Avant, Deborah D. 1958–

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Avant, Deborah D. 1958–

(Deborah Denise Avant)


Born November 26, 1958. Education: University of California, San Diego, Ph.D., 1991.


Office—University of California, 5275 Social Science Plaza B, Mail Code: 5100, Irvine, CA 92697. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer and educator. University of California, Irvine, professor and director of international studies. International Security Studies Section, ISA, chair; Women in International Security (WIIS), member of executive board.


Grants from Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Olin Foundation, and the Smith Richardson Foundation.


Political Institutions and Military Change: Lessons from Peripheral Wars, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1994.

The Market for Force: The Consequences of Privatizing Security, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor of articles to scholarly journals. Contributor of chapter to Creating Military Power: The Sources of Military Effectiveness, edited by Risa Brooks and Elizabeth Stanley-Mitchell, Stanford University Press, 2007. Member of the editorial boards of American Political Science Review and Security Studies.


A professor of political science, Deborah D. Avant has researched civil-military relations, military change, and the politics of controlling violence. As stated on her university faculty page, Avant's "current research focuses on how the U.S. government's use of private security has affected democratic processes in the United States, how private actors conceptualize and implement security in weak states and the way different non state actors govern on the global stage." The author of numerous professional articles in her field, Avant has also penned book-length works, including the 1994 Political Institutions and Military Change: Lessons from Peripheral Wars and The Market for Force: The Consequences of Privatizing Security, from 2005.

Political Institutions and Military Change provides, according to American Political Science Review contributor Kimberly Marten Zisk, "a creative and useful application of institutional political economy to a new field—the development of military doctrine in democratic states." Avant begins her work with two "well-argued" chapters, in Zisk's opinion, that detail how the study of businesses and governing bodies can be applied to the examination of military structures and organizations that operate in a democratic fashion. Military leaders are compared to elected officials while the pressure for innovation comes as part of the job qualifications of military officers. Avant's major thesis in this work is that the military structure and its relationship to civilian authority should be very different in the United States and in Great Britain, due to the fact that in the United States control of the military is divided between the executive and the congress, while in England it is settled with the executive branch. Zisk wrote, "Avant uses this perspective to explain why British forces did a better job of integrating military doctrine with political grand strategy, in both the Boer War and the Malayan Emergency, than did the American forces in the Vietnam conflict." Such a failure for American forces was the result, Avant posits, of "its institutional commitment to preparation for conventional war in Europe," as noted by Barry R. Posen in the Political Science Quarterly. However, Posen went on to assert that Avant's "book fails to demonstrate that the army's inertia had anything at all to do with the role of the U.S. Congress, either during the war or previously." Posen also felt that Avant's exposition on the Boer War was "unpersuasive." Despite such shortcomings, Zisk found Political Institutions and Military Change to be a "pathbreaking book," and concluded that Avant "has made an important contribution to the development of civil-military relations theory, proving through her careful analysis that it makes sense to integrate the new institutionalism into the subfield, particularly by focusing on budgetary and hiring procedures."

In The Market for Force, Avant supplies what Military Review contributor Deborah Kidwell termed "an extremely useful analysis of the global trend toward privatization of military and security forces." Rather than focusing narrowly on the contemporary arguments for and against such privatization, Avant attempts to give both a historical context for privatization as well as a prognosis for the future implications privatization of the military might have for society as a whole. Avant employs case studies of privatization in the United States, Sierra Leone, and Croatia, as well as analyses of the use of private security firms by numerous other entities, including NGOs [nongovernment organizations] and oil companies in Ghana. Additionally, the author reviews attempts by the three largest exporters of private security firms—South Africa, Great Britain, and the United States—to regulate the industry. Avant concludes, among other things, that, because private security firms lack the accountability that a national army has, the reliance on private military businesses can, in the long term, undermine the nation state's ability to control the use of force and violence in internal and international affairs. Therefore, Kidwell noted, "market forces begin to intrude on the range of options available to policymakers." The same reviewer felt that Avant "successfully blends theory, history, and contemporary knowledge into a comprehensive, mature work that analyzes the current state of the private military industry." Writing in the Independent Review, Bruce L. Benson had reservations about Avant's argument, specifically about her use of an economic model to explain the totality of a person's or a firm's actions. Benson wrote: "Because an individual's motivations are more complex than depicted by the mainstream economists' assumption of utility maximization, economic models may not work well in explaining a particular individual's behavior in a specific situation." However, Benson went on to commend the "wealth of information" included in the book, and further commented: "Much of Avant's analysis of both political and functional control is often insightful. The book should be of considerable interest to anyone interested in privatization, military policy, international relations, state power, and related issues." Writing in the Political Science Quarterly, Jeremi Suri had higher praise for The Market for Force, calling it a "thoughtful book [which] shows that in fact, private security forces have a long history, and their recent expansion does not necessarily point to a crisis of legitimate authority in the international system." Suri further noted: "This is a learned and policy-relevant book that deserves a wide readership."



American Political Science Review, September, 1995, Kimberly Marten Zisk, review of Political Institutions and Military Change: Lessons from Peripheral Wars, p. 794.

Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, January, 1996, Lisa Martin, review of Political Institutions and Military Change, p. 167.

Choice, March, 1995, review of Political Institutions and Military Change, p. 1209.

Independent Review, winter, 2007, Bruce L. Benson, review of The Market for Force: The Consequences of Privatizing Security, p. 451.

International Affairs, July, 1995, Theo Farrell, review of Political Institutions and Military Change, p. 600.

Journal of Military History, January, 1995, review of Political Institutions and Military Change, p. 186.

Military Review, March 1, 2007, Deborah Kidwell, review of The Market for Force, p. 119.

Parameters, winter, 2006, Richard M. Wrona, review of The Market for Force.

Political Science Quarterly, summer, 1995, Barry R. Posen, review of Political Institutions and Military Change, p. 319; fall, 2006, Jeremi Suri, review of The Market for Force.

Prairie Schooner, summer, 1995, review of Political Institutions and Military Change.


University of California, Irvine, Web site,http://www.faculty.uci.edu/ (February 29, 2008), "Deborah D. Avant."