Sweden and Our Military Profession: Building a Common Identity or Creating Friction? by Joakim Berndtsson

A chapter from the anthology Transformations of the Military Profession and Professionalism in Scandinavia (Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies Press, 2021) Editors: Anne Roelsgaard Obling & Lotta Victor Tillberg

In Joakim Berndtsson’s chapter “Sweden and ‘Our Military Profession’: Building a Common Identity or Creating Friction?”, Berndtsson describes the Swedish Armed Forces’ attempt to develop a common military identity using a policy adopted in 2017 entitled Vår militära profession: agerar när det krävs – “our military profession – action when action is required” (Försvarsmakten, 2017).

The policy, the first of its kind in Sweden, conveys a broad understanding of the military profession, including civilian employees, soldiers, sailors, NCOs and officers of all branches. The ambition is for the policy to create a common, organisation-wide understanding of the military profession that bridges the “civilian-military divide”; Berndtsson’s study shows that this is not a simple task. The findings indicate a complex and potentially fraught relationship between policy-level conceptions and self-images among Swedish officers. The attempt by the Swedish Armed Forces to regulate and govern identity through a central narrative appears to have generated resistance and friction. The Association of Swedish Officers clearly rejects the constitutive norms around membership of “our military profession,” a reluctance evident among Staff Programme officers as well. Even though the policy clearly distinguishes between “our military profession” and the “officer profession,” the move to create a collective identity is seen as distorting officers’ professional self-images founded on ideas about, and relational boundaries around, a unique expertise, a specific jurisdiction and distinct sources of status and legitimacy.

Berndtsson finds that the all-inclusive concept of “our military profession” is not a strong, shared cognitive model or discourse around which members build professional self-images.

20211114_antseh01_Arvidsjaur_K4_2_Jagarovning_005 Antonia Sehlstedt (Försvarsmakten)

Joakim Berndtsson, PhD, is Associate Professor at the School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Berndtsson’s research interests include public opinion of the armed forces, civil-military relations and security outsourcing. Together with Christopher Kinsey, Berndtsson is the co-editor of The Routledge Research Companion to Security Outsourcing (2016).

This article can be downloaded from SJMS homepage: https://sjms.nu/articles/10.31374/sjms.40/

Victor Tillberg, L. (2020). The Dynamics of Military Skills: The Role of Experience-Based Knowledge in Challenging Situations. Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies, 3(1), pp. 55–67. DOI: https://doi.org/10.31374/sjms.40

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