I have a setting where there are multiple factions. Conflict and war are common to a degree on the planet, however, for the most part conflict only encompasses military units. Civilians are rarely killed or even injured during times of war from an enemy, as such they are often conscripted to run internal logistics during times of war. Soldiers however are in far more danger since they are on the frontlines of a modern/near modern battlefield. There's a lot more drone usage, networked warfare, missiles etc. There's A LOT of technology. The people of this faction are relatively weaker than normal humans on Earth. As such they rely a lot more on vehicles. The entire military is mechanized down to the squad level.

Expectedly, the average soldier needs to be well versed in their technology and smart. Now the faction in question doesn't have a problem with creating talented and smart individuals. The society is fairly progressive with many things (at least towards their own people, others outside the faction are a different story). Gender roles are practically non-existent, racism/sexism/ other isms are non-existent on the systemic level (once again to the own population, towards other factions is a different story), everyone by law is required to vote, the government is mandated to afford everyone a baseline level of care (ie baseline universal healthcare, housing for homeless, ensuring no one is starving to death etc). People are highly encouraged to go to college and continue their education or trade schools, public schools are funded at a higher level (school funding isn't based mainly on local taxes). And more.

That said, not everything is perfect. There is a level of classism based on how much money one can acquire/save. In certain areas, one's career can be used as a tool to judge someone. While there aren't any laws or widespread discrimination, people being people will divide themselves across lines and judge people. But the bigger one is that to anyone but their own faction, these people are intensely xenophobic/racist towards others. Even other humans on the planet. Note that they have no desires to conquer the planet, or enact a genocide of sorts, or spread their influence. The setting is post post apocalyptic in a way, the faction is just trying to get by. The majority of the factions have yet to reclaim the planet for various reasons not important to the question. While they're no means perfect, the divisions amongst things like sex, gender, color etc isn't as bad as it is on Earth nor was it ever rooted in deep historical issues.

This all poses a problem if I look at military recruitment from a traditional lens though (especially modern American/NATO volunteer only militaries). People in general aren't flocking to join the military. Generally a lot of soldiers in America cite economic prospects or college funding as the reason for joining. Other nations struggle to retain and recruit manpower and have turned to conscription. However, in my world they don't need to resort to conscription. They have a decent enough pool constantly applying that they need to create a test that fails more than it accepts. One that's not easy to pass. This is direct opposite of what we see right now. Some of the reasons that I've considered have indirectly led to the creation of a warrior class especially after service, which isn't something one would want or expect to see in such a society.

Why would an otherwise egalitarian/progressive society with a skilled workforce have too many people applying to the military?

Some ideas that I came up w/ but were dissatisfied were:

  1. Better tax breaks
  2. Increased wealth transfer to next of kin. As in without military service one cannot inherit or pass on wealth.
  3. Sale of land in reclaimed territory (the majority of the planet is slowly recovering and no one faction shares any type of border with the other).
  4. Special access to further levels of education.
  5. Higher level of government funded care for later on in life. Essentially an increase in the baseline that was mentioned earlier. Instead of paying for the minimum, things like housing, food, healthcare etc are provided at a greater rate. But a salary isn't and is something someone has to work for outside the service. Or that they need to hold a job after service to retain benefits.

None of the above ideas are hard no's/ ruled out. But to me they seem like a way to stratify society based on the people who served and didn't. If there are balances/changes that could be applied to them so that they don't create too much of an issue I would welcome them as answers. I just want to avoid a situation where there are special privileges for a certain portion of the population that may cause social upheaval later on.

  • $\begingroup$ It looks like you're asking us to brainstorm even more potential reasons for a thing. Such a broad and open ended question is unsuitable on its own before you consider the fact that brainstorming and idea generation are strictly prohibited on this site. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Sep 28, 2022 at 22:41
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    $\begingroup$ I find the wording of your question bewildering, and can't tell what you're asking for: "Why would... a society ... have trouble turning away potential recruits". Is the problem we're solving that too many people, or not enough people, are trying to join the military? $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Sep 28, 2022 at 22:41
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    $\begingroup$ 6. Lots of poor people who see the army as job security and a chance to get ahead in life. 7. Effective patriotic propaganda. 8. Army pays better than the median wage. 9. Women prefer men who have served, because the army makes boys into men, and puts sense into their heads. 10. Social pressure to apply. Etc. VTC as inherently opinion-based. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Sep 28, 2022 at 22:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Tom The standard isn't whether a question is answerable. If a question is broad, POB, or soliciting brainstorming, it is inappropriate for this site regardless of whether it can be answered. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Sep 28, 2022 at 23:30
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    $\begingroup$ Then that's your answer: the military uses a screening process to evaluate all applicants, and they accept only the number they need, starting with the best. That's how pretty much everything that's selective works in the real private and public sectors. $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Sep 29, 2022 at 0:30

3 Answers 3


Xenophobia and Fearmongering

Whether rightly or wrongly, the people in these societies REALLY hate the people in the other societies. This might be due to the other societies being physically different species. Or it might be due to some real or perceived danger if they other guys win the war they will all be wiped out. In either case they want to get ride of the other guys.


Try as I might, I cannot make sense of your question.

These passages seem key:

  1. Generally a lot of soldiers in America cite economic prospects or college funding as the reason for joining. Other nations struggle to retain and recruit manpower and have turned to conscription.

  2. However, in my world they aren't and don't need to.

  3. They have a decent enough pool constantly applying that they need to create a test that fails more than it accepts. One that's not easy to pass.

P1 seems accurate (to me, a civilian, at least as far as the US): the US has an all-volunteer army and no shortage of applicants. I'll take your word for it that other real-world countries resort to conscription to fill their ranks.

P2 is you telling us that recruitment in your story is the opposite of the real world, i.e. every country has plenty of applicants, and so rather than conscription they get to be choosy about who to accept.

P3 seems to follow from P2: since the applicant pool is large, the military screens applicants and only accepts the cream of the crop.

... but then all of the solutions you suggest and then discard are solutions for driving up recruitment -- which is not at all the problem that P1-P3 seem to point to.

So I really have no idea what problem you're trying to solve, and I'm just going to take a guess.

Recruitment appeals to a sense of connection and worth

The description of your society includes lots of signals that your vision is of a civilian sector that is generally happy, healthy, and prosperous. You think this poses a problem for military recruitment, because real-world recruitment seems to target problems that feel desperate to people: not having money, having no way to get an education, etc. So, if folks aren't being squeezed by an unforgiving socioeconomic situation, why would they volunteer for risky duty?

The first and most obvious reason is simply that they believe their happy, healthy, prosperous society is precious enough to justify defending it with their lives. Certainly that is what real-world patriots believe. You mention that everybody in your society votes, which is a pretty striking signal about civic engagement. It's natural to believe that a society with such a high degree of citizen engagement (even if it's compelled) would tend to produce people who value this res publica and even think they have a duty to step up and defend it. It's actually quite intriguing to imagine that compulsory civic engagement might be a more effective method of generating military recruits than actual military conscription. "Hearts and minds," amirite?

But let's set that aside.

The US military often presents two arguments that do not depend on a person being in dire socioeconomic straits:

  1. the military will help you transform yourself into the best version of you
  2. military life is strong on fraternity and higher purpose

Both of those arguments will appeal to someone who is healthy and sane and who wants the best for their future. Both could still appeal to someone who isn't worried about their future financial prospects: the real world has plenty of people who are financially comfortable but whose lives feel empty and pointless -- which should not surprise us because money can't buy happiness. (Although it can pay off misery.)

Join the military and you'll (1) really feel like you are part of (2) something bigger and more important than your own selfish interests. oh and you can do something to meaningfully sustain the society whose lifeways you currently enjoy

  • $\begingroup$ The solutions I listed earlier were some of the reasons that I was using to explain why many people would want to enlist in the first place en masse. However, the reason that I wasn't satisfied with them was because they ended up creating a specific type of benefit that has long term impacts. For a society that seeks to be egalitarian in many ways, having a warrior class like the knights of old would prove a bit problematic. $\endgroup$
    Sep 29, 2022 at 0:22

I. Military Service Counts in Society:

In your society, no one is desperate, or starving. There are still rich and poor, but it's not terrible. But xenophobia often means society is closed, insular, and under a lot of pressure to conform. Progressive can also mean bureaucratic and socialist in a society that doesn't emphasize independence. Citizens feel unimportant, undervalued, and coddled by the state. While everyone is encouraged to attend as much schooling as they can achieve, the number of jobs is significantly below the number of applicants. You need a bachelor's degree in barista technology to get a job serving coffee (and you may be competing with unemployed folks with a master's in food sciences).

But veterans are given broad leeway in society. In a post-apocalyptic world, the heroes are the ones fighting to rebuild civilization. While jobs aren't as critical for money, the status associated with them is high. Working. In a society where machines do a lot of the work, employment is a privilege, not a right. Veterans get preferential hiring, and preferential places in promotion.

Caring for veterans is a national focus, and not just financially. There's a mystique to having served. The mystique is even higher because of the level of selectivity. Everyone who serves is the equivalent of special forces. Reserves providing internal security are regarded as thugs (if society is repressive) or glorified police consuming public money and accomplishing nothing (although still better than not having a job).

If your faction is democratic, then maybe military service gets you the right to run for office (officially or unofficially). If you have mental health issues, people are judgmental - till they see that service pin. If they are authoritarian, the police arrest the other protestors, while letting you go with a warning (and the other protestors agree that's fair).

II. Outsiders Want In:

Your faction represents the best the world can currently offer. But they're xenophobic and view everyone outside as scum. Everyone in your culture has some ancestor who has served in the military and earned the right to citizenship.

So everyone outside desperately wants IN. The only way to earn entry is to serve in the military. Even spouses aren't admitted as citizens, and children only after you've already earned citizenship.


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