Securitization, Technology and Transformation of Warfare

Led by Ole Wæver

Nov 2004 – Dec 2009

Security and the Public Sphere

The domain of security policy is largely dominated by the presumption that it suspends ordinary norms. Yet, the image currently presented by the mass media and the public sphere underplays this aspect of security practices. The project will further develop and deploy the concept of ‘securitization’ (Wæver) in order to analyze and understand the complex and fragile relation between security and democracy. While the traditional state is principally based upon open debate in a public sphere whose security interests are represented by institutions, the ‘security state’ is characterized by channels of power and information which bypass the public sphere and its institutions of knowledge. Security is often shifted into new informal routines, networks and bureaucracies that remove it from the public view. Thirdly, the trade-offs and dilemmas (notably in relation to liberty) involved when democracies enter ‘high security’ engagements, is far less openly addressed than, for example, when the US entered the Cold War. The concept of security has become more comprehensive, and with diffuse threats like terrorism symbolically defining the agenda, there is a risk of un-specified hyper-securitization – as arguably seen in the US post-911 – which allows for civil rights violations without precise links to specific and specified threats. It is important for a functioning democracy to cultivate a more precise understanding and focused public debate on the specific threats and the ensuing democratic costs of meeting them at maximum effort. Much of the debate on the security/liberty tension is too polemical and/or on a very weak theoretical basis. By framing this issue conceptually and historically, the subproject becomes able to explore the current situation with much greater precision. Through securitization analysis, the study will map how the concept and agenda of security has expanded and investigate how this expansion and transformation influences the role of securitization in the public sphere at both the national and the European level

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