Security and international relations

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We will use the notion of security to mobilize elements from previous themes. Understanding security issues requires a number of tools beyond a more intuitive or common sense approach.

Security: basic concepts[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

A contested concept[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

There is no consensus definition of security. The very definition of safety is a central issue in safety studies. The question of definition is at the heart of security studies.

In Security publié en 2009[9], Zedner shows that security is a concept with multiple meanings. You have to look at security in four different ways, which are four ways to approach the subject:

  • an objective state: we are facing threats and we must manage these threats to be safe. It is an objectively defined state. For example, when a German tank crossed the French border in 1940, the object was a threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of France. There is a functional relationship to security that implies that threats must be addressed to ensure security;
  • a subjective state: the situation of the objective state is not sufficient, because feeling safe can be much more subjective, depending on the context and the people, including the feeling of insecurity. It is not an object that automatically is a threat. Security is also a subjective state, something that we aim to achieve, which would be a "feeling" of security. Security comes from the Latin term "securitas" which comes from the Greek term ataraxia which means internal security.

When we talk about objective or subjective safety, in both cases we are talking about a state. Security goes hand in hand with the notion of security. A security state is relatively unsatisfactory as an object, because it is a state that must be achieved. Security is not a state.

  • in the pursuit of security: this is all that leads us to be able to achieve this state of fullness and tranquility. We realize that when we perceive security as a pursuit, it opens the door to a lot of questions and doubts about the idea of reaching this state one day. As long as we talk about prosecution, then we wonder about, for example, what will allow us to reach the state of security. Doing safety can make it possible to do things, to be of service. For the military at the end of the Cold War, being able to relegitilize their way of being allows them to exist through new threats. We realize that security is becoming a reason to be, bringing benefits that legitimize certain actors;
  • a powerful symbol: safety becomes a commodity, a product and a commodity. The example of the burglary alarm system requires the use of people who sell security and a sense of insecurity. Buying an alarm system does not necessarily make you feel safer.

Security is an intersubjective concept that will be part of processes that will bring together a number of actors and practices.

Deregulation of a concept: towards critical approaches to security[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

We must ask ourselves whether security is a monopoly of international relations. For a very long time, those who were interested in the subject of security were in the discipline of international relations. Most of the time, this was the business of international relations, but also the business of the neo-realists.

The domination of the neo-realistic approach has created a large number of studies. For Walt in The Renaissance of Security Studies[10]

published in 1991, the central point of security is "easy to identify[...]: it is war". If we talk about security, we are talking about managing the threat of war. The definition of security at that time is a state-centred and military definition of security that prevails until the 1990s. Working on security during the Cold War is about the causes of war, but also about how to manage a security dilemma, on the other hand, it is about the nuclear issue. This is a field that will gradually be called into question, particularly neo-realistic hegemony.

Authors attack security as a monopoly of neo-realists. In People, States & Fear: The National Security Problem in International Relations[11] published in 1983, Buzan says that security is not just the military's object, because other things threaten other objects, which is why the concept must be broadened. Flowered from there many studies that will try to open the concept of security as Critical Security Studies. Concepts and Cases[12] published in 1997 by Krause & Williams. We are witnessing an expansion and deepening of security:

  • This period saw the emergence of environmental security in particular. Security also becomes economical. In security grammar, things threaten an object.
  • security can also be regional with the concept of a security complex.
  • Another form of security is a deepening of the concept where the object of security is no longer the state, but the individual. This is a big change because the purpose of security is not to secure a state. Taking the individual as the object of security transforms the perception of security. The most powerful of these challenges is to put the individual at the centre.

Human Security[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

At the heart of this proposal will be the concept of human security.

« The concept of security has for too long been interpreted restrictively, confining it to the security of the territory in the face of external aggression, the protection of national interests in the face of foreign competition or the security of the planet in the face of the threat of a nuclear holocaust. It applied more to nation states than to individuals. »

— PNUD, Human Development Report,1994[13]

UNDP's interpretation is restrictive, advocating that from now on, the object of security must be the individual. The individual replaces the state as the object of security. What matters is that the individual feels safe. The two most common terms used are the idea that humans must be free from fear and need as individuals. One of the fundamental implications of this type of approach is that when the object of security becomes the individual, the sovereignty of the State is no longer an inalienable right, but sovereignty becomes a form of responsibility.

It is an agenda that aims to transform a conception of security because it is based on the principle that security can do things. Security is highly political. How will security be mobilized and what can security do to get something done? The idea is to achieve a transformation of the security agenda.

This idea has had some success. Human security must be seen as a relatively happy attempt to use security in the sense that there is a willingness to transform the security agenda. The countries that have been most involved in human security are Norway, Japan and Canada. Also in Switzerland, in the Department of Foreign Affairs, a vision is dedicated to human security. For some, human security is a concept of medium power. However, it is a concept that has met with success in the various States. In human security, there is a willingness to influence political processes with the idea of transforming the meaning of security.

When we think about security, there is an evolution that is not necessarily linear. There is a multiplication of security issues such as the environment, populations and diseases.

The political centrality of security[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Thinking in terms of security is thinking like a natural act. There are times when we are threatened and we have to do things that we wouldn't normally do. This makes the subject of security extremely fascinating. For example, non-democratic practices will take place in democracies.

In Security! What Do You Mean? From Concept to Thick Signifier[14]

published in 1998, there are situations where it is not innocent to use the notion of security. If we analyze the American reaction to the events of September 11, it is a strong security reaction. In the 1990s, France, following a series of attacks, preferred a collective management of the threat. Choosing a specific answer is not because it is the answer that unlocks the threat, but there is a choice of rhetorical discourse and on the other hand, the notion of security allows us to do things.

When you start to identify a threat, you do two things:

  • objectify a societal anxiety: any form of authority produces a response to the threat. The function of security is to make real fears, uncertainties and anxieties; threats are given a concrete meaning. It is important to understand what security does because it has a function of identifying and making real things that are not necessarily obvious.
  • planning function: security will categorize, classify, but also define the threat. Security offers a prism on what the standards are precisely because it classifies and prioritizes what is not normal.

These are two different ways of understanding security as a political act. The first dimension is that it is a political act because it is a necessary one. For Huysmans, referring to or calling for "security" is always a political act, it is "neither innocent, neutral nor inevitable". In practice, security does two things:

  • creation of an out of the ordinary state: we leave political normality behind with a potential discourse of delegitimization of the protest because security is mobilized to save and face a threat. We're out of the ordinary.
  • resource mobilization: when we talk about security, there is a much stronger mobilization capacity than the norm. War is a rare event that requires the mobilization of human, material, but also ideal resources that go beyond what is normally done. If it is a time when there is a capacity to mobilize forces and resources to address a problem.

Security can be positive. If we think in terms of how security is thought, we can see to what extent it opens or closes a society. Calling for security is opening up the dimension of the exception. In other words, the tension is whether the call for security opens or closes the company.

Security: condition of possibility or impossibility[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Security can be seen as a condition of possibility or impossibility. When security is called for, there is a call for a temporary suspension of the rule of law. Guantanamo and Lampedusa are concentration camp systems on the one hand with people classified as terrorists and on the other as a threat as migrants. The state is not expected to create concentration camp systems for minor offences. However, few people speak out against Guantanamo and Lampedusa because they are individuals who are presented as out of the ordinary. Migrants are presented as potential people who will attack jobs.

The State has a discretionary power to assess how individuals act in relation to others. For example, the border is an object of differentiation. The exception is often the norm, but we do not perceive it because it is not applied to us, but the State's practices are practices where the State assumes the right to choose who is good, enemy and who does not need to justify himself. Guantanamo and Lampedusa lead us to think about the other and while often the security logic will apply to everyone as it is the case of the NSA. In this case, security can be justified as preventive in the case of a potential threat.

An example is how the notion of security makes it possible to make associations of ideas that are not related to each other. Security creates transitivity between areas that are not linked, as Bigo points out. This closes the company. Safety arguments create associations that are often reflected in the press. This leads to reactions with the creation of institutions to deal with what was before. Institutions do not fade quickly, but remain.

As with human security, there are currents like the Welsh school coming mainly from Aberystwyth with a critical vision related to the Frankfurt school. This school will say that safety is fundamentally something good. People need a foundation on which to build. The Welsh school was interested in trying to transform the idea of security. When we think of security, we say "state", but what is a state made up of? A state is made up of people.

For Wyn Jones in Security, Strategy and Critical Theory[15],

it is possible because in the end security is linked to the "body, material existence and experiences of human beings. Security becomes a moment of opportunity for Booth in Security and Emancipation, because it allows emancipation by "liberating the people (as individuals and groups) from the physical and human constraints that stop them from doing what they would choose to do freely. [..]. Emancipation, not power or order, produces true security. Emancipation, theoretically, is security. This contrasts with a state-related definition. It is a top-down relationship in a bottom-up vision, because it is through the individual that the State will be judged in its functions.

We must see that there is an almost paradigmatic change in what security is. Before, security within the framework of the social contract was something that the State gave. From now on, security is no longer something to which we have a right because we are citizens, but it is because as human beings we have a quality of our own that the State, which has a duty to protect us, has a duty to protect us. Before, there was an intervener who made it necessary for the State to act towards the individual. With the paradigmatic change, this allows everyone, individuals or groups, to have a universal and global guarantee to be in a situation where emancipation is possible. We can enter into a form of global governance based on the notion of security, which can be positive.

Summary[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Defining and reflecting on how we understand security is an issue gives the keys to defining security. Security is a contested concept whose definition is a central issue. The concept of security in international relations has gradually opened up to new spaces. sécurité́ can be centred on the people, the individual, but also linked to military issues, the environment or health.

Security is a condition of the political possibility and its limit and there is a tension between these two moments. There may be an issue behind it that limits it to certain concepts. Security has an emancipatory potential as a concept or practice on the one hand, and on the other hand, security has a dystopic potential as a concept or practice. Security is a legitimate practice and discourse.

Security: analytical issues[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Security as an act of speech[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Language does not reflect political and social reality, but the latter is the result of language. Among all the approaches that there may have been in terms of philosophy of language, one approach has been very successful in social science, which is the act of speaking approach developed by Austin in 1962 in his book How to do things with words[16].

This refers to the idea of "saying is doing".

A speech act is that when someone says something, an effect can be produced by a reaction in a specific context. In other words, a speech act produces effects in certain contexts if it is issued by a specific issuer and accepted by a public. A speech act has an effect.

The so-called "securitization" approach is based on the idea that some actors have the ability to say security and say a threat and that they are creating the security situation. There is no material object that can be a security object. Everything can be secured as soon as there is an interaction between a specific transmitter and an audience. In a speech act, attention must be paid to the public since the speech act will be evaluated by the public. The security approach is a process. Through the act of speaking, we create referring objects that will define how we will act in relation to this object. It is an intersubjective situation where there is a relationship between a transmitter who says security and someone who agrees or disagrees.

The Copenhagen school assumes that if the act of speaking produces security then we find ourselves in a situation. As it is a process ranging from non-security to security, then we can assume that we can unsecure. Once something has become a security object, then it is possible to unsecure it.

Securitization[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

In Security. A new framework of analysis

published in 1998 and written by Buzan, Barry, Ole Wæver, Jaap de Wilde, is postulated that "studying security is studying discourse and political constellations: when does an argument, with a specific rhetorical and semiotic structure, achieve enough effect to make a public tolerate violations of rules that should be followed in normal times? If by means of an argument on the priority and urgency of an existential threat, the security actor has managed to free himself or herself from procedures or rules, he or she would normally have followed, we are faced with a case of security. Produce security and produce a concrete effect that is to remove something from the public sphere. If we arrive at the security solution, it is because there have been debates in which arguments are produced. It is the idea in which we can discuss everything and everyone has the ability to debate. It is the idea that there is an open public sphere to which everyone can have access. The idea of security is the idea that if we say security then we will create a situation where we will be able to use the means at our disposal to reduce this threat. Analytically, we try to understand what is happening: who says what, when, where, where and how.

Which institutions have the capacity to produce the security discourse? The theory suggests that everyone would be able to do so. The important thing is to know who has the capital in order to be able to say safety. One of the main actors is the State or the figure of the expert. Not everyone can say safety and, in particular, talking means being exposed to insecurity. The traditional vision of security is that those in power are capable of it.

The referent object in Security. A new framework of analysis[17]

are "things that are seen as existentially threatened and have a legitimate demand for survival". A referent object can be threatened and it can be almost anything. It has become an industry. It is also necessary to see the exception measures produced through the production of security.

From a security point of view, the idea of migration in the 1980s was treated from an economic point of view, i.e. as a labour force. There was no question of whether migrants were a threat to society. In the early 1980s and 1990s, some political parties turned migrants into a referent object. The act of speaking is to say that "the boat is full", to say that society is in danger because of the identified threat of migration. The fact that these populations are constructed as a threat has an impact on the way political objects are adopted. The object of "migration" has moved from "normal" processing to "exception" processing. Actors have the ability to create an object as a security object, but also to transform a domain from non-secure to secure with a number of steps.

We are led to wonder about "who can produce security?" There is a Euro-centric bias to say that everyone can express themselves. There is a legitimizing dimension to an agreement between the issuer and a public. An exceptional situation is not a deviation of the State, but an agreement that the public has given to the State, it is a blank cheque given to the State. On the other hand, we have to ask ourselves if'what can be secured?' If there are limitations on who can produce security, we can start by thinking about whether there are not people who can define the object. Are they linked to the logic of producing common goods or are they linked to groups that aim to produce insecurity?

In Austinian theory, we speak of perlocution. It is when the public reacts to what they have been invited to do. The idea of security is the idea that the public and the population are in agreement. We have to ask ourselves how to identify, how to measure, which is extremely difficult. One of the only means is the Swiss case since there are regular referenda and actors like the SVP that can produce a threat. In an extremely specific framework and specific cultures, this is possible, but most countries do not have these means.

The problem with this approach is that intuitively, it seems logical, but analytically, we realize that it is extremely difficult. It is an analytical framework that is difficult to operationalize, but paradoxically it has been very successful. The importance of an audience is that it looks at an intersubjective approach, but analytically we realize that maybe all this is a bit of an illusion and this approach is only a sophisticated approach to saying what the threat is.

How do we analyze the production of meaning when we are faced with a material that is not words? How do we make sense of something that is not linear, but a flowering of semantic production linked to image production? Hansen in Theorizing the image for Security Studies: Visual securitization and the Muhammad Cartoon Crisis[18] published in 2011 tries to understand how the Danish press cartoons on the Prophet Mohammed had a reassuring effect.

Security as a practice[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Safety is a very important part of our daily lives, whether in the media or even in terms of merchandise.

There is a sociological approach to international relations in the political sociology of international relations that has a certain disagreement as its entry point. Starting from another point addresses the question of producing a sense of security. This disagreement with security theory focuses on the fact that having politicians talking about what security is going to produce is too simplistic in the sense that it does not do justice to the complexity of these security processes.

The starting point is to ask why we do not have such a disconnected hierarchy. This shows that things are a little more complicated between material phenomena. Somewhere along the way, there is a mediation between the materiality of these events and the way they appear in agendas. The idea is to question how it works and how and produces a sense of security. We must ask ourselves about the security professionals who will be part of a social space that is the field of security.

Scientific theory questions what a security theory is. It's by saying things that they become. We realize that if we want to focus on socialization teachers, they engage some parties. This can be simplified when it is realized that issues can be both discursive and non-discursive. Non-discursive refers, for example, to the know-how of professionals. The idea is that we enter into a conception of practices that goes beyond a discursive logic. We also make history. The fact that certain historical principles inform officers will also help to determine what a legitimate security issue is. For Bigo in Security and immigration: toward a critique of the governmentality of unease[19],

it is necessary to "study the social conditions allowing the performativity of (in)security statements as well as the daily practices of societal agents". Without taking into account social conditions, we cannot take into account what a security process is.

Defining practices is a form of routineization. In Toward a Theory of Social Practices. A Development in Culturalist Theorizing[20] publié en 2002, Reckwitz définit les pratiques comme « routinized [...] forms of bodily activities, forms of mental activities, ‘things’ and their use, a background knowledge in the form of understanding, know-how, states of emotion and motivational
knowledge ».

As much as, in the theory of security, we will secure a question by taking it out of politics, here we are in a conception where security and insecurity are inextricably linked. In a Foucauldian approach, there is no one without the other. We cannot produce security without producing insecurity. From the moment we are interested in safety as a practice, we are in the constitution of the meaning of what safety is, we will look at non-discursive practices but also at agents who practice safety within a specific space that is a field of safety. There is the idea of a division of labour between those who practice and those who study it. For Balzacq, Basaran, Bigo, Olsson in Security Practices, "Securitization consists of practices which instantiate intersubjective understandings and which are framed by the habitus inherited from different social fields".

The fusion between internal and external security[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

We must address the issue of merging internal and external security. There is deregulation, security affecting fields of practice other than the military, such as the environmental field, development, humanitarian and environmental issues. In a sociological approach by the actors, either social agents, we will look at security differently. What appears as the main transformation is the idea that we have the idea of questioning the consecutive distinction of the security factory: internal police vs. external anarchic external police. Over time, certain practices have been differentiated: internal affairs is the police and external affairs is the army.

Bigo's observation is that in the long term, since the 1970s and especially since the end of the Cold War, there has been a logic of de-differentiation of these practices. There is a logic of deregulation. It is the observation of a phenomenon that began some time ago, but above all it is a view of the mind that has never been hermetic. It is interesting to talk in terms of de-differentiation because it is a distinction that is being eroded.

Terrorism is a place of this mix of genres. From the moment terrorism became an object to be managed, the people in charge took it over. On September 11, the American response was military while the European response was police. In countries where events have occurred, the answers will be different. Around the issue of terrorism, different skills will be deployed, different people will propose their way of fighting these threats, which are transnational definitions. There is a role played by the transnationalization of threat management practices. Counter-interaction practices raise a framework for analysis. Counter-interaction practices following September 11 will return internally. If terrorism counterinsurgency is practised in Afghanistan, there is no reason not to re-import them into the country.

The logics of security professionals and practitioners are not necessarily the same as what is happening in the world. We are dealing with people whose profession is to make safety. Each profession is reflected in social considerations with issues specific to each profession. There is a gap between the social phenomena that can be studied from the social space in which these responses are produced. A security agency's response to a threat or situation is never automatic. The space is about mediation in relation to the response to problems.

Security professionals[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

We need to look at agents and security experts. This approach brings all actors involved in security into a common space. The theory of Bourdieu's fields intervenes, which is a social space in which everyone plays a common game and/or everyone shares a sense of the game and security would work in the same way.

If Bigo in The Globalization of (In)Security? Reflections on the field of professionals in the field of concern management and analysis of the transnationalization of (in)security processes allows such a strong intuition because it is linked to a transformation of security practices in a context of globalization of security. It is not that the security phenomena are objectively global, but rather that they operate through issues such as terrorism, a kind of global security game. Transnational guilds of security professionals are emerging. Security works a lot by trade and the people in that trade are in contact with each other. As soon as a game becomes global, there will be networks of security actors who will form and become increasingly important in democratic struggles and ways of working.

In the long term, the transnational space is constituted, which is not necessarily connected to the real state of the threat. The challenge of this space in which we can position everyone is to have the legitimacy to say what is dangerous and to be able to say what is more dangerous than anything else. This legitimacy comes from the possession of certain capital and resources. In the globalized logic and transnational field of security, those who will be the most secure are those who have connection resources based on specific know-how or knowledge such as the use of data and technologies that will supposedly allow to manage today's problems as well as possible and this and more so for some professions than others.

When the idea of Schengen was put in place, there was an ambition to establish freedom of movement for all citizens of the European Union. The question arises of the management of the flow of people's movements. This will give Interpol a leading role, reflecting a very specific vision of a security profession that is to exchange information and file files. Schengen was made by people whose job it is to say that borders are the world before them and that it is more effective to mobilize technologies to sort out the flows that pass. There is a response that is specific to the challenges of a social space that is that of security.

The problem is that there are political effects. Deciding how to prioritize the threat to fairly catastrophic results because a security continuum was created by linking certain issues that were a way of seeing some people. By imposing their vision of the profession, they have helped to create a situation where there is a whole series of threats that converge on the figure of the foreigner. The ultimate political effect is to generate exclusion by excluding a population to ensure that a certain population can move freely. If today the figure of the immigrant is so central, it may be because we are converging with other phenomena, including the security process.

Summary[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Security is a process: something, someone is secure or unsecured. On the other hand, security tends to depoliticize even if it can have positive effects. This leads us to question who produces security? What can be secured? In addition, there is a universality of the analytical framework that highlights a need to extend the analysis to non-discursive practices.

Annexes[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

  • Baylis, John. "The concept of security in international relations." Globalization and Environmental Challenges. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2008. 495-502.

Bibliography[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

References[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

  1. Page de Stephan Davidshofer sur
  2. Page personnelle de Stephan Davidshofer sur le site du Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  3. Compte Twitter de Stephan Davidshofer
  4. Page de Xavier Guillaume sur
  5. Page personnelle de Xavier Guillaume sur le site de l'Université de Édimbourg
  6. Page personnelle de Xavier Guillaume sur le site de Science Po Paris PSIA
  7. Page de Xavier Guillaume sur
  8. Page personnelle de Xavier Guillaume sur le site de l'Université de Groningen
  9. Zedner, Lucia. Security. London: Routledge, 2009.
  10. Walt, Stephen M. The Renaissance of Security Studies. Beverly Hills: Sage, 1991.
  11. Wright, M., and Barry Buzan. "People, States and Fear: The National Security Problem in International Relations." International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-) 60.2 (1984): 289.
  12. Krause, Keith, and Michael C. Williams. Critical Security Studies: Concepts and Cases. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 1997.
  13. Human Development Report 1994. New York: Oxford UP for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 1994
  14. Huysmans, J. "Security! What Do You Mean?: From Concept to Thick Signifier." European Journal of International Relations 4.2 (1998): 226-55.
  15. Jones, Richard Wyn. Security, Strategy, and Critical Theory. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1999.
  16. Austin, J. L. How to Do Things with Words. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1962.
  17. Hampson, Fen Osler, Barry Buzan, Ole Waever, and Jaap De Wilde. "Security: A New Framework for Analysis." International Journal 53.4 (1998): 798.
  18. Hansen, L. "Theorizing the Image for Security Studies: Visual Securitization and the Muhammad Cartoon Crisis." European Journal of International Relations 17.1 (2011): 51-74.
  19. Bigo, Didier, and R. B. J. Walker. Alternatives: Global, Local, Political: Special English-language Issue of Cultures & Conflits. Boulder, Co.: Lynn Rienner, 2002.
  20. Reckwitz, A. "Toward a Theory of Social Practices: A Development in Culturalist Theorizing." European Journal of Social Theory 5.2 (2002): 243-63.