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Running Head: MANIFEST AND LATENT FUNCTIONS                                                          1

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Military Hierarchy and Military Culture

 

 

 

 

Sociolgy 375 Contemporary Social TheoryName

Course

National University Institution

Julia Girley

Date 05-19-20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction

The military is considered an organization that has separate goals and culture. Being an organization, it is viewed to be constructed with the various departments that would be featured in a ideal organization but with unique features due to its way of organization and the way the different departments perform their duties and accomplish their missions as per the requirements mandated. In a sociological view, the military develops its staff through rigorous training processes that may have intended and unintended consequences.  The military success is achieved through a series of training and approaches that are different from any other type of organization which are generally composed of individuals who come into the organization with already achieved qualifications and skills as well as experience. For the case of military organization, individuals are trained from ground to success and do not come with already acquired skills on the filed unless otherwise and instances of professionals in military who might have maybe retired or trained privately but are coming for military joining requests. In the military, there are developed hierarchies that are important in achieving its goals. The hierarchies in this social setting are different, and the different groups represented in the hierarchies have different objectives.  It is an example of structural functionalism, where different groups and hierarchies are utilized to promote solidarity and stability in the workplace (Longhofer& Winchester, 2013). Military culture requires the following of commands of those in authority, and sometimes it might bring the unintended psychological issues.

Merton Theory of Manifest and Latent Functions

The functionalist theory has been adopted and used to explain aims and the working of structures in society. It is a common theory in sociology, and Robert Merton builds his manifest and latent function theory by critically evaluating functionalism theory.  He critiqued the theory on three basic postulates. The first postulate is the functional unity within the society (Helm, 1971). Merton argued that the unity of society is only true for small societies, where there a high level of integration. He argued that the functional unity of the society could not be used to large complex organizations or societies because new forms of social and cultural beliefs will develop over time. This is given the diversity that would be present in big and large communities. However, in a small community or rather society, the level of integration and unity will be evident and cases of different believes and motives being created in the society will be different.

Merton rejected the functional theory on the postulate of universal functionalism. The functionalist proponents argued that standard cultural and structural forms have positive functions in society. However, Merton argued that not all the structures, ideas, and cultural beliefs had positive functions in society. This is to show that some of the ideas and believes could actually have positive functions in the society but others would not which is a clear show that the functional theory would not be wholly applicable with surety. He also rejected the functionalist theory on the third postulate, that of indispensability. Merton refutes that not all the functions are necessary for the society and that some institutions may be used to replace others (Helm, 1971).

Merton begins by defining functions as those observed consequences that individuals face when they are adapting or adjusting to a particular system. Robert Merton argued that systems can have negative consequences, caused by the dysfunction of the system. Societies do not function uniformly as many would think when applying the functional theory because societies are made up of different people with different motives and ideas concerning themselves and how they should approach life. Merton looked at the society as constituting groups and argued that cultural practices differed in those groups within the society. Therefore, he introduced the concept of manifest and latent functions. Manifest functions are those intended by a group or an organization, while latent functions are unintended (Helm, 1971). In the military, manifest and latent functions theory is applicable, since it is a large organization of the society.  Therefore, military hierarchies and cultures are important in achieving the intended goals, but there are also unintended outcomes referred by Merton as latent functions.

Military Hierarchy and Culture

In the military, there are groupings and developed ranks that institute command and discipline within the group. The United States military is composed of the modern ground, naval, and air force, each unit having different formations and duties. From this, it can be viewed as a society with different groups of individuals who function with the same intention within the organization for the achievement of goals but function in a different way depending on the line of duty each is placed under. The purpose of the hierarchy in the military is to allow a chain of command that originates from the top the bottom. In the military, individuals are expected to obey the commands that they are given, regardless of how hard they seem. The hierarchies developed by the military are consistent with developing traditions and cultures that bind groups together and there is no room for dissent.  In the military, commands are passed through established channels they are passed through ranks. The ranks are important for the discipline and stability of each unit. The structures and the units are developed to ensure that groups work with commands from different heads in the military, and there is coordination (Johnson et al., 2007).

The division of armies into units enables the chain of command to be passed from the top to the bottom. In the ground forces, corps are the largest tactical unit and the squad is the smallest. Corps is responsible for translating strategic objectives of the military to tactical orders.  The strategic objectives are decided by the highest-ranking officials in the ground forces and are passed through unit commanders to the tactical officers who have been assigned the role of executing the orders.  The orders are passed to the division that consists of brigades of 10,000 to 20,000 individuals (Moran, 2006). Divisions in the United States are commanded by Major Generals. Commands are received and executed without opposition from officers assigned to execute them. The military utilizes an autocratic leadership style hence it is not open to contributions of the junior staff (Moran, 2006).

The military culture is developed through rules and regulations on what soldiers are expected to do, and what they are not expected to do. Soldiers are guided by a common code of conduct which is considered uniform to all since they are considered to be under the same union regardless of the wings they hold within the military organization. Unit members are expected to respect one another and members are expected to indicate high levels of discipline.  Military professionals are taken through a vigorous discipline training that becomes part of them and breaking that code of discipline leads to consequences by punishment or even expulsion from the force. Goals and objectives are achieved because of the structures and the cultural norms that have been developed and observed in the military. For instance, a chain of command ensures that soldiers receive commands from specific people, and they are expected to perform those commands without question. Merton’s theory of manifest functions and latent functions applies because it leads to the achievement of goals, but there are also unintended consequences (Helm, 1971).

 

 

 

Manifest Functions

Cohesion

The military has the important duty of protecting the country. Cohesion is important in security because it ensures that team members are coordinated and all have similar goals and objectives.  Military members work with one goal in common; they receive orders from the same source and function together to achieve the security desires of the nations since it is a common task and not an individual task that can be achieved in isolation. The culture that requires individuals in the military to obey their commanders without question brings in the aspect of cohesion. The concept of getting commands from same and common source makes it possible for the members to function with uniformity and unity since they are all focused on achieving the same success that is required. In every organization, cohesion within teams is important because it eliminates conflicts that may derail the achievement of the organizational goals. Cohesion is a manifest function that is achieved because of the high level of discipline and the command structures in the military. Cohesion allows the team on the battlefield to be able to defeat the enemy because they have similar goals and objectives (APA, 2012).

Safety in the Field

Instructions are important in an organization, but they are more important in the military. Obeying instructions that are given as commands is important for safety in the military, especially when on the battlefield.  Receiving and executing commands as issued by the commanders in the army protects individuals from danger. When it gets worse in the field, individuals know that decisions will be made by the commanders or those in the position of authority. They do not make decisions that can conflict with each other. When times get hard, they do not need to argue or despair, they listen from a command from those on top.

Discipline

The military is often referred to as disciplined forces. The military culture is intended to instill discipline in the soldiers because without it, it would be impossible to ensure they work as a team. The culture requires that soldiers respect each other. Once they meet with their seniors, they salute them and behave in a defined way, as a sign of respect. Military culture develops discipline that is important in the management of the large units of different people, who might have different opinions (APA, 2012). Achieving discipline ensures that soldiers can receive commands without question, and acting on those commands. Discipline enables the soldiers to perform their duties as expected without supervision. Disciplined soldiers know that they are protecting the country, live by the oath, and will not betray their country. Therefore, discipline is manifest function stemming from military hierarchy and culture.

Developing Resilience in Challenges

The training and physical activities require the soldiers to be physically active and develop resilience. When soldiers can survive in different environments and are physically active, it is a manifest function of military training and culture. The training develops the physical and mental aspects that develop resilient soldiers. The working environment of the soldiers is tough and challenging, and they are expected to be resilient to conquer the challenges. In times of war, the physical aspects and mental resilience are brought to practice (Bonanno, Westphal& Mancini, 2011). The combat zone is physically and mentally demanding. Decisions have to be made depending on the location of the enemy, and adjustments have to be made fast. Mental resilience is tested when colleagues are killed or injured during combat. The war is conducted in unfamiliar environments, and it demands the bodies of the soldiers to adapt and remain resilient at these times. Therefore, military culture is aimed at developing resilience that would make the soldiers survive in extreme conditions where they face physical and mental challenges.

 

 

 

Latent Functions

Combat Exposure Trauma

The military culture prepares the soldier for the battle. During deployments, the soldiers are expected to be resilient, fight hard, and survive. The intended functions, such as cohesion, discipline, safety in battle, and resilience are most of the time achieved. However, military culture and hierarchies fail to address the issue of trauma. In war, most of the soldiers witness painful deaths of their colleagues and also that of the enemy, when they come back from the war, they are faced by the traumatic past, and some of them are not able to cope in the society (Johnson et al., 2007). Every time they try to relax, they think about the war and the realities they faced. They are not able to move on because they have trauma from the combat zone. This is a lateral function, and the military has utilized most of its resources to address the issue but the resources have not been enough.

These soldiers from deployment that suffer from trauma are exposed to stigma by their colleagues and also in their families. The service members are exposed to behavior change that brings problems in their relationships. Different personalities react differently to trauma.  Personality has a huge impact on human behavior, and latent functions can be minimized by ensuring that the military does assess the personality of individuals before choosing the type of deployment that they can serve (Bonanno, Westphal& Mancini, 2011). The lack of services to address combat exposure trauma is a latent function that is created by the authoritarian style of leadership in the military. Discipline and chain of command are observed, and those who petition for such services without authority are seen as not being disciplined or loyal and can face disciplinary procedures.

The exploitation of Service Members by Commanders

The chain of command, and the rules and regulations that guide the conduct of service members are essential in developing positive behaviors for performance in the military. However, the latent function of the culture and the hierarchies in the military is the exploitation of some of the members. Since they are required to follow commands without objection, service members may be exploited through being assigned duties beyond the scope. Sometimes commanders become biased and overburden duties to those subordinates they do not along with. The military culture prevents subordinates from questioning commands or decisions made by their seniors.

Further, it can also lead to inefficiencies, because the commanders do not consult, and make decisions. In the military, consultations are done with members with the same ranks, and juniors are only to receive the commands and execute them. Exploitation can become the norm and there no channels to report the abuse of duty of the seniors by the juniors. Sometimes, reporting the exploitation may be termed as indiscipline. Therefore, the culture and structures are designed to ensure discipline and performance of the military, but they can amount to exploitation of those in lower ranks.

Conclusion

The Merton theory of manifest functions and latent functions is applicable in the military. It was founded on the critical evaluation of the functionalist theory. A military is a group of the society, and since it is a large organization, there are manifest functions and latent functions. The military hierarchies and the culture developed are intended to instill discipline and cohesion within the military. It also ensures that soldiers develop physical and mental resilience that is needed in the field. It is through the discipline and cohesion that soldiers are safe on the battlefield. The manifest functions are the intended outcomes in an organization. The latent functions are the negative unintended outcomes, and in this case, are trauma, stigma, and exploitation of the subordinates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

APA (2012) Understanding Military Culture https://www.apaservices.org/practice/good-practice/military-culture.pdf

Bonanno, G., Westphal, M., & Mancini, A. (2011). Resilience to Loss and Potential Trauma. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology., 7(1), 511–535. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-032210-104526

Helm, P. (1971). Manifest and latent functions. The Philosophical Quarterly (1950-), 21(82), 51-60.

Johnson, S. J., Sherman, M. D., Hoffman, J. S., James, L. C., Johnson, P. L., Lochman, J. E., … & Nichols-Howarth, B. (2007). The psychological needs of US military service members and their families: A preliminary report. American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Military Deployment Services, 167.

Longhofer, W., & Winchester, D. (2013). Social theory re-wired: New connections to classical and contemporary perspectives. Routledge.

Moran, M., (October 26, 2006) Modern Military Force Structures https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/modern-military-force-structures

 

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