COURSE: Technology, Bureaucracy and Legitimacy in Future Battlefields

Course content

Purpose: The use of new technologies in armed conflict has historically been decisive – not just for the outcome of the war, but also for the development of modern societies in general. However, new technologies introduce both new opportunities and new dilemmas in military operations. They shape the relations of time, space, humans and machines in new ways and reconfigure the coordinates of the battlefield. New military technologies thus open up new domains of contemporary “hybrid” warfare, new types of risk and new types of securitizations. In recent years, the pace of technological advancements and the development of increasingly intelligent and autonomous weapon systems have challenged the ethical and legal principles of Just War. As a result, the classical bureaucratic order and the rational deliberation on the legitimacy of war are put under political pressure. In other words: New technologies not only redefine the military frontlines, but also introduce a new range of political, ethical, legal, industrial and economical justifications in the discourse of security and risk management. The purpose of the elective is to explore this inherent connection between technology, bureaucracy and legitimacy, which we will term as military technopolitics. As a broad generic concept, military technopolitics refer to the military and governmental strategies of justification that associate the idea of good and just conduct of war with the idea of good and just conduct of governance.

Contents: This elective introduces the students to a number of theoretical as well as empirical perspectives on the use of new technologies in complex military operations. We will rely on new sociological theories of justification, critique and legitimacy as well as theories of bureaucracy and science and technology (STS) applied to areas such as cyberwarfare, drones, robotics, neurotechnology, artificial intelligence etc. In this context, we will discuss the ethical and professional dilemmas that emerge in the military organization and its practices of risk management.

The course is based on 3 key elements:

1. Theories of critique and justification

2. Bureaucracy and legitimacy

3. Military ethics and technology

Use: The elective gives the students a unique access and insight into the military organization and its professional challenges. Furthermore the combination of theoretical perspectives and empirical cases gives the student the competence to work with practical issues in the tension between technological, military and governmental regimes of justification.



SRM: Elective course IV

The course is open to all students in the Department

Bachelorlevel: 10 ECTS
Masterlevel: 7,5 ECTS

Learning outcome

The aim of the course is to outline a new field of research under the general term of military technopolitics, including the ability of the student to present, analyze and reflect on the applied theories and the empirical cases in order to engage a critical debate on the development and use of military technologies in future conflicts.

Will be available on Absalon

Knowledge of the basic discussions concerning the relationship between politicians and civil (military) servants as well as discourse analysis as theory and method will be an advantage, but not obligatory. The same applies to Science and Technology Studies (STS) and general knowledge of new sociological theories of modern complex societies.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination
Oral exam
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assessment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28