What the Research on PMSCs Discovered and Neglected: An Appraisal of the Literature

Contemporary Security Policy

Volume 36, Issue 2, 2015

What the Research on PMSCs Discovered and Neglected: An Appraisal of the Literature

Hilde van Meegdenburg*

pages 321-345

Published online: 07 Jul 2015

Abstract

More than 15 years ago a new debate was opened discussing an emerging phenomenon: Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) in and around conflict zones. Initially focused on the actions of a number of notorious companies, the field matured rapidly and created a lively debate on how to accommodate these actors in military and democratic institutions. This article has two purposes. First, it offers an appraisal of the literature, and past research priorities (which questions were asked, and which fields/cases received most attention?). Second, it offers a critical reflection on the state-of-the-art, and argues that the strong preference for studying regulation, control, and accountability, and PMSCs working for the USA and UK, has limited our understanding of the scope of the phenomenon, its antecedents, and the implications beyond those directly related to regulation and control. Highlighting a recent, critical wave of scholarship I discuss the headway that can be made by studying: the commercialization of defence beyond the usual suspects; outsourcing in conflict zones beyond the nation-state; and questions beyond those directly related to regulation, control, and accountability.

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