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The research catalogue is an archive of ESRC-funded grants and outputs. Links, files and other content will no longer be maintained or updated after April 2014.

The Morality of Private War

The private military industry has been growing rapidly since the end of the Cold War. Given its extent, the increased reliance on private military and security companies (PMSCs) is often claimed to be one the most significant changes in the military profession over the past three decades. Although the potential benefits and disadvantages of using PMSCs are often discussed, the ethical considerations are rarely fully elaborated.

This research project will therefore use normative political theory to assess the leading normative objections to the use of these firms. It will develop a normative framework on the justifiability of private force for individual contractors and those employing the services of PMSCs (eg, states). More specifically, the research will consider six central issues:

  1. if and when individual contractors can permissibly use and assist military force;
  2. private contractors' liability to attack;
  3. the legitimacy of states that employ PMSCs;
  4. whether military services should be viewed as a public good;
  5. the possibility of using PMSCs to augment the international community's capacity to undertake humanitarian intervention;
  6. the use of PMSCs by humanitarian organisations to protect their personnel and infrastructure in the field.