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CIAO DATE: 07/02

Global Ungovernance: Mercenaries, States and the Control over Violence 1

Anna Leander

Copenhagen Peace Research Institute
June 2001

There is a tendency for political protestors and academic critics of 'glo bal-isation' to focus their attention on the institutions of Global Governance. The meetings of the EU and WTO have to placed in far off, complicated location to be safe from the p hysical threats of the pro testors. And there is literally a flood of critical writings on the impact of the IMF, the World Bank or the G7 on developing countries. However, in this article I want to shift the focus to another, and it seems to me potentially more threatening tendency: the tendency towards 'ungovernance'. In particular I want to dis-cuss the role of mercenaries as an example of this d evelopment.

This shift is not intended to deny that the relationship between states and international institution s is highly problematic, nor that the accou ntability of these institutions is insufficient. It signals the wish to bring attention to another kind of phenomenon also linked to the changes usually discussed under the inadequate headin g of 'globalisation', namely 'ungovernance'. The idea is that for a variety of reasons there has been a tendency to diffuse authority away from states. State authority has moved upwards to inter-national or regional institutions, sideways to firms and markets, but also downwards to (sub- national) authorities or regions. However, this does not mean that the regulating functions which the state used to (or at least was expected to) fulfill in different social spheres are taken up by someone else. Rather in many cases these functions are not filled by any one. This is not to say that th ere is no hierarchy or competition involved. It is mer ely to say that there is no process of governance and in this sense there is ungovernance. 2

To me, it seems of particular importance to bring attention to the phenomenon of ungovernance. One reason is that it tends to be marginal-ised by the focus on the tensions between states and international institut-ions. This focus, tends to neglect problems which are not a matter of politics among states or in stitutions set up by states. Conversely, it over-rates the significance of institutions and states in shaping politics at the expense of other actors. And consequently ungovernance simply drops out of the pictu re or seems insignificant.

But there is a much more important reason, namely that it is hard er to get at. It is poss ible to protest the actions of the WTO, the EU, or the G7. It is more difficult to contest ungovernance precisely because there is no well defined decision making body; which is of course not to say that there are no effects. A nd precisely this makes it most urgent to include ungovern-ance in the picture. As pointed out by Hanna Arendt, 'if, in accord with traditional political thought, we identify tyranny as government that is not held to give ac count of itself, rule by Nobody is clearly the most tyrannical of all since there is no o ne left who could even be asked to answer for what is being done" (Arendt 1969: 39).

This paper develops the general idea of ungovernance by looking at the ungovernance of a particular function, namely the control over legitimate physical violence. This choice has a dual motivation. On the one hand, I wish to take issue with the many scholars in international who deny that 'globalisation' has any impact on the centrality of the state in the study of war and peace. 3 On the other hand, I would like to intervene in the current (rather outlandish) debate about private military companies (PMCs). We are told that PMCs are capable of playing a positive role in restoring order and pushing through peace agreements where states fail to do so. Authors urge us to 'give war a chance' (Shearer 1998a: 79). They compare (the new) mercenaries with messiahs (Brooks 2000). And they praise the 'out-sourcing of war' (Coker 1998). I want to underline that th ey may be overly optimistic when placing their hopes in the mercenary option.

I make two claims. The first is that ungovernance is partly res ponsible for the expansion of mercenary activity and the changing form of mercen-ary activities 19 90s. This expansion, in turn, has lead to an ungovernance of the use of violence, particularly in intra state wars, and more generally it hampers state capacity to govern the use of violence on its territory by making it more difficult to establish and/or maintain a monopoly on legitimate violence.


Note 1: This paper has benefited from the comments of Barry Buzan, Lasse Dahlberg, Stefano Guzzini, Lene Hansen, Morten Kelstrup, Thomas Mandrup Jurgensen, Mammo Muchie, Bjorn Miller, Vibeke Pedersen, and Ole Waever. Usual disclaimers apply.Back

Note 2: I have derived this idea from Strange (1996: 14). For interesting discussions and reinterpretations of it, see Cohen (1998:142-149) and Evans (1997).Back

Note 3: Characteristically, Wendt justifies the state centrism of his treaties on international politics with the argument that 'states are still the primary medium through which the effects of other actors on the regulation of violence are channelled into the world system' (1999: 9). This reluctance to give up state centrism is comprehensible as there is an intimate link between (state centric) realism and the self-definition of the discipline (Guzzini and Leander 2001).Back