The political construction of insecurity is an important research topic in International Relations and Political Science. Yet, how states make sense of international insecurity precisely – how they project abroad concepts of threatening and threatened actors – has received limited attention. This research focus looks at sub-state processes of such sense-making in Europe. It theorizes how collective international insecurity is articulated within different nations, compares their substantive and processual dynamics across political systems, and unpacks the conditioning effects of local frameworks of international insecurity on foreign policy-making. The ambition of this research strand is to trace how ‘insecurity communities’ are created epistemologically, politically, and institutionally, and to probe how a focus on insecurity (rather than security) can yield new insights into state behavior.
The political construction of collective international danger
Securitization theory offers a powerful take on the political construction of threats. In its original variant, however, the theory focuses strongly on the deontic (norm-breaking) powers of ‘security talk’ – and not on the threat sceneries that the latter substantively describes. This article in the Journal of International Relations and Development addresses this latter link, reworking securitization into a positional/relational argument. Seen its way, the framing of something as threatening comes with larger – often implicit – claims about threatening and threatened actors in world politics. The empirical cases on post-war France and West Germany show how securitization equals an epistemological systematization of international affairs, for the political construction of collective international danger becomes an ordering process that conditions 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
What 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