An undergraduate school for the nation: the effect of military service on veterans' social perceptions

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The role of the military as a ‘school for the nation' has been debated in many contexts. It seems that, at best, the effect of military service on bridging social schisms and promoting national cohesion is limited. However, despite scholarship, many Israelis believe that their military service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has caused them to accept members of out-groups as part of their own in-group. Likewise, some Western countries have begun to discuss reinstating conscription for similar reasons. This paper examines the extended effect of contact hypothesis in the military, both in practice and as an element capable of bringing about a change in veterans' thinking. It asks: are veterans who had diverse friendships during their service more willing to have diverse friendships in the future? If so, do they attribute their ability and willingness to include others within their in-group to their military service? Based on the findings from a study of Israeli undergraduates, the paper demonstrates that while indeed service friendships (‘army buddies') may be short-lived, service alongside members of out-groups has certain longer-term effects and influences the social perception of veterans, in both positive and negative ways. This seems to indicate that conscription can have social effects and impacts veterans' social thinking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1033-1053
Number of pages21
JournalNations and Nationalism
Issue number4
Early online date2019
StatePublished - Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The author(s) 2019. Nations and Nationalism © ASEN/John Wiley & Sons Ltd 2019


  • Israel Defense Forces
  • civil–military relations
  • conscription
  • contact hypothesis
  • military socialization
  • military veterans


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