“The Modern Mercenary,” by Sean McFate, attempts to build a thesis about private security contractors that has been largely neglected within academia and journalism. Most pundits, reporters, and professors talk about private security contracts as if they are something new and unique, a byproduct of Dick Cheney and George Bush’s out-of-control administration. These types of people are passionate about what they believe, but their analysis unfortunately exists inside a knowledge vacuum that is devoid of historical context.
McFate’s book sets out to correct this fallacy by taking readers back to medieval and renaissance-era Switzerland and Italy to show us that privatized war fighting is far from new. According to McFate, we are entering a period of neo-medievalism, in which private military companies are once again coming to the forefront as the state loses its legitimate claim to the monopoly on violence. The de-institutionalization of violence has opened the door to ambitious war entrepreneurs. However, it is important to recognize that it is actually the United States that has created the market for privatized force.
But what is neo-medivalism? McFate defines it as:
“A non-state-centric and multi-polar world order characterized by overlapping authorities and allegiances…states will not disappear, but they will matter less than they did a century ago. Nor does neomedievalism connote chaos and anarchy; like the medieval world, the global system will persist in a durable disorder that contains rather than solves problems.” (McFate, 6)