ASRK14006U Transformation of the Public-Private divide

Volume 2017/2018

Security Risk Management

Political Science students: Limited intake



One of the most significant features of the modern liberal state, as it developed during the 19th and 20th centuries, is the public-private distinction. Yet, during the last two decades this distinction has become blurred. Public-private partnerships, private security companies, outsourcing of key welfare state functions, private intelligence etc. are all examples of this development. We are facing a fundamental transformation of the classical liberal state due to a continuous social and institutional innovation. Why does this transformation take place? What sort of implications does it have for governance structures, authority relations, social relations, the state, citizenship, the market and for civil society? Does it provide citizens with more opportunities? Will business benefit from it? Why did the public-private distinction emerge in the first place? Was it a good thing?

This course will introduce the student to the classical political theoretical debates on the politics/market distinction, examine current transformations and discuss the political, economic, and social consequences of these transformations. The overall aim is to explore and understand the nature of these transformations, including the many new institutional forms that have emerged beyond the conventional distinction between public and private actors. Moreover, the course aims to investigate the different forms of authority and governance that current political, civil and corporate practices produce by comparing these to previous practices, as well as the ideals discussed in political theory.

The distinction between public and private, as well as state and market, has since the early 18th century been absolutely fundamental to the Western understanding of the liberal state and the modern organisation of society: the idea of security, freedom and the possibility of economic prosperity (cf. Hume and Smith). Yet, we often forget how this distinction has been highly contested throughout history, and therefore how profoundly political the construction of this distinction essentially is.

Thus the course explores how current developments in the management of risk and security define the relationship between private and public authority by looking at, for example, the role of public-private partnerships, homeland security strategies on resilience, CSR, and the debate on the use of private security companies.

Altogether, the course consists of 4 main components:

  1. Why did the private-public distinction emerge in liberal political theory and why has this distinction been seen as the core of liberal thinking? To what extent did the state manage to uphold the distinction? (History of political thought)

  2. The on-going transformation of the public-private distinction. Current challenges and debates (examples on current practice on governing of risk and security, mapping the field of different innovative institutional forms).

  3. Political, economic, and social consequences. (E.g. the implications of new forms of authority and governance structures, for the freedom-security relationship, for citizenship, for the state-market relationship)

  4. Exercise: the students are to create a private-public partnership, a new code of conduct; an information booklet or flyer, or create new application software that facilitates public-private collaboration. In this practice exercise, students must design an institutional set-up or project that communicates new policies or initiatives. They must be imaginative about the institutional form and they must provide an analysis that maps out the potential implications (from possible profit for the company/partnership to more societal consequences including authority relations etc.). In order for students to appreciate the real-life impact for companies and governmental agencies, private and public sector professionals are invited into the classroom to discuss the suggested solutions.


Learning Outcome


Students will have knowledge about the history of the public -private divide and will come to understand how current practices within the field of risk and security challenge and transform this divide.


Student will be able to reflect upon new challenges to the classical political divisions between public and private authority and understand what these transformations influence future decision-making strategies and tools within the field of risk and security.

Course literature is a syllabus of 900 pages set by the lecturer and approved by the Board of Studies.

Teaching takes the form of lecturers, guest lectures by practitioners and discussions with students. Students must create a work-life based product defined by the lecturer (e.g. an information booklet of flyer concerning private/public partnership within the field of security risk management).
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Exam
  • 79
  • Preparation
  • 168
  • Total
  • 275
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination
Oral examination
Synopsis exam
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assesment

Criteria for achieving the goals:

  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner