Who Am I? The Blurring of the Private Military and Security Company (PMSC) Category

  • Berenike Prem
  1. 1.Witten/Herdecke University Witten Germany

Chapter

Abstract

This chapter argues that is it not just the academic literature on the privatization of security that is going beyond PMSCs, but PMSCs themselves stretch conceptual boundaries. In fact, what we so casually refer to as ‘the PMSC industry’ is but an assemblage of extremely diverse and fluid corporations whose activities converge and intersect with parallel industries. How can we explain this slippery nature? Drawing on evolutionary economics and sociological institutionalism, this contribution advances a co-evolutionary framework for explaining how and why firms in the U.S. ‘market for force’ have evolved and developed over time. The analysis suggests that major transformations within the industry, from ‘kitchen porter’ kind of functions to armed security provision, to today’s multi-service organizations, are market-induced. They reflect the interests and preferences of the U.S. government as the single largest client of private military and security services. At the same time, the twentieth century norm of the state monopoly over violence has placed major constraints on the development of the industry, pushing PMSCs to divest themselves from combat roles and armed security services. This retreat, however, often remains a merely symbolic one since PMSCs continue to compete for lucrative security contracts and have resurfaced in quasi-combat roles: as operators of drones and cyber warriors.

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