Character in the British Army: A Precarious Professional Practice

David Ian Walker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

42 Downloads (Pure)


Finding balance between institutional or bureaucratic inclinations and professional ones is a challenge faced by all occupations that aspire to professional status, but this is especially difficult for the military, owing to its unique role and the unusual pressures that are placed upon armed forces personnel. The military is charged with the delivery of violence for the benefit of wider society and by morally appropriate means. It is unique among professional practices by virtue of the authorised use of abhorrent methods and the requirement for personnel to be prepared to die in the performance of their duties. Further underscoring the special conditions of the military is the supremacy of mission and group over individual interests, such that at times institutional imperatives can dominate. In these circumstances, the cultivation of appropriate professional military character is a complex endeavour, particularly when army personnel must face some of the most challenging conditions imaginable. In this chapter, I shall focus on the British context to argue that though the British Army Officer Corps is a professional practice, it is a precarious one owing to ongoing tension between institutional and bureaucratic factors on the one hand, and a requirement that army officers exercise professional and moral autonomy on the other. Also affecting the professional precariousness of the military are traditional ethical dilemmas of war together with newer ones associated with modern forms of warfare. Ethical aspects of military practice are the main concern of the chapter, insofar as a defining feature of any professional practice is its ethic or code of ethics (Bayles, 1988; Oakley & Cocking, 2002; Wolfendale, 2009).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCultivating moral character and virtue in professional practice
EditorsD. Carr
Place of PublicationAbingdon
PublisherTaylor & Francis
ISBN (Electronic)9781351725118
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jan 2018


Dive into the research topics of 'Character in the British Army: A Precarious Professional Practice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this