Military Reserves

Back to The Armed Forces of the Industrial Democracies

The importance of studying reserve forces centers (1) on their centrality in missions carried out by the militaries of the contemporary industrial democracies and (2) their unique cultural and organizational characteristics. Concretely, reserve components are a foundation for the legitimacy of the military yet are often a source for criticism of missions; they provide a ready pool of manpower but one that is sometimes expensive; their skills are sometimes needed but their military abilities do not always meet the perceived standards of standing forces’ professionals. Research into this military group that is situated between the military and civil society clarifies not only the interlinkages between these spheres but their dynamic and contextual nature.
This project, carried out with colleagues, suggests a new perspective for examining the particular social and organizational characteristics of military reserves forces and the special experiences of serving in the reserves. In order to illustrate the unique social position of reservists we develop a theoretical model that likens them to transmigrants.  Accordingly, we suggest that we may benefit from looking at reserves both as sorts of social and organizational hybrids or amalgams – they are soldiers and civilians, they are outside yet inside the military system, and are invested in both spheres – and as continual migrants journeying between military and civilian spheres. We end by suggesting that it may be fruitful to study three segments of the military each of which has its own dynamics: regulars, conscripts, and reserves. This differentiation allows us to examine different patterns of motivation, cohesion, political commitment and awareness and long-term considerations that characterize each segment.


Edna Lomksy-Feder, Nir Gazit and Eyal Ben-Ari Reserve Soldiers as Transmigrants: Moving Between the Civilian and Military Worlds. Armed Forces and Society. 34(4): 593-614, 2008.

Eyal Ben-Ari and Edna Lomsky-Feder) Epilogue: Theoretical and Comparative Notes on Reserve Forces. Armed Forces and Society 37(2): 361-71, 2011.