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The reorganization of legitimate violence: The contested terrain of the private military and security industry during the post-cold war era

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

We investigate the interplay between institutional structures and agency in the emergence of the private military and security industry (PMSI). Despite its controversial nature, the PMSI has achieved sufficient legitimacy since the end of the Cold War to account at times for the majority of military personnel deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq. We find both structure and agency central to the PMSI's development. The analysis points first to the central roles played by actors with expertise, reputation, and credibility based in sovereign structures, and, second, to structural shifts that reconfigured the military field in ways that both enabled and constrained agency. Various actors lent credibility to new activities that were integrated with and substitutes for previously legitimated approaches by using these openings to discredit prevailing institutional logics and to construct bridges between old and new institutions. However, it is the interplay of structure and agency that affords the clearest view of the expansion of the modern PMSI and the forces fostering and impeding its legitimacy. Our analysis reflects on a central question in organization theory: Where do new industries come from, and what entrepreneurial strategies are employed to establish organizational legitimacy under structural constraints?
Content may be subject to copyright.
The
reorganization
of
legitimate
violence:
The
contested
terrain
of
the
private
military
and
security
industry
during
the
post-cold
war
era
§
Joel
A.C.
Baum *,
Anita
M.
McGahan
Rotman
School
of
Management,
University
of
Toronto,
Canada
Contents
1.
Introduction
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4
2.
Structure,
agency,
and
the
legitimation
of
new
industries
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5
2.1.
Pragmatic,
cognitive,
and
normative
legitimacy
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6
2.2.
Audiences
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6
2.3.
Structure
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2.4.
Agency
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7
2.5.
Interplay
of
structure
and
agency
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7
3.
Field-reconfiguring
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8
3.1.
Berlin
Wall
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8
3.2.
Mogadishu,
Somalia
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9
3.3.
The
Balkans
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10
Research
in
Organizational
Behavior
33
(2013)
3–37
A
R
T
I
C
L
E
I
N
F
O
Article
history:
Available
online
16
November
2013
A
B
S
T
R
A
C
T
We
investigate
the
interplay
between
institutional
structures
and
agency
in
the
emergence
of
the
private
military
and
security
industry
(PMSI).
Despite
its
controversial
nature,
the
PMSI
has
achieved
sufficient
legitimacy
since
the
end
of
the
Cold
War
to
account
at
times
for
the
majority
of
military
personnel
deployed
in
Afghanistan
and
Iraq.
We
find
both
structure
and
agency
central
to
the
PMSI’s
development.
The
analysis
points
first
to
the
central
roles
played
by
actors
with
expertise,
reputation,
and
credibility
based
in
sovereign
structures,
and,
second,
to
structural
shifts
that
reconfigured
the
military
field
in
ways
that
both
enabled
and
constrained
agency.
Various
actors
lent
credibility
to
new
activities
that
were
integrated
with
and
substitutes
for
previously
legitimated
approaches
by
using
these
openings
to
discredit
prevailing
institutional
logics
and
to
construct
bridges
between
old
and
new
institutions.
However,
it
is
the
interplay
of
structure
and
agency
that
affords
the
clearest
view
of
the
expansion
of
the
modern
PMSI
and
the
forces
fostering
and
impeding
its
legitimacy.
Our
analysis
reflects
on
a
central
question
in
organization
theory:
Where
do
new
industries
come
from,
and
what
entrepreneurial
strategies
are
employed
to
establish
organizational
legitimacy
under
structural
constraints?
ß
2013
Elsevier
Ltd.
All
rights
reserved.
§
We
are
grateful
to
Adam
McCauley
and
Kerry
Paterson
for
excellent
research
assistance,
and
to
Shaz
Ansari,
Barry
Staw,
Art
Brief,
and
seminar
participants
at
the
Judge
Business
School
at
Cambridge
University
for
comments
and
suggestions.
*
Corresponding
author
at:
Rotman
School
of
Management,
University
of
Toronto,
105
St.
George
Street,
Toronto,
ON
M5S
3E6,
Canada.
E-mail
address:
jbaum@rotman.utoronto.ca
(Joel
A.C.
Baum).
Contents
lists
available
at
ScienceDirect
Research
in
Organizational
Behavior
jo
ur
n
al
h
o
mep
ag
e:
w
ww
.elsevier
.co
m
/loc
ate/r
io
b
0191-3085/$
see
front
matter
ß
2013
Elsevier
Ltd.
All
rights
reserved.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.riob.2013.10.004
3.4.
Arms
to
Africa
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11
3.5.
9/11.
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3.6.
Fallujah,
Iraq.
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12
3.7.
Abu
Ghraib,
no
WMDs,
and
Gitmo
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13
3.8.
Nisour
Square,
Bagdad
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13
3.9.
Karzai’s
Decree
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14
4.
Institutional
entrepreneurs,
their
activities,
and
their
audiences
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14
4.1.
Pragmatic
legitimacy
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4.2.
Bridging
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15
4.3.
Demonstrating
efficacy
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16
4.4.
Claiming
efficiency
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16
4.5.
Claiming
necessity
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17
4.6.
Cognitive
legitimacy.
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18
4.7.
Articulating.
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18
4.8.
Reframing
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20
4.9.
Analogizing
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20
4.10.
Normative
legitimacy.
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21
4.11.
Reorienting
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21
4.12.
Self-regulating
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23
4.13.
Regularizing
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23
4.14.
Regulating.
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24
5.
Interplay
of
institutional
structure
and
agency
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26
5.1.
Structure–agency
interactions
and
legitimation
outcomes
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26
5.2.
Structure–agency
interactions
and
legitimation
across
facets
and
time
.
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31
5.3.
Structure–agency
interactions
and
the
pace
of
legitimation
.
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33
6.
Conclusion
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34
References
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35
1.
Introduction
The
private
military
and
security
industry
(PMSI)
emerged
in
its
contemporary
form
during
the
1960s,
expanded
significantly
following
the
end
of
the
Cold
War,
and
had
achieved
sufficient
capacity
after
9/11
to
account,
at
times,
for
the
majority
of
deployed
military
forces
in
Iraq
and
Afghanistan.
The
engagement
of
private
military
forces
dates
back
millennia,
but
fell
out
of
favor
during
the
industrial
revolution,
after
which
sovereign
states
main-
tained
standing
armies
to
protect
national
interests
(Avant,
2000;
Cooper,
2004;
Thomson,
1994).
The
development
at
the
center
of
our
analysis
is
the
contracting
by
sovereign
states
of
critical
national
security
tasks
to
the
private
military
and
security
companies
(PMSCs)
that
comprise
the
PMSI.
PMSCs
are
legally
incorporated,
for-profit
entities
that
offer
military
and
security
services
for
hire
and
which
take,
at
some
point
in
time,
sovereign
authorities
as
customers.
Formally,
PMSCs
‘‘are
private
business
entities
that
provide
military
and/or
security
services
.
.
.
[which]
include,
in
particular,
armed
guarding
and
protection
of
persons
and
objects,
such
as
convoys,
buildings
and
other
places;
maintenance
and
operation
of
weapons
systems;
prisoner
detention;
and
advice
to
or
training
of
local
forces
and
security
personnel’’
(Montreux
Document,
2008:
6).
Many
PMSCs
offer
complementary
services
such
as
negotiation,
advisory,
and
intelligence
services;
and
some
have
the
capacity
to
rapidly
deploy
companies
of
armed
commandos
supported
by
combat
helicopters
and
fighter
jets
(Singer,
2003;
Thomson,
1994).
Since
the
end
of
the
Cold
War,
the
PMSI
has
achieved
substantial
legitimacy,
first
and
foremost,
in
the
sense
its
services
are
widely
relied
upon
(Avant,
2005).
For
many
states,
a
major
impetus
for
military
outsourcing
was
the
broadly
based
institutional
logic
enacted
in
the
privatiza-
tion
movement
of
the
1990s.
From
a
foothold
in
logistical
and
support
functions,
and
in
the
face
of
dramatic
post-
Cold
War
military
downsizing,
outsourcing
soon
extended
to
core
military
and
security
functions
(Chatterjee,
2009;
Stanger,
2009),
and
PMSCs
accounted
for
a
continually
rising
share
of
the
force
mix
in
international
military
and
peacekeeping
operations
(Schwartz,
2009).
By
2000,
PMSCs
operated
under
government
contract
in
Africa,
Russia,
and
Southeastern
Europe.
By
2010,
they
operated
similarly
in
South
America,
Asia,
and
the
Middle
East,
with
extensive
deployments
in
Afghanistan
and
Iraq
(Scahill,
2007;
Schwartz,
2009).
1
Under
contract,
PMSCs
performed
critical
national
security
and
military
tasks
and
participat-
ed
in
decisions
that
influenced
the
fates
of
nations
(Singer,
2003).
As
the
US
Undersecretary
of
Defense
for
Acquisition
explained:
‘‘Contracts
for
services
are
essential
to
all
aspects
of
military
operations.
Contracted
services
to
support
1
As
of
April
2011,
155,000
contractors
represented
52%
of
US
Department
of
Defense
(DoD)
personnel
servicing
the
war
efforts
Iraq
and
Afghanistan,
and
28,000
(18%)
of
these
DoD
contractors
were
‘‘private
security
contractors’’.
As
of
January
2012,
while
the
number
of
contractors
had
declined
to
137,000,
they
represented
60%
of
DoD
employees
as
the
decline
in
sovereign
troops
was
larger,
and
the
number
of
‘‘private
security
contractors’’
had
grown
to
31,000
(23%
of
DoD
contractors)
(CENTCOM,
Quarterly
Contractor
Census
Report,
April
2011,
January
2012:
www.acq.osd.mil/log/PS/CENTCOM_reports.html.
The
US
Department
of
State
(DoS),
UK
Ministry
of
Defense
(MoD),
and
aid
agencies
including
US
Agency
for
International
Development
(USAID)
and
UK
Department
for
International
Development
(DFID)
also
deploy
PMSCs
in
the
region.
J.A.C.
Baum,
A.M.
McGahan
/
Research
in
Organizational
Behavior
33
(2013)
3–37
4
Department
of
Defense
(DoD)
missions
range
from
routine
base
operating
support
to
highly
skilled
analysis
to
direct
support
to
battlefield
operations.
Contracts
for
services
supporting
major
DoD
programs
.
.
.
are
a
strategic
component
of
the
expanding
expeditionary
military,
stability,
and
reconstruction
operations.
The
reduction
in
the
number
of
uniformed
personnel
in
the
1990s,
and
today’s
demanding
combat
missions
have
resulted
in
the
expansion
of
services
contracting
.
.
.Today,
almost
every
defense
task
that
is
not
an
inherently
governmental
function
is
carried
out
in
some
part
through
contracted
services.’’
2
PMSCs
have
also
increasingly
been
deployed
by
IGOs
(inter-governmental
organizations
such
as
the
United
Nations)
and
NGOs
(non-governmental
organizations
such
as
Oxfam
and
the
Red
Cross)
to
aid
in
carrying
out
peacekeeping
and
humanitarian
missions
(Cockayne,
2006,
2007).
Indeed,
PMSCs
are
now
so
vital
to
humani-
tarian
missions
that
few
such
initiatives
could
be
conducted
without
them
(Singer,
2003).
3
Multinational
corporations
rely
similarly
on
PMSCs
to
protect
their
operations
in
unstable
regions.
Although
most
PMSCs
operate
on
a
relatively
small
scale
as
limited-liability,
investor-owned
corporations
(LLCs
and
LLPs),
some
have
been
acquired
by
large
defense-related
firms
(e.g.,
G4S
acquired
RONCO
Consulting,
Armor
Group,
and
Wackenhut
Corp.;
L3
Communications
acquired
Titan
Corp.),
and
others
have
expanded
into
large,
transnational
private
(e.g.,
DynCorp,
MPRI,
Vinnell
Corp.)
or
public
companies
(e.g.,
British
Global
Strategies
Group
and
its
US
division,
Global
Defense
Technology
&
Systems).
Small
firms
are
often
linked
through
subcontracting
arrangements
in
support
of
larger
companies
under
government
contract
(Cockayne,
2006,
2007).
Operating
alone
or
in
groups,
PMSCs
rival
states
in
the
capacity
to
organize
violence
globally,
and
are
capable
of
performing
military
field
support
and
consulting
functions
as
well
as
combat
operations
on
behalf
of
sovereign
nations
and
other
clients
(Singer,
2003).
Empowerment
of
PMSCs
to
perform
critical
national
security
and
military
tasks
subverts
deeply
held
institution-
al
logics
of
state
power,
sovereignty,
and
the
use
of
violence
(Verkuil,
2007).
The
activities
of
PMSCs
are
viewed
as
tantamount
to
removal
of
violence
from
the
public
domain
of
accountability
and
control
(Elms
&
Phillips,
2009).
As
profit-driven
entities
that
may
be
funded
by
any
source,
the
missions
that
PMSCs
pursue
need
not
be
derived
from
any
compelling
state
or
humanitarian
interest.
PMSCs
are
neither
bound
nor
protected
by
typical
rules
of
military
engagement,
and
their
duties
are
primarily
written
as
provisions
in
private
contracts.
Throughout
the
last
two
decades,
controversy
over
PMSCs
has
centered
on
the
legitimacy
of
their
use
of
force.
Critics
condemn
PMSCs
as
modern
mercenaries
hired
guns
banned
by
international
convention
and
the
UN
Charter
(Ballesteros,
1997).
Howev-
er,
use
of
the
term
‘‘mercenary’’
in
reference
to
PMSCs
is
problematic
in
that
international
conventions
deal
only
with
pay-for-performance
contracts
for
military
services
between
individuals
and
state
governments,
and
do
not
apply
to
corporate
personnel
operating
legally
in
foreign
countries
under
contract
(Percy,
2007,
2008).
Legal
status
as
LLCs
and
LLPs
sets
PMSCs
apart
from
mercenaries.
Nevertheless,
the
stigma
of
this
association
exposes
them
to
profound
distrust,
and
impedes
broad
social
approval.
The
growth
of
PMSCs
thus
offers
a
unique
window
on
how
organizational
legitimacy
is
created,
conferred,
and
entrenched
as
well
as
withheld.
While
the
PMSI’s
legitimacy
remains
imperfect
and
contested,
institutional
structures
and
agency
have
contributed,
alone
and
in
tandem,
to
its
entrenchment
in
sovereign
military
strategy
since
the
end
of
the
Cold
War.
The
legitimacy
of
a
given
set
of
organizational
activities
is
contextual,
while
processes
of
legitimacy
occur
through
agency
(DiMaggio,
1988;
DiMaggio
&
Powell,
1991).
The
mechanisms
and
consequences
of
change
in
institutional
logics
central
to
the
emergence
and
legitimacy
of
new
industries
are
not,
however,
well
understood
(Suddaby
&
Greenwood,
2005;
Thornton,
2002;
Thornton,
Ocasio,
&
Lounsbury,
2012).
Our
study
assesses
the
roles
of
interrelated
actors
and
audiences
in
pioneering
a
new
institutional
logic
and
discrediting
a
prevailing
one
(Johnson,
Dowd,
&
Ridgeway,
2006).
We
also
consider
the
interplay
of
structure
and
agency
(Rao,
Morrill,
&
Zald,
2000)
to
contribute
to
the
small
but
growing
literature
on
the
period
during
which
nascent
industries
struggle
for
legitimacy
(Elms
&
Phillips,
2009;
Hiatt,
Sine,
&
Tolbert,
2009;
Kaplan
&
Murray,
2010;
Maguire,
Hardy,
&
Lawrence,
2004;
Purdy
&
Gray,
2009).
Our
empirical
approach
combines
historical
analysis
with
principles
of
grounded
theorizing
(Glaser
&
Strauss,
1967)
to
develop
insight
from
a
rigorously
constructed
historical
narrative.
To
understand
the
influences
of
institutional
structure
and
agency
on
the
legitimacy
of
the
PMSI,
we
first
trace
a
series
of
field-configuring
events
(Hardy
&
Maguire,
2010).
We
begin
with
the
fall
of
the
Berlin
Wall,
which
initiated
a
cascade
of
deep
shifts
in
the
institutional
structures
and
logic
of
violence
that
created
resource
and
demand
conditions
favorable
to
the
forma-
tion
of
PMSCs,
and
end
with
post-9/11
events
in
Iraq
and
Afghanistan
that
accelerated
these
trends.
We
then
catalog
the
identity
and
activities
of
key
institutional
entrepre-
neurs
PMSC
founders,
PMSI
advocates,
state
and
military
officials,
and
other
actors
who
labored
to
shape
the
legitimacy
(and
illegitimacy)
of
the
PMSI
vis-a
`-vis
its
major
audiences.
Finally,
our
analysis
turns
to
the
interplay
of
structural
change
and
the
efforts
of
entrepreneurs
to
cultivate
a
new
institutional
logic
for
the
organization
of
violence
in
which
PMSCs
operate
legitimately.
2.
Structure,
agency,
and
the
legitimation
of
new
industries
Nascent
industries
take
hold
only
if
the
activities
and
conduct
of
their
members
achieve
organizational
2
Office
of
the
Undersecretary
of
Defense
for
Acquisition,
Technology,
and
Logistics
(2011).
Defense
Science
Board
Task
Force
on
Improvements
to
Service
Contracting,
31:
www.acq.osd.mil/dsb/reports/2011-05-Services.pdf.
3
The
UN,
for
example,
increasingly
uses
PMSCs
for
services
including
armed
and
unarmed
security,
risk
assessment,
security
training,
logistical
support,
and
consultancy.
Available
information,
although
incomplete,
indicates
that
the
value
of
UN
contracts
with
PMSCs
rose
from
USD44
million
in
2009
to
USD76
million
in
2010
(Pingeot,
2012).
J.A.C.
Baum,
A.M.
McGahan
/
Research
in
Organizational
Behavior
33
(2013)
3–37
5
legitimacy
(Aldrich,
1999;
Aldrich
&
Fiol,
1994;
Kennedy,
2008).
Legitimacy
entails
becoming
‘‘desirable
or
appro-
priate
within
some
socially
constructed
system
of
norms,
values,
beliefs
and
definitions’’
(Suchman,
1995:
574).
The
system
of
evaluation
is
embedded
within
institutional
logics
that
set
appropriate
conduct
and
practices
within
given
organizational
fields
(Friedland
&
Alford,
1991;
Scott
&
Meyer,
1983).
The
viability
of
a
fledgling
industry
depends
on
its
standing
in
relation
to
prevailing
institu-
tional
logics,
and
on
the
resources
and
decisions
of
the
audiences
comprising
its
organizational
field
(Johnson
et
al.,
2006).
Our
theoretical
framework
has
five
elements,
each
grounded
in
the
case
of
the
PMSI.
First,
organizational
legitimacy
may
be
pragmatic,
cognitive,
and/or
norma-
tive,
and
builds
across
these
cumulatively.
Second,
legitimation
takes
place
within
and
among
particular
audiences;
legitimacy
may
be
obtained
with
some
audiences
and
not
others.
Third,
some
audiences
have
influence
over
institutional
structure;
the
level
of
legitimacy
obtained
with
these
audiences
can
thus
shape
and
constrain
context.
Fourth,
institutional
entrepreneurs
cultivate
legitimacy
by
constructing
logics
for
certain
audiences
on
pragmatic,
cognitive,
and/or
normative
grounds
under
structural
constraints.
Fifth,
the
interplay
of
institutional
structures
and
agency
is
reflected
in
pragmatic,
cognitive,
and
normative
challenges
to
estab-
lished
institutional
logics.
We
discuss
these
five
theoreti-
cal
elements
below
as
background
for
the
historical
analysis
that
follows.
2.1.
Pragmatic,
cognitive,
and
normative
legitimacy
Suchman
(1995)
describes
three
forms
of
organization-
al
legitimacy.
Pragmatic
legitimacy
refers
to
interest-based
acceptance,
or
instrumentality.
An
industry
achieves
pragmatic
legitimacy
by
fulfilling
the
needs
of
affected
audiences.
Cognitive
legitimacy
refers
to
the
degree
to
which
an
industry’s
activities
are
taken-for-granted;
that
is,
when
its
conduct
is
widely
accepted
and
unquestioned
by
its
audiences.
Normative
legitimacy
refers
to
adherence
to
acceptable
norms,
standards,
and
values
(including
formal
rules
written
in
law
and
policy).
An
industry
achieves
normative
legitimacy
when
it
is
considered
the
just
holder
of
authority
by
the
standards
of
concerned
audiences.
Normative
legitimacy
reflects
a
positive
moral
evaluation
based
on
judgments
about
whether
the
industry’s
activities
are
‘the
right
thing
to
do’,
which,
in
turn,
reflect
audience
beliefs
about
whether
the
industry’s
activities
effectively
promote
social
welfare
(Suchman,
1995:
579).
At
any
given
point
in
time,
an
industry
may
or
may
not
be
pragmatically,
cognitively,
and/or
normatively
legiti-
mate
in
light
of
the
institutional
logics
employed
by
relevant
audiences
within
its
organizational
field.
What
is
pragmatically,
cognitively,
or
normatively
legitimate
in
an
organizational
field
at
any
point
in
time
depends
on
prevailing
institutional
logics
governing
appropriate
orga-
nizational
practices
and
conduct.
Thus,
as
institutional
logics
change,
so
too
may
audiences’
attributions
of
legitimacy.
2.2.
Audiences
Organizational
legitimacy
emerges
through
a
collective
process
in
which
a
novel
practice
is
introduced
to
address
a
need,
goal,
or
desire
of
a
particular
audience.
Legitimacy
with
the
audience
depends
on
perceived
consensus
among
its
members
that
the
innovation
is
consistent
with
the
institutional
logics
they
share
(Johnson
et
al.,
2006).
If
audience
members
accept
the
innovation
as
legitimate
on
pragmatic,
cognitive,
and/or
normative
grounds
the
innovation
may
diffuse
to
other
relevant
audiences,
and
ultimately
find
approval
with
diverse
audiences
compris-
ing
the
wider
organizational
field,
or
even
society
as
a
whole.
Legitimacy
is
thus
audience
specific
and
the
diffusion
process
innovation
specific.
Audiences
that
view
a
new
industry’s
innovation
as
legitimate
will
support
it;
those
that
view
it
as
illegitimate
will
oppose
it.
Audiences
may
thus
come
into
conflict
over
the
legitimacy
of
a
particular
innovation.
Audiences
that
confer
legitimacy
on
an
industry
are
specific
to
particular
organizational
fields,
and
are
not
all
equally
important
or
consistent
in
their
priorities,
making
the
choice
of
which
audience(s)
to
address
strategic
(Bitektine,
2011).
For
example,
PMSCs
were
initially
validated
by
two
primary
audiences:
(1)
multinational
firms
seeking
to
secure
their
operations
in
unstable
regions
and
(2)
leaders
of
conflict-torn
post-Colonial
African
states
unable
or
unwilling
to
enlist
the
aid
of
former
Cold
War
allies.
Subsequently,
the
practice
of
contracting
PMSCs
diffused
to
western
sovereign
militaries
particularly
the
US
Department
of
Defense
and
British
Ministry
of
Defense
and
then
to
the
broader
international
security
sector
(e.g.,
the
State
Department,
National
Security
Agency,
IGOs
and
NGOs).
Their
acceptance
within
military
and
security
sectors
prompted
development
of
nongovernmental
instruments
affirming
the
obligations
of
states
where
PMSCs
operated,
and
articulating
PMSC
standards
ground-
ed
in
international
human
rights
law
(e.g.,
Montreux
Document,
International
Code
of
Conduct
for
Private
Security
Service
Providers),
but
the
legitimacy
of
PMSCs
remained
uncertain
even
contested
within
other
audiences
including
nonmilitary
government
actors,
humanitarian
activists,
legal
and
military
scholars,
and
the
general
public.
2.3.
Structure
Institutional
structures
reflect
background
logics
that
prescribe
appropriate
practices
and
conduct
in
given
organizational
fields
(Friedland
&
Alford,
1991;
Suddaby
&
Greenwood,
2005).
Key
elements
of
institutional
struc-
tures
are
durable,
specialized,
hard-to-trade
resources
and
capabilities
central
to
value
creation
(Ghemawat,
1991).
Structural
elements
also
include
predecessor
organizations,
business
practices,
relationships,
competi-
tive
norms,
regulations,
and
rules
of
law.
Audiences
that
adjudicate
legitimacy
tend
to
benchmark
against
institu-
tional
logics
predominant
within
an
organizational
field
(Bitektine,
2011)
as
well
as
durable
capabilities
embedded
within
them
(McGahan,
2004).
As