Deborah Avant, Ph.D.

University of Denver

Country: United States (Colorado)

About Me:

Deborah Avant is the Sié Chéou-Kang Chair for International Security and Diplomacy and Director of the Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver.  Her research (funded by the Institute for Global Conflict and Cooperation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, and the Carnegie Corporation, among others) has focused on civil-military relations, and the roles of non-state actors in managing or controlling violence and generating governance.  She is author/editor of The New Power Politics: Networks and Transnational Security Governance (with Oliver Westerwinter); Who Governs the Globe? (with Martha Finnemore and Susan Sell); The Market for Force: the Consequences of Privatizing Security; and Political Institutions and Military Change: Lessons From Peripheral Wars, along with articles in such journals as International Organization, International Studies Quarterly, Security Studies, Perspectives on Politics, and Foreign Policy.  Under her leadership the Sié Chéou-Kang Center launched the Private Security Monitor (, an annotated guide to regulation, data and analyses of global private military and security services, and is an observer member of the International Code of Conduct (for private security providers) Association. In 2013 she was awarded an honorary doctorate from University of St.Gallen for her research and contribution toward regulating private military and security companies. Professor Avant serves on numerous governing and editorial boards and is editor in chief of the International Studies Association’s newly launched journal: the Journal of Global Security Studies

Research Interests

Political Violence

Conflict Processes & War

International Law & Organization

Military Intervention

Networks And Politics


Global Governance

Civil-military Relations

Civil Society Organisations

Private Security

Multistakeholder Initiatives

Countries of Interest

United States


Journal Articles:

(2016) Pragmatic Networks and Global Governance: Explaining Governance Gains in Private Military and Security Services, International Studies Quarterly

In 2004 private military and security companies lacked effective transnational governance. Ten years later, however, an agreed-upon framework drew these services within established international law. It inspired various complementary nonbinding instruments and instigated changes in government policy. Hegemonic order theories, whether realist or liberal,would expect this change to reflect shifts in US preferences. But the United States displayed no initial interest in transnational coordination. I build an alternative explanation from pragmatism and network theory. A Swiss-led process created connections among stakeholders around the problem of regulating private military and security companies. Relatively open interactions among participants spurred original ideas, which in turn appeared useful for addressing the issue. Their usefulness, led more actors to “buy into” the process. This relational-pragmatic account offers new ways for understanding the nature and development of governance.

Books Written:

(2016) The New Power Politics: Networks and Security Governance, Oxford University Press

In the last fifteen years, there has been a surge of writing about new forms of governance constituted by various mixtures—often termed networks—of state and non-state actors In these new modes of regulation, authority to govern does not reside exclusively with states but is wielded by a variety of actors at different levels, including national bureaucrats, intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), transnational corporations, and business associations. Building on the insights of these studies and network theory’s foundational logic, we propose a framework for the study of a power politics that goes beyond states alone– what we call the new power politics. We examine networking—or building relationships—as a dynamic force through which agents can shape their future fates and governance outcomes. We also look at the relations surrounding particular issues as “networks” and explore how the positions of actors in these networks, the distribution of ties, and the quality of ties, can offer insights into (1) why governance arises around some security issues and not others and (2) the concerns governance serves.

(2010) Who Governs the Globe?, Cambridge University Press

Academics and policymakers frequently discuss global governance but they rarely consider who actually does the governing. This volume focuses on the agents of global governance: ‘global governors’. The global policy arena is filled with a wide variety of actors such as international organizations, corporations, professional associations and advocacy groups, all seeking to ‘govern’ activity surrounding their issues of concern. Who Governs the Globe? lays out a theoretical framework for understanding and investigating governors in world politics. It then applies this framework to various governors and policy arenas, including arms control, human rights, economic development, and global education. Edited by three of the world’s leading international relations scholars, this is an important contribution that will be useful for courses, as well as for researchers in international studies and international organisations.

(2005) The Market for Force: the Consequences of Privatizing Security, Cambridge University Press

The role of private security in Iraq is simply the latest chapter in the private security boom. While the state’s monopoly Weber wrote about was exaggerated from the start and there has been a role for the private sector in security for some time, in the last two decades that role has grown and is larger and different now than it has been since the foundation of the modern state. Private security companies now provide more services and more kinds of services including some that have been considered core military capabilities in the modern era. Also, changes in the nature of conflicts have led tasks less central to the core of modern militaries (such as operating complex weapons systems and policing) to be closer to the front and center of maintaining security, and private security companies provide these services readily. Furthermore, states are not the only organizations that hire security providers. Increasingly transnational non-state actors (INGOs, multi-national corporations, and others) are financing security services to accomplish their goals. A burgeoning transnational market for force now exists along side the system of states and state forces. This book describes that market and its impact on states that contract for private security services, states that try and regulate the export of private security services, and the non-state actors (companies and NGOs) that increasingly authorize security.

Book Chapters:

(2017) Pragmatism, the Just War Tradition, and an Ethical Approach to Private Military and Security Companies in, Georgetown University Press

In: The Ethics of War and Peace Revisited: Moral Challenges in an Era of Contested and Fragmented Sovereignty, Daniel R. Brunstetter and Jean-Vincent Holeindre, eds. Georgetown University Press.