(In)security and foreign policy

The political construction of international threats is closely linked to deontic politics in International Relations and Political Science research. As a result, the question of how societies make sense of international insecurity precisely – i.e., how they conceive, project abroad and enact ideas of threatening and threatened actors – receives surprisingly scant attention. This research track focuses on the politics of such sense-making. It theorizes how ideas of collective international insecurity are formed inside polities across longer periods of time, compares their substantive and processual dynamics across borders, and unpacks their conditioning effects on foreign policy-making. The ambition of this work is to address how International insecurity communities are created epistemologically, politically, and institutionally, and to probe how the focus on insecurity – which is different from security – can yield new explanations of interstate behavior.

Historicizing international security analysis

ContemporaneaContemporary security practices rarely represent new inventions – albeit change is important to it, the security politics of today often has a very long lineage. It adapts, reworks and sometimes just rehashes old ideas and practices of policing, and is embedded in deeply entrenched, historically grown and power-laden frameworks of collective, national, local or international sense- and decision-making. This contribution to Contemporanea‘s Special Section on the “History of Transnational Security Management in Europe” argues that is important and useful for critical security studies to enter into a more systematic kind of dialogue with history. If, in turn, historians are willing to help in this effort and engage themselves more closely with the analytical frameworks and discussions of security scholars, then productive new academic encounters ensue.

Hagmann, Jonas (2019). Historicizing security analysis: the utility of looking beyond the current. Contemporanea Rivista di Storia (Italian Contemporary History Review) 22(4): 615-620. PDF

The political construction of collective international danger  

JIRDSecuritization Theory offers a powerful take on the political construction of threats. In its original variant, however, the theory focuses intimately on the deontic (norm-breaking) powers of ‘security talk’ – and not on the threat sceneries that security-speak describes. This article in the Journal of International Relations and Development addresses this latter function by reworking securitization into a positional/relational argument. Seen this way, the framing of something as threatening comes with larger – often implicit – political claims about threatening and threatened actors in world politics. The French and (West) German emirical cases illustrates this argument. They show how securitization effectively systematises international affairs, as the political identification of danger is charged with powerful ideas of who is affected by a problem, together with the own nation, and who not. Securitization seen so is a powerful ordering practices that produces turthful visions on the world, ideas of world politics that then condition foreign policy strategizing.


Hagmann, Jonas (2018). Securitisation and the production of international order(s). Journal of International Relations and Development 21(1): 194-222. PDF

(In)security and the production of international relations: The interlinked politics of threat construction and foreign policy-making in Europe  

RoutledgeWhat happens to foreign politics when actors, things or processes are presented as threats? This book explains state’s international behavior based on a reflexive framework of insecurity politics. It argues that governments act on knowledge of international danger available in their societies, and that such knowledge is organized by varying ideas of who threatens whom and how. The book develops this argument and illustrates it by means of various European case studies. Moving across European history and space, these show how securitization projected abroad evolving – and often contested – local ideas of the organization of international insecurity, and how such knowledges of world politics conditioned foreign policymaking on their own terms. With its focus on insecurity politics, the book provides new perspectives for the study of international security. Moving the discipline from systemic theorizing to a theory of international systematization, it shows how world politics is, in practice, often conceived in a different way than that assumed by IR theory. Depicting national insecurity as a matter of political construction, the book also raises the challenging question of whether certain projections of insecurity may be considered more warranted than others.


Hagmann, Jonas (2015). (In-)security and the production of international relations: The politics of securitisation in Europe. London/New York: Routledge, 244p. URL

The causal relations at play between knowing and enacting insecurity   


How does knowledge of insecurity connect with threat-based policy-making? Reflexive approaches to security not only maintain that dangers are socially constructed, but also that they relate with political behavior. Representations of terrorism, for instance, are argued to constitute that danger in distinct ways and thus to make certain counter-terror policies possible. This article challenges this popular perspective. It argues that constitutive argumentation advances an insufficiently tangible argument of effect, and that this conceptual weakness derives from both a problematic foundational social theory and a premature rejection of causation. Drawing on the social theory of Archer and Bhaskar, as well as a differentiated notion of causation, it advances a ‘dialectical causal’ framework for the analysis of representations of danger. Applying it to Swiss terrorism politics, the article shows how this framework improves on constitutive argumentation in disentangling the political powers involved in the production and enactment of representations of danger.


Hagmann, Jonas (2013). Representations of terrorism and the making of counterterrorism policy. Critical Studies on Terrorism 6(3): 429-446. PDF