The reorganization of legitimate violence: The contested terrain of the private military and security industry during the post-cold war era

The reorganization of legitimate violence: The contested terrain of the private military and security industry during the post-cold war era

  • Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, Canada
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Abstract

We investigate the interplay between institutional structures and agency in the emergence of the private military and security industry (PMSI). Despite its controversial nature, the PMSI has achieved sufficient legitimacy since the end of the Cold War to account at times for the majority of military personnel deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq. We find both structure and agency central to the PMSI’s development. The analysis points first to the central roles played by actors with expertise, reputation, and credibility based in sovereign structures, and, second, to structural shifts that reconfigured the military field in ways that both enabled and constrained agency. Various actors lent credibility to new activities that were integrated with and substitutes for previously legitimated approaches by using these openings to discredit prevailing institutional logics and to construct bridges between old and new institutions. However, it is the interplay of structure and agency that affords the clearest view of the expansion of the modern PMSI and the forces fostering and impeding its legitimacy. Our analysis reflects on a central question in organization theory: Where do new industries come from, and what entrepreneurial strategies are employed to establish organizational legitimacy under structural constraints?

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