The Interrupted System
Israeli Civilians in War and Routine Times
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According to all accepted criteria, Israel has developed a refined universe of social science research, yet the sociology of war, in a society whose brief history is described by "rounds" of war, is utterly lacking. Baruch Kimmerling's monumental work is an effort to correct this glaring omission. He does so by calling upon the best in survey research along with a deep reexamination of the classical social science literature on conflict and consensus.
Israeli society is characterized by a large army of reserves, citizen-soldiers mobilized into military service during an emergency. One such emergency was the 1973 war; another the 1982 war. Kimmerling's approach is to treat such conflicts as temporary but powerful interruptions in many social processes. These episodic events not only lead to changing conceptions of mobilization, but higher risks stemming from potential loss of life and injury, shortages, and conceptions of disaster. This is a work which takes seriously both institutional requirements and personal traumas, and is thus very much in the mainstream of social analyses.
Kimmerling and his research assistant Irit Backer have come up with most unusual data to measure stress and strain, occupational background of these citizen-soldiers, relationships between normal work and military tasks, the impact of such conflicts on migration patterns—among other truly unusual ways of getting at the topic of an "interrupted" system.
This is a book written with a controlled passion, and no mere data-mon-gering activity. The author understands the high costs which Israelis pay to be part of the "club." He sees interruption as an integral part of a chronic conflict situation. Curiously he sees the special features of the Israeli system, when viewed in tandem with external pressures and conflicts, as enabling Israel to strike a balance which enables it to persevere. This is a critical work, but spares the reader fatuous policy recommendations.