My research in the field of political sociology has focused on the three theoretical areas discussed below (democratic oversight, military professionalism, and the link between democracy and scandal). Most of my work has drawn on the United States armed services as empirical sites and is qualitative in nature (archival, interview-based, and content analysis).
The Theory of
My dissertation (which can be read here) challenged the standard theory of civil-military relations by arguing for the increasing agency of armed services in shaping their political environment. I introduced the concept of "democratic oversight" to make sense of the new form of civilian control over the military that is enacted through the work of war correspondents, public affairs officers (PAOs) and others. The value of the theory is that it synthesizes two widely-acknowledged but under-theorized developments in military affairs: the changing media horizon of operations since World War II; and the deepening professional capacities and organizational agency of the American All-Volunteer Force. An article in Parameters and an article in Media, War & Conflict touch on the core arguments -- other manuscripts, including a monograph, are in various stages of preparation or revision.
The Professional Soldier, Revisited.
Democracy and Scandal.
My postdoc project is a revisiting of Morris Janowitz's classic The Professional Soldier (1960). With Meredith Kleykamp, I am currently pursuing funding to collect new data on the state of the military as a profession, focusing on how (i) expertise, (ii) corporate responsibility and (iii) political objectives are collectively understood and enacted. This is intended to provide a strong empirical foundation for a new series of sociological interventions into military affairs, which have been lacking for some time. Additionally, the third element (political objectives) builds directly from my dissertation project.
In a 2013 article co-authored with Jensen Sass, we argued that the social sciences lack a coherent theory of scandal, despite the ubiquity of scandals in our political culture. There we called for a new research agenda that focuses on how democracy intersects with scandal. We are currently undertaking our first major empirical investigation into this topic in a study of how military sexual assault scandals have shaped (and have been resisted by) military organization. My sole-authored study of the Abu Ghraib scandal introduced some related ideas, particularly the distinction between feedback (media chatter) and feedforward (organizational change).