Special operations forces (SOF) and social science: An introductory essay

Jessica Glicken Turnley, Eyal Ben-Ari, Kobi Michael

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Although conventional militaries have seen consistent cutbacks over the past two decades, the armed forces of the industrial democracies have seen significant growth in the utilization and visibility of special operations forces (SOF) (Robinson, 2013a; Shamir and Ben-Ari, 2016). For example, the 2014 American Quadrennial Defense Review recommended increasing SOF personnel levels, while drawing down troop levels in all four military services (US Department of Defense, 2014; Jackson and Austin, 2009). Likewise the Israeli, British (King, 2009) and French (Ministère de la Défense, 2013) armed forces have seen very significant growth of SOF over the same period. Despite increased visibility and inherently problematic institutional position as a ‘service within services,’ trading on a felt but poorly defined ‘specialness’ and reputations developed by highly competitive recruitment, selection and assessment processes, there has been surprisingly little social science research on SOF - and what exists, focuses almost exclusively on American SOF. This volume addresses both concerns. First, its international contributors illuminate the SOF of several nations including the United States. This emphasis is important, since during the past two decades jihadi terrorism in the Middle East and other parts of the world has been a key reason for the dramatic increase in the use of SOF often in military interventions shared by a number of nations. Second, the chapters in this volume address a wide range of issues at the core of the social scientific study of the armed forces and extend their analyses to SOF. The volume thus intentionally takes on a multidisciplinary approach, since only such a compound perspective can uncover the full social, political and organizational complexities of SOF in the contemporary world.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSpecial Operations Forces in the 21st Century
Subtitle of host publicationPerspectives from the Social Sciences
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781351802680
ISBN (Print)9781138632622
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (all)
  • Social Sciences (all)


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