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The Market for Force
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  • 7 tables
  • Page extent: 328 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.65 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 363.28/9
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: HV8290 .A83 2005
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Private security services
    • Police--Contracting out
    • Mercenary troops
    • Internal security
    • National security

Library of Congress Record

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 (ISBN-13: 9780521850261 | ISBN-10: 0521850266)

DOI: 10.2277/0521850266

Manufactured on demand: supplied direct from the printer

 (Stock level updated: 17:01 GMT, 01 December 2015)


The legitimate use of force is generally presumed to be the realm of the state. However, the flourishing role of the private sector in security over the last twenty years has brought this into question. In this book Deborah Avant examines the privatization of security and its impact on the control of force. She describes the growth of private security companies, explains how the industry works, and describes its range of customers – including states, non-government organisations and commercial transnational corporations. She charts the inevitable trade-offs that the market for force imposes on the states, firms and people wishing to control it, suggests a new way to think about the control of force, and offers a model of institutional analysis that draws on both economic and sociological reasoning. The book contains case studies drawn from the US and Europe as well as Africa and the Middle East.

• The first serious attempt to grapple with the difficult trade-offs involved in controlling private security in the global market • Suggests a new way to think about the control of force that makes a significant contribution to civil-military relations • Offers an institutional model that bridges the 'rationalist/constructivist' divide


1. Introduction; 2. Private security and the control of force; 3. State capacity and contracting for security; 4. Dilemmas in state regulation of private security exports; 5. Private financing for security and the control of force; 6. Market mechanisms and the diffusion of control over force; 7. Conclusion; Bibliography.


'Deborah Avant has written a sensible corrective to the hype and hyperbole that has accompanied the study of 'mercenaries'. She shows how private military companies are a part of the everyday workings of national military establishments, and provides prescient warnings about the impact of excessive outsourcing in this area. Avant provides an alarming message that over-reliance on private forces undermines the spirit and commitment that make effective national militaries work. In doing so, Avant shows how a public ethic is an integral part of what makes national militaries successful and how this is missing in private military companies.' William S. Reno, Northwestern University

'Professor Avant gives us a comprehensive, balanced, yet ultimately disturbing look at the growing use of private security companies. Her cases cover the gamut of private security services and the widely varied circumstances of their use, while her theoretical framework links overarching trends to major concerns like military effectiveness, professional standards, and the control of force in the international system. Although she sees the good as well as the worrisome in the ever-widening use of such companies, overall her analysis raises serious questions about the wisdom of allowing market forces, as opposed to states and multi-national institutions, to shape the use and professional conduct of forces around the world.' Thomas L. McNaugher, Vice President for Army Studies, RAND Corporation

'Avant has performed a great service. There is much hype and hyperbole regarding the growth of private security forces, with many suggesting that these are warriors running wild. By sifting through the evidence and deploying a range of organizational theories, Avant generates develops a nuanced understanding of this sector, identifying how these forces are controlled and alerting us to when and where there remain legitimate concerns. Avant tackles the interesting development of the privatization of security. Over the last several decades privatization has moved into the security theater with substantial force. This is fascinating for theoretical, political, and normative reasons. The monopolization of the means of violence is a defining feature of the state and distinguishes the modern sovereign state from organizational rivals. Yet we find that states are knowingly and gladly devolving control. Why they should do this, and with what consequences, is important and fascinating. Avant wants to examine the consequences by examining the impact on state control. Toward that end, she unpacks the functional areas in which security is being privatized and considers different areas of state control. To illustrate these claims, she examines three cases of state privatization and non-state actors hiring private security forces to provide different functions. The implications of these developments for how politics is now being played out, who controls the means of force, and democratic accountability, are tremendous.' Michael N. Barnett, University of Minnesota

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