Rethinking Public-Private Engagement in International Security Market and Governance

Nathanael Tilahun, R Kumar

    Research output: Memorandum/expositionResearch proposal


    Rethinking Public-Private Engagement in International Security Market and Governance In the aftermath of the events of 9/11 (2001), Madrid (2004), London Bombings (2005), the transatlantic aircraft plot to detonate liquid bomb (2006), and the recent bombing at the Paris Metro (2013), there has been a proliferation of security technologies seeking to combat security threats. This has given an unprecedented momentum to the global security market worldwide which roughly stands at € 100 billion employing around 2 million people (European Commission 2012) engaging a range of actors, namely, governments, defence companies, research institutes, universities, consulting companies, and the software industry to name a few. With the engagement of a diversity of actors, one also witnesses transformations in security market characterized by a greater intimacy between the public interest represented by state agencies, and private interest represented by private companies, universities, research centres and think-tanks. This research project seeks to outline a new approach for studying this public-private engagement in international security market, driven by the observation that the ongoing transformations in the field elude currently established frames of conceptualization. Existing conceptual frames in this regard – primary example being the concept of ‘industrial complex’ – are built on a presupposition of a clear distinction between the public and the private, and between market and governance processes. This research project identifies the erosion of these distinctions as a significant contemporary transformation in the field of international security and endeavours to propose a more nuanced conceptualisation of the relationship between the various actors. The focus of such new conceptualization is on accounting for the complexity and intertwinement of market and governance processes in contemporary international security against the backdrop of which the interaction between actors takes place. The development, trade and governance of security products and services has become a cross-sectoral endeavour involving the sub-sectors of defence, counter-terrorism, border management, cyber-security, counter-organized crime and so on. These processes also increasingly feature the intertwinement of the roles of governmental and market actors, as illustrated, for example, in the joint role of defence companies and European Union regulators in the preparation of tenders calls for proposals, and policy and law-making in the EU. In addition to the complexity and intertwinement, the interaction between private and public actors, and market and governance processes takes a routine and amorphous manifestation. The routineness refers to the discursive and practical stretching-out of a security imperative into multiple processes of everyday life; the ‘state of constant insecurity for a greater security’. Measures in both the development and trading and regulation of security products and services also take experimental form in that they are taken in de-formalized, continually adaptive, and iterative processes. This research project, therefore, seeks to explore possibilities of constructing conceptual framework that helps grasp and evaluate these ongoing transformations in international security market. Such conceptual framework contributes to the debate on the topic in its explicitness to embrace and address the complexity and fluidity (an apparent ‘mess’) in international security market and governance. To do so, insights will be drawn from the emerging theories of Deleuze’s ‘assemblage’ in and ‘experimental governance’ in European and international law. The research will also consist of empirical studies – built on the doctoral dissertation works of the applicants - involving qualitative interviews and examination of primary documents in EU policy making. Purpose of the project: The researchers seek to build the above project proposal into a think-piece for publication in the short-term followed by a workshop or a conference in their home institutions along with other scholars and researchers involved in the Harvard IGLP, Critical Corporation Project. Through a series of workshops and conferences, the researchers intend to create a space where young scholars and researchers with varied disciplinary backgrounds can work collaboratively on issues of public-private collaboration in security, market and governance processes for possible publication as a book project. Description of the project: A vast diversity of security technologies are being developed and deployed worldwide with the aim to secure the borders. The proliferation of security technologies has created a market for technologically advanced software and equipment allowing for collaboration between state and private companies and other actors like universities, think tanks, research institutes and consultancies. This research project aims to study the interaction between private and public actors, and market and governance processes that has taken a routine and amorphous manifestation, implicating upon multiple processes of everyday life. The research will be empirically rich and build on new conceptual approaches to study the contemporary public-private collaboration in international security.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

    Research programs

    • SAI 2010-01 RRL
    • SAI 2010-01-I RRL sub 1


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