regional level of analysis will demonstrate how the French military does not merely adapt but innovates through institutional mimetic isomorphism. The US and Europe are France’s two spheres of influence inducing different transformations in the French military. The atlantist influence shows the technologization of the French forces and its limits while France’s ties with Europe highlights a conceptual and cultural understanding of change. Following on this cultural constructivist approach, the final level of analysis will show how strategic culture, on a national level, can also be understood as a driver of transformation. Finally, this paper will show how these strategic orientations translate in practical operational changes. Professionalization of the forces, elitism and increased networking will be used to present the challenges and potential limitations of the post-Fordist military. This scoping study hopes to shed light on the current ongoing transformations of the French military and the key literature associated to it, while, simultaneously, pointing out the current theoretical and practical limits associated with military transformation.

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