Dissertation Abstracts

Private Military Companies: Multinational Firms and Their Relationship to the Nation-State (1990-2010)

Author: Malamud, Marina , marina.malamud@yahoo.com
Department: Gino Germani Institute, School of Social Sciences
University: University of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Supervisor: Flabián Nievas
Year of completion: 2013
Language of dissertation: Spanish

Keywords: Private Military Com , Sociology of War , Military Sociology
Areas of Research: Armed Forces and Conflict Resolution , Political Sociology , Economy and Society


The objective of the thesis is to study the emergence of private military companies in warfare scenarios and internal conflicts, from the end of the Cold War to the present. We describe the relationship between military corporations and nation states in terms of the changes in the management of violence, with a particular focus on two time periods: 1990 to 2000 and 2001 to 2010. The first period corresponds to the emergence of private military companies and the first experiences of privatization in the Balkans, Sierra Leone, Angola, Congo and Papua New Guinea. In the second period considers, we analyze the development of military privatization through the enterprises and state-users linkage, in Europe, Asia, Oceania, Africa and Latin America.

From this perspective, the socio-historical development of the state’s management of violence since the fall of absolutism to the end of the Cold War, is taken as the main framework of analysis in order to raise three themes: 1) the changes introduced by the current form of global capitalism; 2) the morphological variations of armed conflicts; and 3) the process of re-engineering produced by “neoliberalism”. In the case of (2) and (3), the downsizing of the military and the emergence of private military companies are of particular importance: the study looks at the characteristics of and differences with mercenaries and security companies; the experiences of early interventions in the international scene; the corporate increase from the attacks of 9/11; the case of Iraq; the political position of the United Nations; the debates around the regulation of private military activity; and the expansion of the military industry to new security roles and forms of intelligence production.

The rise of the private military changes the way the state relates to the management of violence nowadays; as such, it is necessary to work on the shafts that link state, coercion and capital. To begin this analysis, we maintain that the equation between coercion and capital, has forged the creation of nation states in an incipient capitalism driven by political absolutism, economic mercantilism and a permanent war activity in the major cities-states in Central Europe. From the XV century to the Thirty Years War, warfare was marked in part by the presence of mercenaries, considered as an enhancement factor of national armies in predominantly non-decisive battles.

Despite the fact that they have persisted over time, mercenaries have commonly been considered to be marginal and discontinuous social phenomena. However, one of the hypotheses of this study is that mercenaries have been a constant presence in the political life of capitalist states ever since their creation up until the 1960s, during wars in postcolonial Africa. Among other things, this implies that the Westphalian nation state has failed until now to effectively monopolize the use of violence; rather, it has shared its power with private paramilitary organizations. Therefore, the Weberian definition of the state may need to be revisited: the legitimate monopoly of coercive means, it seems, is not always the unconditional prerogative of the state.