Prof. Yagil Levy

Discipline: Political Sociology, Public Policy

Expert in: Civil-military relations

Google scholar >>


Key words: political sociology, militarism, military sociology, civil-military relations, military studies 

What are you currently researching?
My current focus is on the legitimacy of using force in the military and in the political sphere and their linkages to militarization. I have recently published two articles in English on this topic, co-edited a book in Hebrew (Armed with Legitimacy) that was published at the end of 2021, and completed a manuscript in Hebrew (Shooting and not Crying: The New Militarization of Israel in the 2000s).

How did you become involved in your research field?
I studied political science during the aftermath of the First Lebanon War, when civil-military relations became highly complicated. This constitutive situation encouraged me to study the military and its relations with society and politics and especially, to develop a critical perspective that challenged the (then) dominant conservative view. As I used to joke, during my BA studies I wrote a seminar paper on the political impacts of the Lebanon War. Since then, my work has been dedicated to the ongoing development of this paper….      

What inspired you to become a researcher?
I am inspired by the mission of being, what is called, a “public and critical sociologist.” It serves the public, by promoting deliberation and stimulating new questions, thus facilitating policy debates and challenging established ways of thinking, without taking institutions or social and power relations for granted. Most of my research topics have been devoted to this mission.   

Which of your research findings would you like to highlight?
I'm especially proud in three contributions: (1) The (globally) unprecedented sociological mapping of IDF casualties in recent campaigns (about 800 cases) to study changes in the social makeup and its political implications; (2) The study of death hierarchies; how states decide whether to sacrifice or protect soldiers vis-à-vis enemy civilians and even their own civilians; (3) A revised conceptualization of civilian control that distinguishes between two modes of civilian control over military affairs: control of the military as an organization, and control of militarization, focused on controlling the mechanisms that legitimize the use of force.
How does your research link to todays' challenges?
The public-critical mission is always important in any field of policy, but it is especially relevant to my own, and now more than ever, when states are gaining increasing autonomy to deploy their armed forces and other violent means for new missions. Many of those missions and the doctrinal preparations for them are conducted below the public radar.
What excites you about your research field?
Inasmuch as I am driven by a public mission, provoking debate by presenting provocative insights makes me feel excited. For example, I recently revealed data about the social composition of IDF casualties in military missions carried out since the eruption of the Second Intifada. As I indicated the growing percentage of casualties among the lower socioeconomic and religious groups, my findings drew a lot of public attention and provoked a passionate argument. For me it was a success, even though I was under fire.