Securitisation: Taking stock of a research programme in Security Studies

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1 Securitisation: Taking stock of a research programme in Security Studies Ole Wæver February 2003; draft 1 Appraising theories and research programmes or continuing the paradigm wars? [H]e misunderstands paradigms. He believes that paradigms easily generate a family of theories ( ). Paradigms are apparently like sausage machines: Turn the crank and theories come out. Yet nobody in any field is able to generate theories easily or even to say how to go about creating them. 2 Kenneth Waltz here makes an important comment on how to evaluate a theory. A theory 3 (or a research programme 4 ) should be assessed on its own terms: what can it do and where does it fail? Because paradigms are not theory machines, very little can be achieved by debating vague and general paradigms, or at least: such debates do not constitute serious evaluation of any specific theory. 1 I appreciate helpful comments on previous drafts presented to research seminars at COPRI (Copenhagen Peace Research Institute) and the department of political science at the University of Copenhagen and to the Workshop on The Traditional and the New Security Agenda: Inferences for the Third World, Universidad Torcuato Di Tella Buenos Aires, September 11-12, 2000: Lene Hansen, Barry Buzan, Thomas Diez, Morten Kelstrup, Birgitta Frello, Karen Lund Petersen, Ib Damgaard Peteresen, Helle Johansen, Anders Wivel, Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen, Henrik Larsen, Helle Malmvig, Carsten Bagge Laustsen, Rut Diamint, Ann M. Florini, Gavin Cawthra, Mónica Herz, Iván Witker Barra, Abdur Rob Khan, Virgilio R. Beltran, Anna Leander, Stefano Guzzini, Tarja Cronberg, Pertti Joenniemi, and Chris Browning. This paper started as a presentation at a 1999 BISA roundtable organised by Theo Farrell, where the Copenhagen School was the most mainstream approach to be superseded by first cultural-constructivist security studies, then critical security studies and finally radical security studies. 2 Kenneth N. Waltz, Evaluating Theories, American Political Science Review, vol. 91:4, December 1997, pp (quoting from p. 913). He in the quote is John Vasquez, because the article is part of a Forum on John A. Vasquez, The Realist Paradigm and Degenerative versus Progressive Research Programs: An Appraisal of Neotraditional Research on Waltz s Balancing Proposition, ibid., pp See also Kenneth N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics, 1979, pp and Waltz, The Validation of International- Political Theory, paper for the 1994 annual meeting of APSA, New York, Sept On this theme, see also Miriam Fendius Elman and Colin Elman, How Not to be Lakatos Intolerant: Appraising Progress in International Relations Theory, in International Studies Quarterly, vol. 46:2, June 2002, pp I can continue to follow Waltz: I define theory as a picture, mentally formed, of a bounded realm or domain of activity. A theory depicts the organization of a realm and the connections among its parts. A theory is not a mere collection of variables. If a gap is found in a theory, it cannot be plugged by adding a variable to it. To add to a theory something that one believes has been omitted requires showing how it can take its place as one element of a coherent and effective theory. ( Evaluating, pp. 913 and and 916) Naturally, I am aware that Waltz furthermore assumes that the primary products of theories are explanations and that they should be tested by inferring hypotheses and checking these against experimental or observational data. My concept of theory allows for other forms of understanding, and therefore I follow Waltz primarily in his more basic conception of how theories are made creatively (Theory, op.cit., p. 9), which implies that the core of a theory is not something one finds in reality, but some idea for how to conceive of a field. 4 Again as Waltz, I am not going to make a strong distinction between theory and research program. The core of a (good) research program is necessarily a theory, and the introduction of the term research program usually serves two purposes. One is to give connotations to a more dynamic, time-stretched and collective enterprise which is certainly appropriate in this context. The other is to set up more or less strict criteria for a Lakatosian or post-lakatosian evaluation of the progressiveness of a research program. I will not on this occasion go far in this latter direction, first because the Lakatosian research program in the sociology of science has run into serious difficulties itself, and second because securitisation theory is still so young that attention naturally focus less on patterns in its evolution (progressive? degenerative?) and more on the character of the theory itself. On problems with Lakatos, see eg. Donald N. McCloskey, Knowledge and Persuasion in Economics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1994; Paul Diesing, How Does Social Science Work? Reflections on Practice, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press

2 When appraising a theory, focus should not be on its assumptions but how it works as theory; and especially we should not base our judgements on guilt by association. The latter is surprisingly common. As noted by Waltz, most of the critiques of his neo-realist theory attack statements by other realists or find inconsistencies in his theory by attributing to him views presumably held by all realists: One cannot judge the fertility of a research program by evaluating work done outside of it. 5 Similarly, when the theory of securitisation has been attacked by mainstream authors, the target has most often been views falsely attributed to the theory because it shares other elements with constructivists, post-structuralists, neo-realists or security wideners 6. This tendency to place all discussions at the level of general schools or paradigms is a corollary of the often-noticed preference of IR for grand debates. This preference has its advantages and disadvantages and in any case it is not gotten rid of simply by deciding so, because it is part of the intellectual and social structure of the discipline and thus partly a question of power. 7 While therefore these general debates between very loosely defined schools or paradigms are here to stay, it is my hope that we are also able to conduct debates focused on specific theories and the present paper is an attempt to further one such debate. It is as such not a plea for adopting a wide or a narrow concept of security or for being more or less constructivist it presents a theory, which has one very specific core idea and has been developed around this idea. An argument is made about what this theory can be used for and where it is useless, and some of the main criticisms are (briefly) assessed. Schools and debates in security studies East and West of the Atlantic Seen in relation to the general discipline of international relations, the sub-field of security studies exhibits an unusual degree of divergence between European and American theoretical developments. In most other fields, scholars on both sides conduct or at least are aware of the same debates, even if these might be balanced very differently, witness the grand debate in IR about rationalism and constructivism or the debate in European studies between liberal inter-governmentalism and multi-level governance. However, within security studies most scholars on one side of the Atlantic would depict (and teach) the state of the discipline in terms of debates and studies that are not mentioned in a similar overview on the other side and vice-versa. Obviously, this does not mechanically and fully follow geographical criteria, but the trend is nevertheless clear. In Europe there is a vibrant debate over a number of competing schools in security studies: critical security studies, the Copenhagen school, radical post-modernists, feminists, Bourdieu-inspired approaches, and more traditional, realist positions. Most of these are not known at all to the majority of American scholars. (In this case, Canada is more European than American and partly itself with its own literature on human security 8, and the main 5 Waltz, Evaluating Theories, op.cit., p As the section below on strengths and weaknesses shows, extremely many relevant, insightful and often effective criticisms have been made, but they have mostly originated (to stay in the unfortunate metaphorics of the paradigm wars) on the opposite, the radical, side of the theory (i.e. from post-structuralists, radical constructivists and feminists). 7 Ole Wæver, The Sociology of a Not so International Discipline: American and European Developments in International Relations, in International Organization, vol. 52:4, 1998, pp C. Thomas and P. Wilkin (eds.) Globalizaton, Human Security, and the African Experience, London: Lynne Rienner 1999; Astri Suhrke, Human Security and the Interests of States, Security Dialogue, vol. 30:3, September 1999, pp ; Simon Dalby, Geopolitical Change and Contemporary Security Studies: Contextualizing the Human Security Agenda, The University of British Columbia: Institute of International Relations, Working Paper No. 30, April 2000; Kanti Bajpai, Human Security: Concept and Measurement, Kroc Institute Occasional Paper #19:OP:1, August 2000 (64pp); Edward Newman, Human Security and 2

3 contrast is not Europe vs. North America but Europe vs. the U.S.) It is often argued by observers of European debates, that the field of security studies surprisingly has become one of the most exciting fields and the place where a lot of theoretical innovation takes place, of relevance to the whole field of IR. 9 If you turn to the leading academic, American journals in security studies (or look at ph.d. theses written in the US), these debates register only very marginally. 10 The leading debate is instead likely to be seen as the intra-realist debate between offensive and defensive realism 11 (and other distinctions within realism) with numerous interventions refining the theoretical arguments and doing empirical case studies usually through in-depth historical studies. Also there have been major debates over particular hypotheses like the democratic peace 12 and increasingly a debate that looks more like the European debates: the metatheoretical debate between constructivists and rationalists. 13 However, the latter is also the Constructivism, International Studies Perspectives, 2001:2, pp ; William Bain, The Tyranny of Benevolence? National Security, Human Security, and the Practice of Statecraft in Global Security, vol. 15:3, 2001, pp ; Roland Paris, Human Security: Paradigm Shift or Hot Air?, International Security, vol. 26:2, Fall 2001, pp ; Nicholas Thomas and William T. Tow, The Utility of Human Security: Sovereignty and Humanitarian Intervention, Security Dialogue, vol. 33(2), June 2002, p ; Alex J. Bellamy and Matt McDonald, The Utility of Human Security : Which Humans? What Security? A Reply to Thomas & Tow, Security Dialogue, vol. 33(3), September 2002, pp ; Thomas and Tow, Gaining Security by Trashing the State? A Reply to Bellamy & McDonald, Security Dialogue, vol. 33(3), September 2002, pp See also Canada s Human Security Web Site : Human Security Network : the Commission on Human Security: and Harvard s Program on Human Security : 9 Michael C. Williams, Words, Images, Enemies: Securitization and World Politics, forthcoming in International Studies Quarterly, vol. 47(?). For similar claims about the vitality and importance of these debates, see Johan Eriksson, Introduction in Eriksson ed. Threat Politics: New perspectives on security, risk and crisis management, Aldershot: Ashgate 2001, pp. 1-18, especially p. 18 (note 1); Jef Huysmans, "Revisiting Copenhagen: Or, On the Creative Development of a Security Studies Agenda in Europe", European Journal of International Relations, 4:4 (1998) ; Christopher Corpora [add ref.]; Steve Smith, The Increasing Insecurity of Security Studies: Conceptualizing Security in the Last Twenty Years in Stuart Croft & Terry Terriff (eds.) Critical Reflections on Security and Change, London: Frank Cass 2000, pp The divergence was maybe already signalled during the 1980s and early 1990s by the very different reception of Barry Buzan s People States and Fear (1983, 1991). It never made a big impact in the US, while it became a cenral reference, a standard textbook and a modern classic not only in the UK, but generally in Europe (and Canada?). 11 E.g. Sean Lynn-Jones & Steven Miller Preface, in Brown, Michael, Sean Lynn Jones, & Steven Miller (eds) The Perils of Anarchy: Neo-realism and International Security. Cambridge: MIT Press Pp ix-xii; Jack Snyder, Myths of Empire: Domestic Politics and International Ambition, Ithaca og London: Cornell University Press 1991; Zakaria [review-essay]; Fareed Zakaria, From Wealth to Power - The Unusual Origins of America's World Role, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press 1998; John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, New York: W. W. Norton & Company 2001; Stephen G. Brooks, Dueling Realisms, International Organization, Vol. 51, No. 3, 1997, pp ; Randall Schweller, Neorealism s Status Quo Bias: What Security Dilemma, Security Studies, Spring, 5(3), 1996, pp ; Randall Schweller, Deadly Imbalances: Tripolarity and Hitler s Strategy of World Conquest, New York: Columbia University Press 1998; Charles Glaser, The Security Dilemma Revisited ; World Politics. October, 50 (1), 1997, pp ; Jeffrey Taliaferro, "Security Seeking under Anarchy: Defensive Realism Revisited," International Security, vol. 25, Winter 2000/01, pp ; Gideon Rose, Neoclassical Realism and Theories of Foreign Policy, World Politics, Vol. 51, 1998, pp ; Sten Rynning og Stefano Guzzini (2001): Realism and Foreign Policy Analysis, Working Papers 42/2001, København: Copenhagen Peace Research Institute: Stephen M. Walt, The Enduring Relevance of the Realist Tradition in Ira Katznelson and Helen Milner (eds.) Political Science: The State of the Discipline III, New York: W. W. Norton Bruce Russett book + ref to key debates in IS and elsewhere. 13 Peter J. Katzenstein, Introduction: Alternative Perspectives on National Security in Peter J. Katzenstein (ed.) The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics, New York: Columbia University 3

4 one that most clearly shows the differences. The first difference is that on the US side, reflections on the concept of security play no integrated role in research. Such considerations are at most involved in delineating the field and thereby locating the questions about which then to gain empirical, causal, historical and theoretical knowledge. 14 If an article is defined as security analysis, this will typically mean that at most the reflection on this status consists in defining security studies as being about e.g. the study of the threat, use and control of military force 15 and therefore a theoretical-empirical study of causes of war is relevant or the strategic use of sanctions might with a little more difficulty be justified too; the concept of security is not present in the analysis as such. In the European debates, questions about the concept of security became the launching pad for a general attention to the self-reflective nature of the discipline, i.e. that the discipline not only studied security, but it also had its own concepts of security and thereby its own security practices. Doing security therefore implied to reflect on the practice of speaking in the name of this concept. 16 This pointed towards a general attention to the close connections between (sub-)discipline, theory, concept and the studied object (all called something like or with security ). A partly related, second difference is that in Europe, a particular debate emerged that was organised at first within and because of the particular questions related to security, but which increasingly influences more general IR debates. In the US, influences clearly went the Press 1996, pp. 1-32; Ronald L. Jepperson, Alexander Wendt, and Peter J. Katzenstein, Norms, Identity and Culture in National Security in Katzenstein (ed.) The Culture, op.cit., pp ; Peter J. Katzenstein, Conclusion: National Security in a Changing World in Katzenstein (ed.) The Culture, op.cit., pp ; Michael Desch, "Culture Clash: Assessing the Importance of Ideas in Security Studies," International Security, vol. 23, Summer 1998, pp debate in International Security, vol. 24:1, Summer 1999, pp ; Ted Hopf, "The Promise of Constructivism in IR Theory." International Security, V.23, Summer 1998, pp ; Dale Copeland, "The Constructivist Challenge to Structural Realism: A Review Essay," International Security, vol. 25, Fall 2000, pp ; Ido Oren, Is Culture Independent of National Security? How America s National Security Concerns Shaped Political Culture Research, European Journal of International Relations, vol. 6:4, 2000, pp This is as clear in The Culture of National Security, where Katzenstein ( Introduction, op.cit, pp. 7-11) argues the strategic rationale of employing a narrow concept of security in combination with the new approaches, because again if you can beat the traditionalists in their home field, it is evidently easy later to transfer this gain to the new fields that are already home turf for the new approaches. Implicitly, the question of concepts of security is here reduced to a question of issues, whereas the meta-criticism raised by Critical Security Studies, the Copenhagen School and others does not register. This is the approach to the concept that frames the book (it returns on pp ). Almost as an aside, Jepperson et al ( Norms, Identity, op.cit) reflect (pp ) on the possibility that different theories reflect external developments and suddenly the discussion employs a logic very close to securitisation/desecuritisation when it explains why various issues have been defined as on or off the security agenda as the result of political processes. Similary, Steven E. Miller, ("International Security at Twenty-five: From One World to Another", International Security, Vol. 26, No. 1 (201), pp.--) show in a grand overview of 25 years of International Security, how at best the widening debate register as a question of a re-drawing of the boundary of the issue area and meta-theoretical pluralism is proven by articles on the causal impact of norms, i.e. as a question of what variables to include as independent variable. 15 Stephen M. Walt The Renaissance of Security Studies, International Studies Quarterly, 35, (1991), p Thus, the difference is not primarily about the different fate of the broad concept of security although that is interesting too, and a question that can only partly be explained as a reflection of differences in US and European policy, cf. Robert Kagan, Power and Weakness, Policy Review, June & July 2002, Number 113, pp.; Ole Wæver, Widening the Concept of Security -- And Widening the Atlantic? in Bo Huldt, Sven Rudberg & Elisabeth Davidson (eds.) The Transatlantic Link: Strategic Yearbook 2002, Stockholm: Swedish National Defence College 2001, pp This is not the whole story, because much of the literature in Europe is increasingly critical of the broad concept, and the most important debate is therefore whether conceptual reflections on security are seen as a fertile focus for debate or a margingal question. 4

5 opposite way: the theoretical positions within security studies derive from general IR debates. This is probably most easily seen in the case of the debate on constructivism. The main salvo from the constructivists, the Katzenstein volume 17, was launched explicitly as a move in a general IR debate where constructivists found that it was time to prove their worth on the home ground of realism: security. Most of the contributors were not primarily working in fields or institutions traditionally seen as security. In contrast to earlier periods such as the golden age of security studies in the 1950s and 1960s, it is today not particular challenges, needs or debates within security studies that motivate theory development. 18 In the context of American IR, this change is valued. It is generally assumed to be a sign of maturity to get away from particular theories and debates in sub-fields and instead develop general theories that are in turn applied to different fields like European integration, international security or trade disputes. 19 The new European theories developed in relation to public discussions about security and attempts to develop specific theorising for this purpose. Thus, these theoretical developments were the product of complicated, personal processes of political and theoretical choices and settling or coming to terms with one s role in-between academia, expertise and citizen/public intellectual. 20 It is often stated that IR research in the US is more closely connected to policy than in Europe 21, but this is only partly true: Relevant research is more systematically promoted through various channels in the US, and quite large sub-systems (primarily think-tanks) are very directly linked to policy. Also academic journals like International Security have a more implicit policy orientation expressed by frequent discussions in terms of what we (the US) should do, where equivalents are much more rarely found in any European academic journal. However, the disconnect between large parts of academic IR and the policy circles is also very significant in the US, and European research typically has a broader concept of politics, not only as policy advice (This, I return to in the final paragraphs in a discussion of different understandings of relevance.) Here, it probably also plays a role, that the field of practiced policy research in the security field is more closely disciplined and specialised in the US. Therefore there are few constructivists (very few radical constructivists), whereas it is possible to be both a poststructuralist and a policy researcher (and government advisor 22 ) in some European countries (partly because of a different game over the status of different disciplines, partly simply because of less specialisation/division of labour in smaller countries). The bottom-line on this point is that the European theories developed as an integral part of struggling with security issues, the American ones much more detached as part of academic debates between various explanatory theories. This in turn is in the American optic the most policy relevant, because the role of the analyst is to provide the relevant knowledge 17 Peter J. Katzenstein (ed.) The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics, New York: Columbia University Press The golden age is presented by David Baldwin as the 2 nd of 4 phases of security studies, see: David Baldwin, Security Studies and the End of the Cold War, World Politics, vol 48, Oct 1995, pp In relation to European integration studies, this argument is made forcefully by Andrew Moravcsik, The Choice for Europe: Social Purpose and State Power from Messina to Maastricht,, NY: Cornell University Press1998, pp. ##. 20 Ken Booth, Security and Self: Reflections of a Fallen Realist, i Krause and Williams eds. Critical Security Studies. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 1997, pp ; Jef Huysmans,'Defining social constructivism in security studies. The normative dilemma of writing security', Alternatives, vol.27, Supplement (2002) pp Notably, Stanley Hoffmann, International Relations, An American Social Science Dædalus, vol. 106, 1977, pp Aha that explains recent European policy! ;-) 5

6 of cause-effect relations that enable the optimal policy decision. Politics and knowledge are not seen as that separate in the European context. Thirdly, the seemingly similar discussions around constructivism in European and American security studies turn out very differently also because of different reference point regarding meta-theory. Realism remains much more central in U.S. security studies than it is in both general American IR/IPE (IO as well as ISQ type) 23 and than it is in European security studies. Ironically in relation to the above point about avoiding local theories and participating in general theory debates, security studies has its distinct style. In security studies (as represented primarily by the journals International Security and Security Studies), the dominant form of research is more historical, less oriented towards formal rational choice than in IO-style IR. 24 This is not an instance of traditionalism a la second debate (Hedley Bull) where judgement is seen as integral to research 25, because a journal like International Security is at least as insistent as IO on strict causal and positivist social science. This shows in the actual publishing record but maybe more revealingly in places like the instruction sheet for contributors. It asks a potential author to sum up (at least for herself) her argument in an arrow diagram because if this is not possible, the argument is probably not clear. This implies that. an argument necessarily takes the form of propositions about causeeffect relations among a few factors (and not e.g. writing structured history, deconstructive interventions or normative IR). The spectrum of theoretical positions probably do not differ much between the US and Europe (and many individuals move back and forth), but the median point does. Therefore, the seemingly similar debates, that could be seen as being about constructivism meets security studies on both sides, turn out very differently. In US security studies, it is about a distinct type of mainstream constructivism that orients itself towards the canons of science among rationalists, where much (but far from all) constructivism in Europe blends in with more radical positions. Accordingy, the debate mostly in International Security over the role of constructivism in security studies 26, turns out to be about assessing the importance of ideas in security studies, i.e. ideas and identity conceived as variables and judged in strict causal terms. Also the participants explicitly engage in laborious efforts to define a conventional constructivism as distinct from a critical constructivism. 23 As noted by several authors, (neo)realism has long been present in general IR (not-specifically-securityoriented) discussions mostly as a ghost: Throughout the 1980s and much of the 1990s, a very large part of theoretical arguments were justified as critiques of neo-realism, but to actually find a self-defined neo-realist at an ISA meeting or in the pages of IO, was not that easy. Obviously, this meant that neo-realism was influential in shaping debates but in a much more in-direct way than within security studies, where it remained something like the orthodoxy. 24 Michael Brown, Steven E. Miller and Seam M. Lynn-Jones (eds.) Rational Choice and Security Studies: Stephen Walt and His Critics, Cambridge: MIT Press, Cf. also the statistics in Wæver, The Sociology of a Not so International Discipline, especially figure 3 (p. 702) and Table A1 (p. 727). Unfortunately, these statistics include only IO and ISQ, not IS and SS, but I think it is clear that the distribution between different meta-theories in the non-security journals differ markedly from what one would find in the security journals. 25 Hedley Bull, 'International Theory: The Case for the Classical Approach', in World Politics, 3 (1966), See also the recent attempt to elaborate this methodological stance: Robert Jackson, The Global Covenant: Human Conduct in a World of States, Oxford, Clarendon Press 2000(?). 26 Michael Desch, "Culture Clash: Assessing the Importance of Ideas in Security Studies," International Security, vol. 23, Summer 1998, pp debate in International Security, vol. 24:1, Summer 1999, pp ; Ted Hopf, "The Promise of Constructivism in IR Theory." International Security, V.23, Summer 1998, pp ; Dale Copeland, "The Constructivist Challenge to Structural Realism: A Review Essay," International Security, vol. 25, Fall 2000, pp ; Theo Farrell, 'Constructivist Security Studies: Portrait of a Research Program', International Studies Review, 4, 1, 2002, pp

7 The purpose of the present article is to present and take preliminary stock of one of the European research programmes, the so-called Copenhagen School, or rather the part of it that is defined by securitisation theory. It is the hope that this can serve both as an introduction to those un-familiar with the theory and (maybe by reading fast in the first half) as a summing up and where to go from here exercise for the insiders. More generally, this offers a look into the kind of debates that take place in parts of European security studies. It is not uncommon 27 in (North?) European debates to see security studies as having three main schools : traditionalism/realism, Critical Security Studies 28 and the Copenhagen School. The Copenhagen School The so-called Copenhagen School in security studies is built around three main ideas: 1) securitisation, 2) sectors and 3) regional security complexes. 29 In this brief presentation, I will focus on the first, because securitisation is what defines most distinctly the school in a meta-theoretical sense and determines its further development, its weaknesses and its political implications. However, it is worth remembering the other key ideas not least 27 Johan Eriksson, Observers or Advocates? On the Political Role of Security Analysts, i Cooperation and Conflict, 1999 nr. 3; Richard Wyn Jones, Security, Strategy, and Critical Theory, Boulder CO: Lynne Rienner 1999; Steve Smith, op.cit.; [add more examples] 28 Ken Booth, "Security and Emancipation", Review of International Studies, 17:4, (1991), pp ; Keith Krause and Michael C. Williams (eds.) Critical Security Studies. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 1997; Keith Krause and Michael C. Williams, Broadening the Agenda of Security Studies: Politics and Methods, Mershon International Studies Review, vol. 40, supplement 2 (1996), pp ; Keith Krause "Critical Theory and Security Studies: The Research Programme of 'Critical Security Studies'", Cooperation and Conflict, 33:3 (1998), pp ; Richard Wyn Jones, Security, Strategy, and Critical Theory, Boulder CO: Lynne Rienner 1999; Bradley Klein, "Politics by Design. Remapping Security Landscapes", European Journal of International Relations, 4:3 (1998), pp ; Bradley S. Klein, Strategic Studies and World Order: The Global Politics of Deterrence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994; Lene Hansen, "A Case for Seduction? Evaluating the Poststructuralist Conceptualization of Security", Cooperation and Conflict, 32:4 (1997), pp The name Copenhagen School was coined by Bill McSweeney in a critical review essay which turned into an exchange: Bill McSweeney "Identity and security: Buzan and the Copenhagen school", in Review of International Studies 22:1 (1996), pp.81-94; Barry Buzan and Ole Wæver "Slippery? contradictory? sociologically unstable? The Copenhagen school replies", in Review of International Studies 23:2 (1997), pp ; Bill McSweeney "Durkheim and the Copenhagen school: a response to Buzan and Wæver", in Review of International Studies 24:1 (1998), pp ; Mike Williams "Comment on the 'Copenhagen Controversy'", in Review of International Studies 24:3 (1998), pp ; Bill McSweeney, Security, Identity and Interests: A Sociology of International Relations, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press In a sociological, descriptive sense, the Copenhagen School is usually taken to refer to the work done since 1985 by the European Security research group at the Copenhagen Peace Research Institute, notably its series of collective books: Egbert Jahn, Pierre Lemaitre, and Ole Wæver Concepts of Security: Problems of Research on Non-Military Aspects, Copenhagen Papers no. 1, Copenhagen: Center for Peace and Conflict Research 1987; Ole Wæver, Pierre Lemaitre and Elzbieta Tromer (eds.) European Polyphony: Perspectives beyond East-West Confrontation, London: Macmillan 1989; Barry Buzan, Morten Kelstrup, Pierre Lemaitre, Elzbieta Tromer, and Ole Wæver The European Security Order Recast: Scenarios for the Post-Cold War Era, London: Pinter Publisher 1990; Ole Wæver, Barry Buzan, Morten Kelstrup, and Pierre Lemaitre, Identity, Migration and the New Security Agenda in Europe, London: Pinter Publichers 1993; Barry Buzan, Jaap de Wilde, and Ole Wæver, Security: A New Framework for Analysis, Boulder CO: Lynne Rienner The most thorough review of the school in this respect is Jef Huysmans "Revisiting Copenhagen: Or, On the Creative Development of a Security Studies Agenda in Europe", in European Journal of International Relations 4:4 (1998), pp Who others in Copenhagen or elsewhere to count as members is beyond the reach and preoccupations of the current essay. Especially in Scandinavia but also beyond, quite a lot of applications have been done, and in this respect there are many at least part time members. This analytical sense of the Copenhagen School as defined by its theory and approach is the object of this article. 7

8 because the tensions and interactions between these three explain much of the dynamics in the development of the theory. 30 Sectors refer to the distinction between political, economic, environmental, military and societal security. The concept of security complexes points to the importance of the regional level in security analysis and suggests an analytical scheme for structuring analysis of how security concerns tie together in a regional formation. 31 In this article, the approach will be outlined briefly and its strengths and weaknesses discussed, both in relation to operational and political implications, and by taking up the quite numerous theoretical and meta-theoretical challenges that have been posed to the approach. Wideners vs. traditionalists a third way Part of the background of the emergence of the Copenhagen School is the debate in politics and security studies in the 1970s and especially 1980s between wideners and traditionalists, ie. the debate over a wide versus a narrow concept of security. 32 Should the concept of security be taken beyond its (alleged) traditional focus on military issues and on the state? During the 1980s, this debate became increasingly polarised: The wideners used the narrowness of traditionalists as their main argument for their own position, and notably the traditional position became more narrow than it had actually traditionally been due to the argument that the widened concept of security meant everything is security and therefore it carried a risk of emptying the concept of meaning and ripping the field of its main intellectual tool. The Copenhagen School emerged as one suggestion for a viable middle position. In contrast to the traditionalist view, it is possible to extend the net widely and look for security in all sectors and with all possible referent objects. And against the view of the wideners, it is necessary to be able to discriminate and separate security issues from nonsecurity. Actually, it is only by having a clear sense of what is security, that it is possible to open up without being swept away. In this seemingly not too hopeful ( oh no, once more! ) attempt to return yet again to the discussion of re-defining security, it paradoxically became clear that much of the literature on what is security? is really about what is security also? ; typically: it should be not only about military issues, but the environment too. Various forms of specifications have been added: common security, environmental security, individual 30 Sectors and regional security complexes stem from Barry Buzan altough the main reference now is to collective Copenhagen School books (Security, A New Framework from 1998 and Regions and Powers in 2003, respectively). Securitisation comes from Ole Wæver but also here the main reference is now a collective book (Security: A New Framework). 31 The concept of regional security complex was introduced by Barry Buzan in People, States and Fear: The National Security Problem in International Relations, Harvester Wheatsheaf The concept is at the centre of the most recent book from the project group in Copenhagen: Buzan & Wæver, Regions and Powers: The Structure of International Security, Cambridge University Press forthcoming. 32 Jessica Mathews,'Redefining Security', Foreign Affairs, 68:2 (1989); Johan Galtung, 'Twenty-Five Years of Peace Research', Journal of Peace Research, 22 (1985); Jan Øberg, At Sikre Udvikling og Udvikle Sikkerhed, Copenhagen: Vindrose 1983; Richard Ullman, "Redefining Security", International Security 8, 1 (1983): Anti-wideners include Stephen Walt "The Renaissance of Security Studies", International Studies Quarterly, vol. 35 (1991) pp and Daniel Deudney, "The Case Against Linking Environmental Degradation and National Security," Millennium, 1990, Vol. 19:

9 security, but the security in these combinations would remain the old one as well as unreflected as long as there was no focus on security as such. 33 But what is security then? The meaning of security is not understood by setting up some ideal definition of how the concept ought to be used (and then possibly criticise practitioners for not being logicians). Rather, one should try to capture the real functions of the term, the powers of the concept, as employed in political practice. Language users implicitly follow rules for what is seen as meaningful statements. This approach does not entail conducting opinion polls and asking people what they think security means, but analysing actual linguistic practices to see what regulates discourse. What do practitioners do in talking security? Security is about survival. In security discourse, an issue is presented as posing an existential threat to a designated referent object (traditionally, but not necessarily the state). 34 The designation of the threat as existential justifies the use of extraordinary measures to handle it. The invocation of security has been the key to legitimising the use of force, and more generally opening the way for the state to mobilise or to take special power eg. using conscription, secrecy, and other means only legitimate when dealing with security matters. Therefore, it is implicitly or explicitly part of the securitisation of an issue that a point of no return is postulated we have to deal with this in time, and because of this urgency, we can not leave it to the normal procedures. Also the threat has a general up-setting potential; it overflows other areas and therefore it should not be weighed and balanced as part of the normal political process. What good is it that we have invested a lot in education today if we fail to take care of defence and therefore we are invaded and lose our liberty tomorrow? Therefore, the security argument goes, sufficient defence is a necessity and thereby not of the same status as other investments. In the traditional perspective, this might be recognised but then seen as a side-effect, a secondary feature of security policy. However, such prioritising and dramatising effects are 33 The few attempts by traditional conceptual analysts notably David Baldwin ("The Concept of Security", in Review of International Studies, 23:1, pp. 5-26, 1997) at analysing security are at the same time valuable and instructive in their failure. By approaching security logically, these analyses assume that security has a general meaning independent of its context (i.e. the same in e.g. everyday usage, business and international affairs), and the task is then to analyse logically how states should deal with the aim of security in relation to other aims. This, however, misses the inner relations between state and security and the particular meanings that the concept of security has acquired in the international context, especially since the 1940s. There is not an abstract concept of security, which can be applied to the state and the individual alike when used in international affairs, the concept of security is marked by concepts like state and sovereignty, just as these in turn contain traces of security. On the problems of these assumptions in traditional conceptual analysis, see Ole Wæver, "European Security Identities", in Journal of Common Market Studies, 34:1, pp , 1996; Jef Huysmans, "Security! What Do You mean? From Concept to Thick Signifier", in European Journal of International Relations, vol. 4:2, pp , 1998; and Wæver, Security: A Conceptual History for International Relations, paper presented at the annual meeting of BISA, December If approached less through time-less conceptual analysis and more through conceptual history, one can capture the particular meaning that security gained in international relations in the mid-20 th Century. The conceptual analysts, on the contrary, by ignoring this historically contingent development make arguments about abstract security that ironically often apply to security in all contexts but that of international relations. 34 This section draws on the currently most extensive, operational presentation of the theory: chapter 2 in Barry Buzan, Jaap de Wilde, and Ole Wæver, Security: A New Framework for Analysis, Boulder CO: Lynne Rienner, The securitisation interpretation of security was first presented systematically in Ole Wæver, "Securitisation and Desecuritisation", in On Security, Ronnie D. Lipschutz (ed.), New York: Columbia University Press 1995, pp

10 systematically involved and it seems that this is central to the political struggles over security the reasons for resisting suggestions for new security issues or for pushing items on to the security agenda. Therefore, I suggest that this exactly is what the concept does, and therefore also why it is used. 35 It is the meaning of security. 36 Security is the result of a move that takes politics beyond the established rules of the game and frames the issue as above normal politics. Securitisation can thus be seen as a more extreme version of politicisation. Any issue can be located on the spectrum from nonpoliticised (meaning that the state does not deal with it and it is not in any other way made an issue of public debate and decision) through politicised (meaning the issue is part of public policy, requiring government decision and resource allocations or some other form of communal governance) to securitised (meaning the issue is presented as an existential threat). Take the example of gender in the Western world. Until the late 1960s it was mostly seen as belonging to the private sphere and not a proper issue for public policy, ie. non-politicised. The women s movement successfully politicised gender issues, and today we see instances primarily in the US of gender being securitised (as when some feminists see rape as a sign of men s threat to women as such, and when homosexuals become a key element in a perceived threat to a certain white, male, middle class definitions of the American way of life). 37 The distinguishing feature of securitisation is a specific rhetorical structure (survival, priority of action and urgency, because if the problem is not handled now it will be too late, and we will not exist to remedy our failure ). This can function as a tool for finding security action in sectors other than the military-political one. As witnessed by the debate on environmental security the criteria for including new sectors is often either whether it has effects on the military one (which logically means not to see the new sector as security in itself) or whether it is as dangerous as war (usually discussed without any precise measure for such comparison across issues). With the securitisation approach one has a clear idea of the chief quality of security and can thus assess whether some question has become a security issue. To register the act of something being securitised, the task is not to assess some objective threats that really endanger some object, rather it is to understand the processes of constructing a shared understanding of what is to be considered and collectively responded to as a threat. The process of securitisation is a speech act. It is not interesting as a sign referring to something more real: it is the utterance itself that is the act. By saying the words, something is done (like giving a promise, betting, naming a ship). By uttering I apologise for my behaviour the speaker actually makes an apology; he does not describe himself apologising for his behaviour. A sentence like X is a security question is not a constative 35 This interpretation was originally based mainly on analysis of contemporary security discourse, but it is now backed up by an (emerging) history of the concept: Ole Wæver, Security: A Conceptual History for International Relations, paper presented at the annual meetings of ISA (New Orleans) and BISA (London) This re-tracing of the evolution of the concept since Roman times, shows among other things that there is no stable, self-evident core meaning to security the concept has changed several times along important axes such as positive/negative, subjective/objective, individual/state and through various changes of delineation visà-vis neighboring concepts. A particularly important lesson is that it was not a key concept in international relations until the 20 th century, and a major change happened in the US in the 1940s whereby the concept gained the particular function of being a call for priority, a conceptual shift partly caused by the erosion of classical concepts like raison d état and necessity. 36 Quentin Skinner, Visions of Politics 1: Questions on Method, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2002, chapters 5 and See Buzan et al, Security, pp

11 but a performative and therefore it does not have truth conditions but felicity conditions (to which I return below). Security is a self-referential practice. It is by labelling something a security issue that it becomes one not that issues are security issues in themselves and then afterwards possibly talked about in terms of security. 38 Thus the exact definition and criteria of securitisation is the intersubjective establishment of an existential threat with a saliency sufficient to have substantial political effects. Securitisation can be studied directly through the study of discourse and political constellations. The study of securitisation does not aim at something hidden like motives or culture it studies politics directly. When does an argument with this particular rhetorical and semiotic structure achieve sufficient effect to make an audience tolerate violations of rules that would otherwise have been obeyed? This shows that the audience is actually crucial. There are numerous securitising actors who stand up and make securitising moves with reference to some referent object, but a successful securitisation has only happened when the relevant audience accepts the security argument to an extent where this could be used as a basis for using extra-ordinary means at fending off the alleged threat. Key concepts are: Referent object: what is posited as having a demand on necessary survival and as currently threatened. Note that societies differ in terms of what is generally assumed to have to survive. Most often state sovereignty and national identity are taken to be sufficiently necessary that it is a powerful move to claim they are threatened (which often implies defining them in a particular way). In contrast, it is more varied whether a national film industry is seen as necessary for national identity, or whether the survival of a particular species is necessary and thus a reason for taking extraordinary steps if it is threatened. Securitising actor is the one that makes the argument about a threat to the referent object. Traditionally, the distinction between securitising actor and referent object was not always made, usually because the state was seen as both object and actor. With a wider concept of security, the distinction becomes obviously necessary. It is not the whales who claim that extinction of the whales is unacceptable it is typically some environmental movement. And when this is noticed, it becomes clear that also the classical cases are about some actor making claims about threats to some other group or principle. Audience is those who have to be convinced in order for the securitising move to be successful. Although one often tends to think in terms of the population or citizenry 38 J L Austin, How to do things with words, 2 nd ed. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press 1975 (1962). The theory of speech act has since then been developed in roughly two directions. On the one hand, it has been developed in somewhat parallel ways by John R. Searle (Speech Acts:...) and Jürgen Habermas (Universal Pragmatics...) as a theory specifying (with elaborate differentiation) the conditions for correct usage of different kinds of speech acts. On the other hand, Jacques Derrida s critique of Austin and particularly Searle (Limited Inc...) started an exploration of the other side of Austin; see Judith Butler, Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative, Routledge 1997; B. Honig, Declarations of independence: Arendt and Derrida on the problem of founding a republic, American Political Science Review, vol. 85:1, 1991, pp ; and John Forrester, The Seductions of Psychoanalysis: Freud, Lacan and Derrida, Cambridge University Press 1990, especially ch. 7. The second strand emphasises the paradoxes of performativity, the act of creating something out of nothing, the unfoundedness of speech acts and therefore the symmetrical status of failure and success in speech acts, and the necessary and impossible role of essentialism in performatives. Pierre Bourdieu is in some ways a third case to which I return in a later footnote. 11

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