Constructivism and securitization studies
DOI link for Constructivism and securitization studies
Constructivism and securitization studies book
The study of security is a hard case for theories of International Relations. In recent academic scholarship, ‘constructivist thinking’ of the subject has risen to the challenge; it has, in eﬀect, become one of the dominant approaches for examining security practices (cf. Ruggie 1996; Wendt 1999; Guzzini 2000; Zehfuss 2002; Farrell 2002). Some observers, however, regard the boundaries of constructivism as so permeable that any alternative view – realism, postmodernism or liberalism – can easily be subsumed under its fundamental precepts. Judged by these standards, constructivism is hardly a theory in itself (Wendt 1999: 7; Wendt and Fearon 2002). In contrast, Adler (1997) claims that because constructivism sits precisely between rationalism and reﬂectivism, it is a distinctive theory of International Relations, though one that is still emerging. There is no need to subscribe to either of these positions, as each embodies a particular theoretical commitment, and thus advocates its own future trajectory of constructivism. In the abstract, moreover, such discussions might be justiﬁed, but they are often distracting at the empirical level. Thus, the aim of this chapter is not to review either constructivism or securitization,
but to articulate the insights of the former as they relate to the latter.2 To put the problem in its simplest terms: securitization predominantly examines how security problems emerge, evolve and dissolve. Securitization theory argues that language is not only concerned with what is ‘out there’, as realists and neorealists assume, but is also constitutive of that very social reality. Buzan and Wæver (1997: 245) claim, for instance, that securitization is ‘constructivist all the way down’; Wæver (1995: 204) insists, moreover, that it is ‘radically constructivist’ (emphasis added). However, constructivist approaches vary widely in their nature, which challenges us to think carefully about the kind of constructivism present in securitization. The answer, this chapter argues, depends essentially on how ontology and epistemology are blended. In fact, diﬀering mixtures compete with one another and often lead to distinct methodological commitments. The sequence of this chapter ﬂows from a focused discussion of constructivism’s con-
tribution to Security Studies through what is perhaps its strongest oﬀshoot – i.e. securitization theory. It proceeds on three fronts. First, beginning with a review of the main assumptions of securitization developed in the last decade, the chapter attempts to
reconcile the illocutionary force of the concept of security and its meaning through a symbolic scrutiny of security interactions. Second, it dismisses the post-structuralist link to speech act theory, which creates an inconsistent view of securitization whereby a social ontology is wedded to interpretivist relativism. This provides, third, the baseline to advance a more coherent, i.e. pragmatic, approach to securitization that corrects the inconsistencies of the speech act approach. At this point, the chapter traverses the bridge from the speech act (i.e. philosophical) to a pragmatic (i.e. sociological) model of securitization. To explore the design and evolution of security problems, the chapter sets our sights on a new framework, blending discourse analysis and process tracing. Due to limits on length, however, the research toolkit is necessarily selective (Balzacq forthcoming a).
The origins of constructivism in IR are disputed according to where the terms of the discussion are situated. As a concept, constructivism entered the discipline essentially via the work of Onuf (1989). Practically, however, constructivist ideas spawned a great deal of IR theory in three main waves. The ﬁrst relates to the works of Deutsch et al. (1957), Haas (1958) and Jervis (1970, 1976) whose arguments on images, perception and misperception predate and coincide with central assumptions of the modernist constructivism research programme. The second wave is post-positivist in inspiration and refers to an eclectic body of works that constitutes the so-called ‘third debate’ (Lapid 1987; Ashley 1984; Der Derian and Shapiro 1989; Walker 1987; Campbell 1992). The third wave has rationalist aﬃnities with the ﬁrst and shares an anti-essentialist ontology with the second (compare Adler 1997; Wendt 1999; Finnemore 1996; Katzenstein 1996; Kratochwil 1989; Price 1995; Tannenwald 1999; Risse-Kappen 1995). In recent years, constructivism literature has grown in breadth and depth. One of the
consequences of this colossal investment is an increasingly complex diﬀerentiation between strands of constructivism. Thus, if we are to use the concept of constructivism eﬀectively, we need to sort out what exactly we are referring to. In many ways, the dividing lines between diﬀerent classes of constructivism are often overstated. However, for the sake of clarity, this chapter endorses the ‘mainstream’ opposition between modern (conventional) and post-modern (critical) constructivism (Hopf 1998). It focuses on their treatment of ontology and epistemology, two essential features by which theoretical contributions to IR are gauged. This is based on the conviction that each constructivism substantiates just one kind of ontology-epistemology articulation. To a signiﬁcant extent, any approach to security starts with, and rests upon, a speciﬁc
ontological commitment. Literally, ontology asks questions about the entities that populate the world; it is, in short, about the study of beings. Theories can be committed to diﬀerent kinds of ontology, but two broad categories capture the range of possibilities on oﬀer: materialism and idealism, on the one hand, and monism, dualism and pluralism, on the other. These can be clustered in diﬀerent ways, but each theory will generally embody a combination of one element of each category at a time (e.g. materialism-dualism, idealismmonism). In this respect, constructivism is committed to a pluralist-idealist ontology. This has two implications, the ﬁrst of which relates to how it conceives of beings that compose world politics and the second concerns the links between these beings. On the former, constructivism is anti-essentialist; on the latter, it is committed to a relational ontology. The two are intertwined in most constructivist schools (Jackson and Nexon 1999).