Studies in American Political Development

The Military in American Political Development

Becoming a State-in-the-World: Lessons Learned from the American Occupation of Germany

Grant Madsen 

Brigham Young University


For students of American Political Development, the emergence of globalization and Americanization as themes of inquiry has spurred a growing interest in explaining America's rise as “a legal-economic and geopolitical hegemon.” An important episode in this rise came during the American occupation of Germany after World War II. In postwar Germany, America's military government realized that the American public remained unwilling to support (over the long term) the global projection of what Michael Mann has called “despotic power.” To achieve its fundamental goal of reorienting Germany toward a peaceful coexistence with the Unites States, military government turned instead to what Mann has called “infrastructural power” (power projected “through” society by state institutions). In pivoting from despotic to infrastructural power, three important consequences followed for the occupation. (1) Because it relied on the development of new infrastructures within a new German state, the occupation saw institutional “genesis” in which the Germans themselves influenced the pathway and timing of military government policy. (2) In creating new state institutions, military government performed “policy bricolage,” creatively reconstructing institutions “from” the ruins of war-torn Europe (as opposed to “on” its ruins). (3) Financial policy took a central place in military government's focus because it allowed for “increasing returns” in advancing military government's interests. Collectively, military government's experience provided lessons for an American state in the world.



  I would like to thank Elisabeth Clemens, the editors, and anonymous referees for their suggestions and feedback.