New Modes of Security in Areas of Limited Statehood

As we will argue in the subsequent sections, the probability of the provision of security is tied both to the market of violence and the material and geographical structures of opportunity that influence the strategies of the use of force. However, in order to measure the quality of security, one has to consider the logic of consumption first. Who actually consumes the security as a commodity and what range does that consumption assume? If security is defined narrowly as the absence of physical force and an increasing reliability of protection, then violent groups such as rebel organizations or warlords systems can produce internal and external security in a defined territory, just as states can.5 Territoriality and the extent of consumption of specific protection measures are thus not only closely interconnected, but also constitute the core elements for the identification of areas of strategic security or insecurity.

However, territorial control and the ability to reduce external threats do not in and of themselves constitute indicators for the quality of security, since that control of the use of force can also be used for indiscriminate violence and the systematic massacre of the population in the territory. As long as rebels or local militias provide security only sporadically and in a territorially undefined context, security remains a rival commodity that can be excluded from consumption (cf. Brauer 1999, 6-7). Stated differently: by the strategic maintenance of insecurity and the simultaneous existence of various forms of security within an area, not only is the effectiveness and stability of the security system called into question, but security also does not attain the quality of a public good. Nevertheless, there are ways out of insecurity and the “protection screw” (Mehlum, Moene, and Torvik 2002, 448), which permit security as a good to once again move more markedly from the private toward the public realm on a quality axis.

Ideally, in war-torn areas of limited statehood, two basic forms of security without or beside the state can be ascertained: (1) security by coercion and a certain degree of institutionalization and reliability; and (2) self-organized forms of protection against internal or external threats (self-protective security). A third conceivable alternative form of security production is the delegation of protection functions to commercial suppliers.6 All three variants are brought together systematically in table 4.1.

If we define security governance as the intentional provision of the collective good security for a defined group of protection recipients, the first type is best qualified to be considered security governance in the narrower sense. This involves the specific strategies of militarily potent actors who invest in the establishment of monopolies on the use of force, and advance processes of governance formation—that is, the establishment of institutionalized political and economic systems of rule. First of all, dominant and sanction approved armed actors use their abilities to control territory and social relations (i.e., the civilian population) to build up internal and external protection systems; second, they no longer finance themselves by means of organized looting, but rather through institutionalized taxation systems. Prototypes are rebel groups as the Fuerzas armadas revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) or the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in southern Sudan. But even local warlord factions in Afghanistan or in Somalia have invested in the build

table 4.1 Forms and Qualities of Security




Coercive security

  • • Protection provider: monopolist
  • • Mechanism: institutionalized system of taxation and order
  • • Range: territorial control
  • • Means: military protection of the external borders, internal control (e.g., police functions)

Security equals public good (no selectivity within the territory)



  • • Protection provider: recruitment among “own people”
  • • Mechanism: reactive to violent context, pooling of resources
  • • Range: territorially limited to a defined group (i.e., selective and excludable)
  • • Means: patrols, fortification systems, hiring of local militias

Security equals pool and club commodity (group members clearly identifiable)



  • • Protection provider: commercial security companies
  • • Mechanism: competition and prices, delegation by state and private groups
  • • Range: persons, property
  • • Means: diverse range of services

Security equals private commodity (however, there is an implementation of security governance)

up of political and social regulatory structures, which produce both a certain degree of mutual expectations and collectively binding decisions for a defined group. Thus, the assumption of governance formation applies to different degrees of institutionalization and to a large number of forms of nonstate armed organizations. In successful cases, security in such situations increasingly takes the form of a public good.

If security is ranked in a hierarchy of public goods as the central precondition for a functioning political order (cf. Rotberg 2003; Konrad and Skaperdas 2005), which is necessary to obtain positive beneficial effects in other realms, it follows that the rudimentary institutionalization can be restricted to the establishment of a system of protection and taxation. This implies, first, formal and informal institutions that organize the monetary transaction between the provider and the recipients of protection, and also an organizational framework that guarantees territorial integrity toward third parties. From a neoinstitutional perspective, this process gives rise to security expectations, both on the part of the civilian population and of the dominant armed actors. The civilian population can assume, on the bases of information as to the military capacities of the protection provider, a certain degree of effectiveness, that is, the protection provider in fact appears as a reliable security monopolist in the eyes of the population (cf. Weinstein 2006, 169-70). Moreover, it is assumed that the productivity of the civilian population will increase because of the perceived territorial security, since more time and resources can be invested in production than in self-protective means. In turn, the armed organization achieves reliability regarding a regular income that it obtains through the institutionalized taxation system. Thus armed groups secure not only their own organizational structures, but also take into account future investment decisions that can therefore take on the quality of a public good—if the investments are made in sustainable economic means of production. In sum, one could posit the hypothesis that the success or stability of such nonstate control systems depends on the quality of formal and informal decision-making rules related to the system of protection and taxation, the credibility of deterrence of internal and external military challengers, and the reliability of agreements between the military leadership and the civilian population. Over time, however, even violent actors have to engage themselves in processes of legitimation. Theoretically, it can be assumed that coercive political orders tend to establish an endogenous or exogenous frame of stabilization over time. Related to the former, an expansion of public related services into other sectors (e.g., finance, health, education) char?acterizes the development of quasi-state structures (e.g., Somaliland) that require a minimum of output-legitimacy (cf. Bakonyi and Stuv0y 2005). In case of exogenous stabilization one has to consider the benefits that come along with statehood (e.g., licensing, credits, development aid). It is not surprising that coercive modes of security governance may possibly change into statehood (as happened in Liberia with Charles Taylor) and make use of externally guaranteed sovereignty.7

Self-protective security, by contrast, is usually a reaction to continual attacks by looting violent groups. Under these conditions, individuals or civilian groups affected by insecurity can decide to counter the restrictions of the violent environment with investments in their own security through protective capacities. Such forms of the provision of security are usually restricted to the units involved (peasants, villages) and are inclusive. Self-protection is promoted primarily and intentionally with no other end such as territorial expansion or gaining state control. The military capacities of these units vary with the type of strategic alliance. While alliances between village units and self-defense groups usually promise only a lesser degree of security, collaboration with governments or strong rebel groups may promise greater levels of security, at least temporarily. The frame of reference for the recipients is the protected area and the particular benefit. From the perspective of economics, security here takes the form of a pool good in which resources and capacities are merely mobilized for the purpose of providing security to the groups involved in the coordination. Situations of self-protective security might therefore better be considered as temporary, transitional phenomena. By assuming that the civilian population ultimately has four action options—to become the victim, to flee, to engage themselves in nonproductive armament, or to associate with stronger armed groups (cf. Skaperdas and Konrad 2004)—the probability increases that in the long run, forms of self-protective security will merge into governmental or nongovernmental orders of violence.

Commercialized security, that is, the delegation of security services to the private sector, is a special case of security production. As a rule, only very specific security functions, as the protection of persons or buildings, are provided as a private commodity for special security risks (e.g., counterinsurgency measures, participation in special military operations). From the point of view of governance consumers, security here is enormously selective, since only those who can pay for security services receive the benefits of protection. Examples are multinational corporations (securing access to resources), humanitarian organizations (protecting the humanitarian space from looting), or international organizations (e.g., protection of persons or buildings, mine-clearing). The activities of commercial security companies are clearly defined functionally (protection of an oil field or of governmental buildings) and directed toward a narrowly defined group of beneficiaries (members of a company or the public employees of a transitional administration). Certainly, the delimitation toward the public-security structures is often fuzzy. For example, commercial security companies engaged to protect buildings may certainly produce positive externalities for the immediate neighborhood and extend the range of the protection services they provide. The protection of administrative facilities and the construction of security structures in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the training of police, can also certainly benefit all potential consumers of security, and thus become an integral component of governance strategies. This implies theoretically that commercialized protection services can produce different forms and qualities of security. Additionally, the potential security outcome is dependent on the functional context: in cases of the use for the protection of persons or buildings, it ultimately involves a private good. However, commercial protection services assigned for societal and institutional reconstruction can also serve to implement security governance on behalf of third parties. In this context, private security-service providers proceed on the basis of existing regulatory structures. Regardless of this, the logic of action of the “new mercenary” remains oriented toward defending against perceived threats and security risks in the interests of his employer—and not to act in his own interests to prevent the dangers of wartime or postwar orders.

At the end of the day, the processes of security governance discussed here indicate that security can be provided by various institutional forms. As an alternative to the state, institutionalized orders of violence arise, which intentionally provide protection from internal and external threat. The resulting protection commodities can be labeled as security governance commodities or as paths of governance formation at least. Insecurity, however, remains a dominant feature if the monopolist on the use of force depends on repressive strategies, if insufficient revenues are obtained by taxation, or if military challengers endanger a weakly institutionalized system of rule. But even if these partial orders of violence are frequently unstable, it should be clear that the minimum prerequisite for the classification as governance consists primarily in the quality of security as a collective good as well as the implications of consumption and territoriality.

To explain why and under which conditions violent actors engage in security governance, in the next section we make use of the concept of security markets by assuming that the market structures and economic logics in the security domain encompass the terms under which violent actors shape their preferences, select strategies for action, and make decisions.

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