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Durable disorder: the return of private armies and the emergence of neomedievalism

McFate, Sean (2011) Durable disorder: the return of private armies and the emergence of neomedievalism. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Since the end of the Cold War private military companies––conflict entrepreneurs that kill or train others to kill, typically in foreign lands––have proliferated at an alarming rate. Curiously, the primary consumer of this new service are not weak states looking to consolidate their monopoly of force (although this has happened) but strong states like the United States of America, which possesses the greatest monopoly of force in the world. This thesis examines how and why this has occurred. The reappearance of private military actors is also a harbinger of a wider trend in international relations: the emergence of neomedievalism. The erosion of the taboo against mercenarism signals a return to the preWestphalian norm of the Middle Ages, when states did not enjoy the monopoly of force and subsequent special authority in world politics. Instead, the medieval system was polycentric in nature with authority diluted and shared among state and non-state actors alike. Because the return to the status quo ante of the Middle Ages is occurring worldwide, it is best described as 'globalised neomedievalism'. Globalised neomedievalism is a non-state-centric and multipolar world order characterized by overlapping authorities and allegiances on a local and global scale. It does not imply worldwide atavism. States will not disappear, but will matter less than they did a century ago. Nor does neomedievalism connote chaos and anarchy; the global system will persist in a durable disorder that contains rather than solves problems. A key challenge of neomedievalism is the commodification of conflict: offering the means of war to anyone who can afford it will change warfare, why we fight and the future of war. The implications of this are enormous since it suggests that international relations in the twenty-first century will have more in common with the twelfth century than the twentieth.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2011 Sean McFate
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Mills, Gregory

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