Private Security in International Politics: Deconstructing the State's Monopoly of Security Governance
Over the past few decades private security companies (PSCs) have become increasingly salient transnational providers of legal and politically significant coercion within the international system. In the process, the security activities of PSCs have also upset our a priori assumptions within the discipline of IR regarding the state’s monopolistic relationship to legitimate violence. This proposition is based on two empirical observations. First, as PSCs expand their activities globally into security functions traditionally held to be the prerogative of the state, it is no longer plausible to assume that the state monopolizes the ability to implement legal coercion in global politics. Far from holding such a monopoly, today’s state security forces operate alongside a host of other public, private and hybrid security actors that also hold the legal capacity to act as implementers of security programs within the international system. Second, and more radically, as the entrepreneurial legal strategies used by PSCs to legitimate their security programs diversify and take advantage of international law, it is no longer plausible (or useful) to suggest that that the state continues to hold an undisputed monopoly on the legal power to authorize coercion in global politics. This paper uses a case study of a maritime PSC providing anti-piracy ship escorts in the Malacca Straits to empirically demonstrate these claims and suggests that the concept of security governance can be usefully employed to illuminate the political role of PSCs in global politics today.