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Markets for Force: Privatization of Security across World Regions

The Markets for Force: Privatization of Security Across World Regions by Molly Dunigan and Ulrich Petersohn. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015. 190 pp.

Privatisation of security is not a new feature of international politics. Most countries, whether small or big, prefer in recent times to buy private forces from the global markets to stabilize their internal security from chaos or volatile environments. Hence, it is generally understood that the private forces are prominent in “war-torn states or grey zones,” according to Deborah Avant in the book The Market for Force: The Consequences of Privatizing Security. However, The Markets for Force: Privatization of Security Across World Regions, edited by Molly Dunigan and Ulrich Petersohn, gives a different perspective on markets for force. The book takes the topic to a new dimension by classifying the markets for force into three types that prevail in different states.

The book has 11 well-integrated chapters around the theme of “markets for force,” which is defined as “set of formal and informal rules under which actors engage in exchange” (p. 4). For their convenience, the editors term the markets for force as “a conglomeration of different types of markets, rather than a singular neoliberal entity” (p. 2). The book analyses the markets for force in 12 selected states.

The editors divide the book into three broad themes. First, it discusses three different types of markets: neoliberal, hybrid, and racketeer. Second, the book looks at how the market for force has an impact on state’s monopoly of force. The third theme is the provision of security as a public good and how it varies from country to country. Further, the editors try to elaborate the concept of markets for force, their similarities, and differences in 12 countries by studying each one of them as a case study. Again, the book analyzes how the markets for force function differently under different types of markets. For example, the racketeer market has a tendency to impact negatively on states’ monopoly of force and on the provision of the security as a public good, whereas the neoliberal market has less harmful impacts on both. For hybrid markets, the outcomes vary depending on the nature of states, their capabilities to control, and the way of their interaction with the market itself.  

In the first chapter, Dunigan and Petersohn draw attention to how the Weberian concept of the modern state, having the legitimate monopoly use of force, has been transformed due to the emerging trend of markets for force. They assert that the demand for markets for force is increasing due to effectivenesses and efficiency in their functions. Yet, the consequences are diverse in different states. From chapter two to chapter 10, the case studies of 12 states are discussed. The editors here aim to highlight the kinds of market that prevail, the roles they have played, and their implications in those respective states. Most chapters affirm that the emergence of markets for force is due to the weakening of state capacity. The common concern for every chapter in the book is to analyze the impact on states’ monopoly of force by the different kinds of markets for force.

Authors such as Kristina Mani and Maiah Jaskoski analyze the markets for force in Latin America, especially in Argentina, Guatemala, Peru, and Ecuador. The markets for force in Peru and Ecuador have a different characteristic from those of Argentina and Guatemala. Unlike Argentina and Guatemala, the Peruvian and Ecuadorian armies are financed by the third party. Contracting takes place between army units and private contractor, but not between private contractor and state or private companies.

The book also discusses the neoliberal market for force in states such as United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Russia, and Ukraine. The editors further attempt to elaborate how the private military industry thrives in these states. Unlike other countries, the Czech Republic has a different mode of operating private military companies as there is lack of lethal services provided by companies. In fact, the main purpose of markets for force in the Czech Republic is to stabilize internal security and deliver domestic services.

In the case of Russia and Ukraine, the market for force is focusing more on buyers and sellers through informal networks. Foreign governments and companies and individuals in foreign wars are the buyers of forces from the neoliberal markets in these states. Because of the military expert network of Soviet Union, aircraft pilots and military personnel are exported from these two states. However, there is debate over the dwindling state’s monopoly over the use of force because of this prevailing market for force.

Jake Sherman, in chapter seven, analyzes the markets for force by taking up the case study of Afghanistan. He prefers private security to be regulated and controlled by the government to reduce the implications of markets for force in the region. He asserts that the demand for private forces multiplies in the states because of the weakness of the state’s forces. For example, the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) are unable to provide security and, hence, the country scouts the security from the global markets. Both Afghanistan and China have the hybrid market for force. China’s market for force is also managed by the quasi-private market for force. The employees of private security firms, based in or hired by the United States, need not be American citizens. The exceptional case of the American market for force is that their major firms have provided robust combat services for their clients in overseas conflict zones. The market for force not only has an impact on the US government’s monopoly on force but also has consequences on provision of security in other states where American private security companies operate.

The book gives an overall idea of markets for force in various states and how they operate differently in different states. It further analyzes the various reasons of augmenting the markets for force in the global markets in contemporary international society. The book is useful for strategists, policy makers, and even research scholars to understand the problems, challenges, and prospects of international markets for force.

However, the book lacks discussion on transparency and accountability of private forces within the context of markets for force. For instance, the question of whether private military companies are accountable to hiring state or hired state is absent in the book. Overall, the book is an excellent start for beginners who want to learn about security privatization within the context of markets for force.

Anuradha Oinam

Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."

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