Having just returned from a great conference in Warsaw I feel like it’s a good time to sit down and write some thoughts down. The conference itself was very well organised – with a lot of interesting sections. Being part of the section on securitisation and politicisation, I inevitably attended quite a few panels on securitisation theory. It’s an area where a lot of interesting work is being done, but many discussions ended up in the same place – expressing increasing fatigue with securitisation theory itself. As a theory, it has been revised in so many ways that much of the work being done under the heading is unrecognisable from the original theory set out in Security: a New Framework for Analysis. Of course, this is not necessarily a bad thing – much of this work is all the better for it.
However, the endless need to revise securitisation theory to ‘fit’ an ever increasing number of empirical research areas increasingly calls into question the utility of the theory itself. As Claudia Aradau raised in one panel – perhaps it’s time to return to just looking at security practices instead? In many ways, critical work done in IR in the 1990s – pre-securitisation theory – was more rich and nuanced. David Campbell and Rob Walker come to mind, among others. While securitisation theory provides a rather neat framework for analysing how security works, with clear criteria and facilitating conditions to analyse, perhaps it’s a little too neat for actual empirical analysis. It has provided a lot of insight into how security ‘works’, but I’m increasingly sceptical of how useful it is for studying security in the real world. Perhaps it works better as a guide than a definitive theory.
In Warsaw, I heard it referred to both as ‘dead’, and as ‘passé’. Whatever your position, it is definitely increasingly contested. In my eyes, this can only be a good thing.