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Spartan

The adjective Spartan is used in politics itself to refer to any militarist? egalitarian? totalitarian? society, effectively one organized on barracks metaphor?.

Thucydides? observed that there was an inevitable rivalry between a great land power and a great sea power, that being Sparta and Athens?. Some commentators have emphasized the ideology similarities between Athens and American democratic capitalism?, and between Sparta and Soviet "totalitarian socialism?."

land vs. sea power


A few have identified the differences between Spartan and "Athenian" lifeway?s as arising inherently from the difference between the way land and sea power are expressed:

Infantry inevitably require standardized training, simple equipment, high common standards of responsiveness and conditioning. Commanders usually eat the same food as their troops and, there being no such thing as a lifeboat, die in the same way. Tasks are similar enough that anyone can rise to command. Soldiers may scatter like cockroaches, live off the land, spend some time in a village, become a villager - soldiers are not so different from villagers and new infantry can often be recruited in the field. The economy to equip infantry may be relatively simple.

In the actual original Sparta, citizens prided themselves on being impossible to tell from their slave?s. Brutal training, including beating weaklings to death, eating bad food (in the barracks), and constant military drill were accepted as part of the male Spartan lot. Teenage Spartans were forced to live off the land and develop guerilla skills.

Navies, by contrast, require specifically trained officers who must use simulations in almost all of their training, and in combat cannot risk the expensive ships that they command. Command powers are concentrated, with nearly no discretion for subordinates: ships move only in one direction at a time. Even Friedrich Engels? used ships as his example in "On Authority?", explaining why no communist? state could dispense with single command hierarchy.

Officers have very specific cultural commonalities and trust relations, specialized training, very complex expensive equipment (a much higher cost per sailor typically than the arms of infantry), high but differentiated skills. In contrast to the soldier, the ordinary seaman has little exposure to command level decisions and no capacity to exercise initiative - can rarely rise to command. Beyond "press gang" or "galley slave", you can't recruit onshore, certainly not naval officers. Sea powers must be elitist.

The complex economy required to make and maintain warships may only come from relatively creative and sophisticated democratic states with vibrant economies, it's an elite making the deals, and cutting the orders. A much wider variety of specialized parts must be created to make ships than any other piece of war equipment, even modern armour.


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