Outsourcing Empire & the Cyber Realm

Outsourcing Empire: How Company-States Made the Modern World, Andrew Phillips & JC Sharman[1] makes the claim that company-states (such as the East Indian Company), and not sovereign-states, are what built the current international order. It delves into the rise and fall of these company-states and ends with a pessimistic analysis of seasteading and charter cities: the conditions for the success of this organizational form no longer exists.

One of the conditions they mention is that the successful company-states were on the forefront of technology at the time, specifically the technology of warfare:

It could of course be said that historically the VOC and EIC were very much the exceptions; the holdings of the average company- state might not extend beyond a couple of ramshackle trading posts. Yet even ephemeral company-states like the Scottish Darien Company, the Danish East India Company, or the various French company-states utilized the most capital- and technology-intensive weapon systems of their day, deploying groups of multidecked cannon-armed sailing ships. In contrast, even with the most power- ful contemporary military companies, there is no equivalent: there are no private aircraft carriers, attack submarines, armored divi- sions, or fighter squadrons. The difference between then and now is legal, but also very practical.

But what about the cyber realm? How should we think about non-state-actors from various states (e.g. hacking groups) operating at arm's length from their sponsoring states? These actors are often at the forefront of technology while expanding the reach of and returning profits to the sponsoring state. In the physical world's current international order, the sovereign-state retains a monopoly on violence, but this monopoly is slipping away as more of the physical world is connected to and controlled by the cyber world.

[0] Outsourcing Empire: How Company-States Made the Modern World, Andrew Phillips & JC Sharman

[1] Mentioned by the Diff here ("Books"), and here ("The Outsourcing Question").

Show Comments