Norms and Regulation

Authored by: Sarah Percy

Routledge Handbook of Private Security Studies

Print publication date:  October  2015
Online publication date:  October  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415729352
eBook ISBN: 9781315850986
Adobe ISBN:


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The privatization of force has occurred with extraordinary speed. It is hard to imagine that in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the widespread use of private force, especially by major powers, was unthinkable. In 1989, Stephen Krasner noted that it was very difficult to explain why, even when it would seem strategically optimal, states did not use mercenaries. As he put it, the constraints against hiring mercenaries were so great that the United States could not simply ‘buy a regiment or two of Gurkhas’ (Krasner 1989: 91–2). Janice Thomson wrote in 1994 that ‘today, real states do not use private force’ (Thomson 1994). She went on to argue that since the ‘[anti-mercenary] norm was implemented, no state has attempted to reinstate eighteenth-century practice by reversing or even challenging’ it (ibid.: 96). As the other chapters in this volume demonstrate, states today can effectively purchase large numbers of private security personnel to bolster their strategic positions. ‘Real’ states routinely use private force. The anti-mercenary norm appears to be under daily challenge. What is the continuing influence of this formerly powerful norm in a world where the use of private force is widespread?

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