Sociologists, political scientists, and economists have long emphasized the benefits of monopolizing violence and the risks of failing to do so. Yet recent research on conflict, state failure, genocide, coups, and election violence suggests governments cannot or will not form a monopoly. Governments worldwide are more risk acceptant than anticipated. They give arms and authority to a variety of nonstate actors, militias, vigilantes, death squads, proxy forces, paramilitaries, and counterbalancing forces. We develop a typology based on the links of the militia to the government and to society as a device to capture variations among these groups. We use the typology to explore insights from this emerging literature on the causes, consequences, and puzzling survival of progovernment militias and their implications for security and human rights, as well as to generate open questions for further research.


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