'Private Armies, Public Costs: A Typological Theory of Armed Groups'
32 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2010 Last revised: 5 Apr 2010
Date Written: March 31, 2010
The global economic downturn has ramifications not only at the international level, but also at the domestic level of politics. In developing states economic ills not only increase unemployment and contentious politics but also decrease state capacity to execute the rule of law. These three factors working together increase the likelihood of violence, crime and destabilization generally. In such situations collective actors often resort to the employment of private military forces. The concept of 'paramilitary force' is vague and at times highly subjective. The sparse literature on paramilitaries fails to capture the institutional variation found among these armed groups. Consequently, it has also failed to analyze how paramilitaries as institutions produce differing political outcomes. Employing theoretical models from peace/conflict studies as well as principle-agency theory, we argue for a new focus on properly conceptualizing what it means to label organizations as paramilitaries. We create four distinct categories of armed actors based on two dimensions: 1) the purpose and orientation of the armed group and 2) the security provision the armed group provides. The purpose of this paper is to call for an end to the conceptual stretching of the term paramilitary. In addition, the typology offered provides those in both scholarship and policymaking additional leverage on explaining the differing aims and components of armed groups.
Keywords: Armed Groups, Paramilitaries, Concept Formation, Typology, Civil Military Relations
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