International relations

Mercenaries, Gangs and Terrorists: Private Security in International Politics

Module code: L7092A
Level 6
30 credits in autumn semester
Teaching method: Seminar
Assessment modes: Coursework, Essay

You'll study the nature of security in international politics from the non-traditional perspective of private actors who are willing to use force to advance the objectives that (for better or worse) they place a high value on.

You'll gain a theoretical context to develop your ideas about:

  • what 'security' is and how it relates to other values
  • why sovereign states are often treated as the starting-point for the study of global security
  • the ways in which the private use of force can be conceptualised as both a problem and a solution to security dilemmas
  • the ways in which actors in the global South face security challenges that are often unique from the challenges of those in the North.

You'll also study particular actors, issues and cases, including private military companies, gangs, political insurgency movements and transnational terrorist groups.

You'll be challenged to think through the assumption that the private use of force automatically constitutes a threat that needs to be dealt with by sovereign actors, particularly at the international level. 


Module learning outcomes

  • Develop a systematic and critical understanding of: the meaning and nature of ‘security’ in contemporary international politics; the role of the state in the study and practice of global security; and the motivations for the use of force by non-state actors.
  • Develop a detailed conceptual understanding of the empirical and theoretical uncertainties, ambiguities and limits that lie at the intersection between security studies and non-state/private actors.
  • Effectively synthesise and communicate a detailed knowledge of the security challenges faced by individuals and groups in the global South.