The Political Economy of Private Security

Type: Dissertation project

Project Term: March 2015 – March 2019

Team: Helge Staff (Supervisor: Georg Wenzelburger)

Project Description:

Non-military private security services grow allover the globe, yet factors such as globalization or neoliberalism, which are often discussed in the literature, cannot convincingly explain the considerable differences between states. Even the – by comparison – rather similar member states of the European Union exhibit quite different national sectors. Based in comparative policy analysis this projects asks, what accounts for the differences in the policies toward and the outcomes of private security between EU member states?

Drawing on criminological theories the project develops three policy dimensions in which national political systems can affect the state of private security: privatization, regulation, and production. In a first phase these policy dimensions are explained by factors within the political systems on the basis of a mixed methods research design employing and linking quantitative as well qualitative methods. This approach is mirrored on the theoretical level by a blending of a classic variable-oriented approach with the process-oriented Multiple Streams Framework. On the qualitative level, I conduct six in-depth case studies of policy processes in the UK, Germany, and Spain in order to uncover the working of potential causal mechanisms, whose effects can also be detected quantitatively on the macro-level.

In a second phase the overall effect of these political outputs on the national private security industries of EU member states will be assessed. Thus, the project does not only contribute directly to the literature on privatization in general but aims to greatly improve the current under-developed research about the political factors in private security regulation and growth. In fact, it adds to the largely criminological debate on private security the distinct perspective of policy analysis and political economy – explaining the differences in private security sectors between states by analyzing the effects of policy decisions and the political drivers of those.

Project related publications:

  • Staff, Helge (2018): Warum wächst die “private Sicherheit”? Ein Literaturbericht von alten Theorien und neuen Erkenntnissen”. In: DSD – Der Sicherheitsdienst, 1/2018, 38-40.
  • Staff, Helge (2018): Partisan effects and policy entrepreneurs. New Labour’s impact on British law and order policy. In: Policy Studies, 39: 1, 19-36.
  • Staff, Helge (2017): Private Sicherheit auf dem Vormarsch. Neue Regeln – neue Rollen? Arbeitspapier Sicherheitspolitik Nr. 21/2017. Bundesakademie für Sicherheitspolitik.
  • Staff, Helge (2017): The emergence of private security governance. Assessing facilitating conditions in the case of Somali piracy. In: Global Change, Peace & Security, 29:1, 21-37.