‘The Skills.. had to be Used Simply Because They Were There’: Instrumental Rationality in the Military Domain

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This article is conceptually motivated to show how instrumental rationality is reflected in the military domain. Instrumental rationality refers to the adoption of suitable means to achieve particular ends. However, this conception was criticised by the Frankfurt School for focusing on means rather than on ends. Based on this critique, I present specific categories of instrumental rationality in the military domain. I will argue that instrumental rationality, or at least its faulty application, is reflected in means-centred thinking whereby the means justify the ends. This approach may create specific categories in the military domain: means justify the ends just because they are available, and they can also expand the ends. The means-centred approach may be expanded from subordinating ends to means to focusing on the objects to be attacked, thus developing an objects-centred approach that may also develop into a focus on the direct outcome of the operation of means, thus becoming a tool of legitimation. A similar legitimising impact is produced by the process of moralisation implicit in the focus on means. Finally, a means-centred approach may be translated into overconfidence in the omnipotence of means, and can thereby be elevated to the belief that weapons can obviate the need for political settlement. « Ces compétences..

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)814-838
Number of pages25
JournalMillennium: Journal of International Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

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© The Author(s) 2023.


  • legitimacy
  • moralisation
  • value rationality
  • war managerialism


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