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What is the value of security? Contextualising the negative/positive debate

  • Jonna Nyman (a1)

Abstract

Review of International Studies has seen a debate over the value of security. At its heart this is a debate about ethics: concerning the extent to which security is a ‘good’ and whether or not security politics produces the kind of world we want. More recent contributions focus on the extent to which security is ‘positive’ or ‘negative’. However, this article argues that the existing debate is limited and confusing: key authors use the terms ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ in different, and, at times, contradictory ways. The article clarifies the roots of the existing debate, and then draws out two different uses of the terms positive and negative: an analytic frame and a normative frame. In response, it proposes a pragmatist frame that synthesises the existing uses, drawing on pragmatism and practice-centred approaches to analyse the value of security in context. The contribution of the article is thus twofold: it both clarifies the existing debate and suggests a solution. This is key because the debate over the value of security is crucial to thinking about how we want to live.

Copyright

Corresponding author

*Correspondence to: Dr Jonna Nyman, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Leicester, LE1 7RH. Author’s email: jonnaknyman@gmail.com

References

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1 Wolfers, Arnold, Discord and Collaboration (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1962), p. 150 .

2 Derian, James Der, ‘The value of security: Hobbes, Marx, Nietzsche, and Baudrillard’, in Ronnie D. Lipschutz (ed.), On Security (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), p. 28 .

3 Buzan, Barry, People, States and Fear: An Agenda for International Security Studies in the Post-Cold War Era (2nd edn, London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991); Dalby, Simon, ‘Contesting an essential concept: Reading the dilemmas in contemporary security discourse’, in Keith Krause and Michael C. Williams (eds), Critical Security Studies: Concepts and Cases (London and New York: Routledge, 1997).

4 Booth, Ken, ‘Security and emancipation’, Review of International Studies, 17 (1991); Ciută, Felix, ‘Security and the problem of context: a hermeneutical critique of securitisation theory’, Review of International Studies, 35:2 (2009), p. 316 ; Floyd, Rita, ‘Towards a consequentialist evaluation of security: Bringing together the Copenhagen and the Welsh Schools of security studies’, Review of International Studies, 33:2 (2007); Roe, Paul, ‘The “value” of positive security’, Review of International Studies, 34:4 (2008), pp. 777795 ; Gjørv, Gunhild Hoogensen, ‘Security by any other name: Negative security, positive security, and a multi-actor security approach’, Review of International Studies, 38:4 (2012), p. 851 .

5 See also Nyman, Jonna and Burke, Anthony, Ethical Security Studies: A New Research Agenda (London and New York: Routledge, 2016).

6 Morgenthau, Hans, ‘The evil of politics and the ethics of evil’, Ethics, 56:1 (1945).

7 Wolfers, Discord and Collaboration, p. 153.

8 See Galtung, Johan, ‘An editorial’, Journal of Peace Research, 1:1 (1964), p. 2 . Walker’s early work also considered the ‘nature and possibility of a just world peace’: see Walker, R. B. J., One World, Many Worlds: Struggles for a Just World Peace (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1988), p. 2 .

9 United Nations Development Programme, ‘Human Development Report 1994: New Dimensions of Human Security’, available at: {http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/reports/255/hdr_1994_en_complete_nostats.pdf}; Booth, ‘Security and emancipation’.

10 Buzan, Barry, Wæver, Ole, and de Wilde, Jaap, Security: A New Framework for Analysis (London: Lynne Rienner, 1998); also Neocleous, Mark, Critique of Security (Edinburgh University Press, 2008).

11 Browning, Christopher S. and McDonald, Matt, ‘The future of critical security studies: Ethics and the politics of security’, European Journal of International Relations, 19:2 (2011), p. 236 .

12 See fn. 4.

13 Ciută, ‘Security and the problem of context’, p. 316.

14 Gjørv, Gunhild Hoogensen, ‘Security by any other name: Negative security, positive security, and a multi-actor security approach’, Review of International Studies, 38:4 (2012), p. 851 .

15 Wæver, Ole, ‘Securitization and de-securitization’, in Ronnie Lipschutz (ed.), On Security (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995); Buzan, Wæver, and de Wilde, Security.

16 Booth, ‘Security and emancipation’; Booth, Ken (ed.), Critical Security Studies and World Politics (Lynne Rienner, 2005); Booth, Ken, Theory of World Security (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007); Jones, Richard Wyn, Security, Strategy, and Critical Theory (Boulder; London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1999); Richard Wyn Jones, ‘On emancipation: Necessity, capacity and concrete utopias’, in Ken Booth (ed.), Critical Security Studies and World Politics.

17 The extent to which human security in particular should be considered part of critical security studies is subject to ongoing debate. The detail of these debates is beyond the scope of the current article, but a full discussion can be found in Newman, Edward, ‘Critical human security studies’, Review of International Studies, 36:1 (2010).

18 Buzan, Wæver, and de Wilde, Security, p. 29.

19 Wæver, Ole, ‘Politics, security, theory’, Security Dialogue, 42:4–5 (2011), p. 469 .

20 Wæver, ‘Securitization and de-securitization’, pp. 49, 57.

21 Ibid.

22 Desecuritisation is under-theorised by the Copenhagen School, but is generally taken to mean shifting issues out of security politics and back into the sphere of politics. See Hansen, Lene, ‘De-securitization, counter-securitization, or visual insurgency? Exploring security discourses through responses to the Muhammad cartoons’, 51th Annual Convention of the International Studies Association (New Orleans, 2010).

23 Roe, Paul, ‘Is securitization a negative concept? Revisiting the normative debate over normal versus extraordinary politics’, Security Dialogue, 43:3 (2012) provides an interesting critique relevant to this article. See also Nyman, Jonna, ‘Securitisation theory’, in Laua Shepherd (ed.), Critical Approaches to Security: Theories and Methods (Routledge, 2013); Williams, Michael C., ‘Words, images, enemies: Securitization and international politics’, International Studies Quarterly, 47:4 (2003); McDonald, Matt, ‘Securitization and the construction of security’, European Journal of International Relations, 14:4 (2008); Hansen, Lene, ‘The Little Mermaid’s silent security dilemma and the absence of gender in the Copenhagen School’, Millennium – Journal of International Studies, 29:2 (2000).

24 McDonald, ‘Securitization and the construction of security’, p. 564.

25 Buzan, Wæver, and de Wilde, Security, 29.

26 Ciută, ‘Security and the problem of context’, p. 316.

27 See, for example, McDonald, Matt, Security, the Environment and Emancipation: Contestation over Environmental Change (Abingdon: Routledge, 2012) and Nyman, Jonna, ‘Rethinking energy, climate and security’, Journal of International Relations and Development (forthcoming, 2016).

28 Key authors include Paul Roe, Gunhild Hoogensen Gjørv and Rita Floyd (see following sections).

29 For further detail on arguments suggesting security is inherently negative, see Aradau, Claudia, Rethinking Trafficking in Women: Politics out of Security (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008); Neocleous, Mark, Critique of Security (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008).

30 For a detailed argument suggesting they cannot be separated, see Bubandt, Nils, ‘Vernacular security: the politics of feeling safe in global, national and local worlds’, Security Dialogue, 36:3 (2005), p. 278 .

31 See Galtung, ‘An editorial’, p. 2; Galtung, Johan, ‘Violence, peace, and peace research’, Journal of Peace Research: 6:3 (1969), p. 183 .

32 All from Booth, ‘Security and emancipation’, p. 319.

33 Booth, Theory of World Security, 102.

34 McSweeney, Bill, Security, Identity and Interests: A Sociology of International Relations (Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 14 .

35 Ibid., p. 16.

36 Ibid., p. 92.

37 Ibid., p. 91.

38 Ibid., p. 208.

39 Roe, ‘The “value” of positive security’, pp. 778, 791.

40 Ibid., pp. 777, 779.

41 Ibid., p. 793.

42 Gjørv, Gunhild Hoogensen, ‘Security by any other name: Negative security, positive security, and a multi-actor security approach’, Review of International Studies, 38:4 (2012), p. 836 .

43 Ibid.

44 Ibid., p. 845.

45 In particular, see Roe, ‘Is securitization a negative concept?’; Floyd, ‘Towards a consequentialist evaluation of security’; Floyd, Rita, ‘Can securitization theory be used in normative analysis? Towards a just securitization theory’, Security Dialogue, 42: 4–5 (2011).

46 For more on this, see Roe, ‘Is securitization a negative concept?’, p. 2.

47 Hoogensen Gjørv, ‘Security by any other name’, p. 842.

48 Ibid., p. 836.

49 Ibid., p. 839.

50 Ibid., p. 838.

51 Floyd, ‘Towards a consequentialist evaluation of security’, p. 338.

52 Floyd, ‘Can securitization theory be used in normative analysis?’, p. 431.

53 Floyd, Rita, Security and the Environment: Securitisation Theory and Us Environmental Security Policy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 7 .

54 Ibid., p. 193.

55 Floyd, ‘Towards a consequentialist evaluation of security’, p. 342.

56 Ibid., p. 344.

57 Roe, Paul, ‘Gender and “positive“ security’, International Relations, 28:1 (2014), p. 128 .

58 Hoogensen Gjørv, ‘Security by any other name’, p. 838.

59 Floyd, ‘Towards a consequentialist evaluation of security’, p. 339.

60 The opening section of this discussion draws on work developed further in a book chapter: see Nyman, Jonna, ‘Pragmatism’, in Jonna Nyman and Anthony Burke (eds), Ethical Security Studies: A New Research Agenda (London and New York: Routledge, 2016).

61 Ciută, ‘Security and the problem of context’, p. 316.

62 Matt McDonald, Security, the Environment and Emancipation, p. 17.

63 Friedrichs, Jörg and Kratochwil, Friedrich, ‘On acting and knowing: How pragmatism can advance International Relations research and methodology’, International Organization, 63:4 (2009); Hellmann, Gunther et al., ‘Beliefs as rules for action: Pragmatism as a theory of thought and action’, International Studies Review, 11:3 (2009).

64 I develop this line of argument in more detail, specifically focusing on the possible contributions of pragmatism in bridging the divide between emancipatory approaches and their critics, in Nyman, ‘Pragmatism’.

65 Friedrichs and Kratochwil, ‘On acting and knowing’, p. 713.

66 James, William, ‘What pragmatism means’, Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking (published set of lectures, Harvard University) (Cambridge, MA: 1907), now available through Project Gutenberg at: {http://www.gutenberg.org/files/5116/5116-h/5116-h.htm}; Dewey, John, How We Think (Boston, New York, Chicago: D. C. Heath and Co. Publishers, 1910).

67 Cochran, Molly, Normative Theory in International Relations: A Pragmatic Approach (Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 16 .

68 James, ‘What pragmatism means’.

69 Ibid.

70 See also Peirce, Charles Sanders, ‘How to make our ideas clear’, in Louis Menad (ed.), Pragmatism: A Reader (New York: Random House, 1997 [orig. pub. 1878]), p. 35 .

71 For more detail on Dewey and normative theorising, see Cochran, Normative Theory in International Relations: A Pragmatic Approach; Cochran, Molly, ‘Deweyan pragmatism and post-positivist social science in IR’, Millennium-Journal of International Studies, 31:3 (2002).

72 See Friedrichs and Kratochwil, ‘On acting and knowing’, p. 709.

73 Common approaches draw on Pierre Bourdieu or Bruno Latour’s Actor Network Theory: for an overview, see Bueger, Christian and Gadinger, Frank, International Practice Theory: New Perspectives (Basingstoke: Palgrave Pivot, 2015). The practice turn has been more influential in critical security studies, where it is usually associated with what is termed the Paris School, and authors like Didier Bigo. However, while such studies make important contributions to critical security studies they focus primarily on state or government security practices and tend to remain critical of security processes.

74 Adler, Emanuel and Pouliot, Vincent, ‘International practices’, International Theory, 3:1 (2011). See also Aradau, Claudia et al., ‘Introducing critical security methods’, in Claudia Aradau et al. (eds), Critical Security Methods: New Frameworks for Analysis (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2015), p. 3 .

75 Adler and Pouliot, ‘International practices’, p. 4.

76 See Adler, Emanuel and Pouliot, Vincent, ‘Introduction and framework’, in Adler and Pouliot (eds), International Practices (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

77 Bubandt, ‘Vernacular security’, p. 291.

78 Ciută, ‘Security and the problem of context’, p. 314. This also raises the question of the possible dissolution of security if security can mean whatever actors want it to mean: there is not space to go into this in depth here, but Ciută deals with it in more detail (see pp. 320–22).

79 Ciută, ‘Security and the problem of context’, p. 322.

80 Ibid., p. 323.

81 Ibid.

82 Ibid., pp. 323–4.

83 McDonald, ‘Securitization and the construction of security’, p. 575.

84 I draw loosely on McDonald’s framework here, developed in Security, the Environment and Emancipation, pp. 24–35.

85 See Huysmans, Jef, ‘What’s in an act? On security speech acts and little security nothings’, Security Dialogue, 42:4–5 (2011).

86 Mitchell, Audra, ‘Only human? A worldly approach to security’, Security Dialogue, 45:1 (2014).

87 McDonald, Security, the Environment and Emancipation, p. 4.

88 Balzacq, Thierry, ‘The three faces of securitization: Political agency, audience and context’, European Journal of International Relations, 11:2 (2005), p. 171 .

89 Bilgic, Ali, ‘“Real people in real places”: Conceptualizing power for emancipatory security through Tahrir’, Security Dialogue, 46:3 (2015), p. 273 ; Hoogensen, Gunhild and Rottem, Svein V., ‘Gender identity and the subject of security’, Security Dialogue, 35:2 (2004).

90 Hoogensen, Gunhild and Stuvøy, Kirsti, ‘Gender, resistance and human security’, Security Dialogue, 37 (2006), p. 221 .

91 Nyman, ‘Rethinking energy, climate and security’; Nyman, Jonna, ‘Energy and security: Discourse and practice in the United States and China (unpublished PhD thesis, University of Birmingham, 2014), available at: {http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/4918/}.

92 See, for example, Hoogensen and Rottem, ‘Gender identity and the subject of security’.

93 See Schwartz-Shea, Peregrine and Yanow, Dvora, Interpretive Research Design: Concepts and Processes (New York and London: Routledge, 2012), p. 100 .

94 Eriksson, Johan, ‘Observers or advocates?’, Cooperation and Conflict, 34:3 (1999), p. 327 .

95 That said, this is a personal preference intended to help narrow down the number of practices studied, but it is not inconceivable that the framework could also be used to study practices that practitioners don’t consider to be part of security.

96 Bourne, Mike and Bulley, Dan, ‘Securing the human in critical security studies: the insecurity of a secure ethics’, European Security, 20:3 (2011), p. 455 .

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