European Consortium for Political Research

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventWorkshop/course/forumAcademic


This presentation examines the relationship between private security contractors and states, in particular, the origins and mechanisms that allow private entities to operate, seemingly without regulation. The approach taken is to place PMSCs within a security governance framework controlled by states. In this framework, a state-controlled ‘elastic line’ determines the legitimacy (or otherwise) of the role, services and autonomy of PMSCs. For the PMSC industry and states, this ‘elastic line’ has been underpinned by a transition in image, from that of ‘mercenary soldier’ to ‘private contractor,’ a reconstruction of political myth to facilitate social acceptance.
The ‘elastic line’ also comprises a risk management system, where informal as well as formal sanctions may be applied by states to errant PMSCs.

States may rely upon alternative, informal mechanisms to constrain and manage PMSCs, strategies not always predicated on compliance with legal codes or human rights frameworks. Limited attention has been paid to the informal sanctions employed by states in managing a transnational private security enterprise. Case study analysis provides insights into the exercise of state power and authority, and the informal facilitation, curtailment or obstruction of PMSC activities. States rely upon a repertoire of techniques, including labelling, selective recourse to criminal justice procedures, and manipulation of citizenship rights and privileges, to manage the industry. These risk management practices are often covert and informal, contesting the notion that PMSCs operate in a completely unregulated environment.
Period10 Apr 201215 Apr 2012
Event typeWorkshop
LocationAntwerp, BelgiumShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Private military company
  • Security contractors
  • Mercenary soldiers