Author(s): Matthew Ford
This book examines Western military technological innovation through the lens of developments in small arms during the twentieth century. These weapons have existed for centuries, appear to have matured only incrementally and might seem unlikely technologies for investigating the trajectory of military-technical change. Their relative simplicity, however, makes it easy to use them to map patterns of innovation within the military-industrial complex. Advanced technologies may have captured the military imagination, offering the possibility of clean and decisive outcomes, but it is the low technologies of the infantryman that can help us develop an appreciation for the dynamics of military-technical change. Tracing the path of innovation from battlefield to back office, and from industry to alliance partner, Ford develops insights into the way that small arms are socially constructed. He thereby exposes the mechanics of power across the military-industrial complex. This in turn reveals that shifting power relations between soldiers and scientists, bureaucrats and engineers, have allowed the private sector to exploit infantry status anxiety and shape soldier weapon preferences. Ford’s analysis allows us to draw wider conclusions about how military innovation works and what social factors frame Western military purchasing policy, from small arms to more sophisticated and expensive weapons.