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The Implications of Marketized Security for IR Theory: The Democratic Peace, Late State Building, and the Nature and Frequency of Conflict

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 August 2006

Deborah Avant
George Washington


Over the course of the last fifteen years states—along with companies, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and others—have increasingly turned to markets rather than state-organized military hierarchies for security. This article puts forth hypotheses about how this marketization might affect three major literatures in international relations theory: the democratic peace, late state building, and theories of the frequency and nature of conflict. Relying on institutional logic, I argue that the marketization of security should redistribute power over the control of force. This redistribution should cause democracies to function differently—increasing the dilemmas between short-term security and long-term relations with other democracies. It should also reinforce the dilemmas pointed to by the literature on the resource curse and rentier states, thus deepening the expected difficulty of state building. Finally, as more states and non-state actors take advantage of market options for security, the oft-assumed collective monopoly of states over violence should suffer a blow. This should lead the chances for conflict to grow but also the purposes for which people and groups use violence to change. These propositions are not tested but serve as a call for further research.Deborah Avant is Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University ( The author thanks Fiona Adamson, Risa Brooks, Nora Bensahel, Alex Cooley, Rachel Epstein, Greg Gause, Jonathan Kirshner, Jack Snyder, David Lake, Jim Lebovic, and participants in the Globalization and National Security seminars at Harvard's Olin Institute, as well as participants in seminars at Georgetown University; Northwestern University; and University of Texas, Austin for comments on previous drafts.

Research Article
© 2006 American Political Science Association

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