In this opening chapter, I have laid out the conceptual and theoretical prem- ises for the study of strategic culture. I have also argued why it is imperative that we move from a stale conception of strategic culture as a static entity underscoring the aspect of continuity to an understanding of strategic culture which underlines its dynamic nature and the possibility of strategic cultural change. What is more, I have shown how the mantra of continuity leads to inconsistent argumentation regarding the evolution of German strategic cul- ture after the end of the Cold War.

As argued, the mainstream approaches to strategic culture are too invest- ed in the epistemological debate on strategic culture to actually be in a posi- tion to make an analytical shift towards the study of strategic cultural change. As already hinted in this chapter and as will be argued in detail in the next chapter in conjunction with a discussion on methodology and strategic cul- ture, critical realist metatheory presents one avenue which enables us to move beyond the Gray-Johnston debate and commence with a serious dis- cussion on the aspect of strategic cultural change.



This chapter contemplates the question of strategic cultural change in gen- eral, in the context of German strategic culture in particular. The aim is to provide a solid methodological basis for the rest of this study. First, the chap- ter discusses the state of methodology in strategic culture research and ar- gues that critical realist metatheory, particularly its focus on ontology and its discussion of causality may be helpful in reclaiming strategic culture research back from the epistemological impasse it has been driven into. Second, the chapter discusses the few existing accounts on strategic cultural change as well as their added value to the study of strategic culture. Third, a refined analytical framework is introduced, that, as will be argued, is better suited for the analysis of strategic cultural change because it deviates from an essential- ist understanding of the evolution of strategic culture that has been the hith- erto philosophical fundament of the existing theory on strategic culture. Fi- nally, the chapter seeks to paint a comprehensive picture of the issue of stra- tegic cultural change understood both in terms of social and political pro- cesses and policy outcomes, which are shaped but not determined by the spe- cifics of the strategic culture in question.

The discussion of strategic cultural change is ultimately tied to the ques- tion of what strategic culture is expected to do, and this brings us briefly back to Gray and Johnston. Even though neither scholar focused particularly on the question of change, it is useful to elaborate briefly on what change would look like given their theoretical and analytical premises that were discussed in Chapter 1. On one hand, if we argue in the vein of Johnston that strategic culture is the frame of reference we apply when we seek to explain the impact of cultural factors on some specific policy choices, then strategic cultural change refers to those factors and conditions that make decision makers choose differently or deviate from a certain existing policy pattern. Hence, to explain strategic cultural change would equate to an explanation of variance in strategic choice. Gray, in turn, has argued that this is nonsensical because ideas do not necessarily result in action as in if idea (X) then action (Y).128

On the other hand, if we embrace Gray’s framework and argue that culture is the context, the ‘thing that weaves together’, then strategic cultural change refers to the changes within and of that same context and, hence, make an inquiry into strategic cultural change an immensely complex analytical task. This is so because ‘context’ is not something which can be pinned down very accurately in empirical or analytical terms, especially if that context is sup- posed to contain strategic actors as well. Gray’s account ultimately implies for the study of strategic culture that regardless of how rigorous its theoreti-

cal, methodological and empirical design has been, every attempt at discover- ing strategic culture is bound to be an interpretation of the cultural context at best. As Gray often mentions, explaining strategic culture is inevitably a vain attempt due to the nature of the beast itself.129 Hence, both Johnston and

Gray fall short in grasping the crux of the matter with strategic cultural change because of their rather entrenched theoretical and analytical posi- tions.

As was discussed in the previous chapter, change is not something which would have attracted the attention of many scholars, due to reasons that have both theoretical and empirical origins. The possibility of change has been recognized, but rarely considered a worthwhile object of study in its own right. As we shall see, however, ‘continuity’ and ‘change’ are not necessarily some definite states of being, becoming or existing that we could always clearly empirically refer to. For instance, German policies did not fundamen- tally change at first as a result of the changes within the normative frame- work underlying German strategic culture in the mid-1990s. Yet the long- term impact of this normative change was crucial in facilitating the possibil- ity for future changes in security and defence policy practices.130 Hence, the

empirical study of strategic cultural change needs to go beyond the notion of ‘observable policy outcomes’, because outcomes always lock down change in spatial and temporal terms. Importantly, however, observable outcomes are by necessity the products of the underlying social and political processes. In- deed, as is discussed in detail in this thesis, the question of change in German strategic culture is inextricably tied to the social and political process related to the re-interpretation of the German past (Aufarbeitung der Vergangen-

heit). This is a crucial notion in the attempt to move beyond the empirical,

‘observable’ realm of strategic culture.

In document From Guilt to Responsibility and Beyond? : Change in German Strategic Culture after the End of the Cold War (Page 53-55)