University of Sussex Business School

Mercenaries, Gangs and Terrorists (L7092A)

Mercenaries, Gangs and Terrorists: Private Security in International Politics

Module L7092A

Module details for 2019/20.

30 credits

FHEQ Level 6

Module Outline

Dr David Karp

For more information see here:

The module looks at 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. The first section of the module provides a theoretical context that will enable students to develop their 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; and the ways in which actors in the global South face security challenges that are often unique from the challenges of those in the North.

In the second section of the module, students will have the opportunity to study particular actors, issues and cases, including private military companies, gangs, political insurgency movements, and transnational terrorist groups. Students will 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. By the end of the module, students will demonstrate their theoretical and empirical understanding of the nature and significance of private security in international politics through a case-based research essay.

Assessed by a 70% 3.5K essay, 20% 1k Essay, 10% 20 minute Group presentation

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.

Essay (3500 words)Semester 1 Assessment Week 1 Thu 16:0070.00%
Coursework components. Weighted as shown below.
Group PresentationT1 Week 11 (20 minutes)33.33%
EssayT1 Week 7 66.67%

Submission deadlines may vary for different types of assignment/groups of students.


Coursework components (if listed) total 100% of the overall coursework weighting value.

TermMethodDurationWeek pattern
Autumn SemesterSeminar3 hours11111111111

How to read the week pattern

The numbers indicate the weeks of the term and how many events take place each week.

Dr David Karp

Assess convenor, Convenor

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