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Securitization is an extreme version of politicization that enables the use of extraordinary means in the name of security.

According to the "Copenhagen School", securitization refers to the political process and discussions through which societal phenomena become understood and addressed as security issue (Burgess 2010; 2011; Buzan et al., 1998; Van Munster 2005; Leander 2010). Securitization requires perceived insecurity that is sustained by highlighting threatening qualities of the phenomenon (Huysmans 2006).

Security is a concept that legitimizes governmental interventions beyond ordinary political practices (Wæver 2004; Burgess 2010; Van Munster 2005). It justifies targeting governmental resources at reconnaissance, intelligence, military or diplomatic operations or development of security technologies for special purposes e.g. passenger profiling systems or tools to monitor satellite communication. It makes possible to impose new policies and responsibilities for private sector e.g. oblige to implement control procedures that enable to detect signals of criminal acts or crime preparation in international logistics chains, networks of energy distribution or financial transactions. Security has expanded to new areas during the last decade.

Logic of securitization#

Logics of securitization follow two following paths in order to make a threat existential and tangible (Huysmans 2006):
  • First, rhetoric underlines consequences of threats as extraordinary and intolerable e.g. severe impacts of natural catastrophe or system failures of critical infrastructure. In addition, it describes possible long-term impacts and vicious cycles e.g. deterioration of vital values and beliefs in a society or loss of confidence against authorities to be capable to provide security for citizens.
  • Secondly, security actors aim at pointing out that cost of appropriate interventions to prevent security risk are lower than cost of harmful consequences due to crime or terrorist act. Besides, security actors usually dramatize threats in order that it receives the utmost political priority and attention (Huysmans 2006).

Securitization as a reduction of uncertainty#

According J. Peter Burgess (2011) security threats resist our efforts to make factual reality fully present and their consequences fully tangible. Increasing securitization of new societal phenomena can only be grounded by means of a fluid of security threats in the future.

Securitization requires plausible stories that describe mechanism between available security information and future events (Burgess 2011). The anticipation of threats provides rationale for future interventions (Dervin 1998, 2002; Kessler 2010; Aaltonen 2007). Even at the present state it is rarely possible to perceive and define a problem space, identify vulnerable elements and select single interventions that lead to the risk mitigation - not to mention of future states. However, total knowledge is broadly expected to be available and accessible to help societies to prevent security threats at present and future (Burgess 2011).

Securitization and surveillance#

Increasingly population is coming under homeland and foreign surveillance (Salter 2010). The desire to know about and understand security threats has led to increased interest to collect wide-range of information pertaining citizens, companies, financial transactions, movement of goods and raw materials and their interdependencies. Increased interest combined with technological development have made public and private sector to pursue after technological limits instead of aiming at primary political goals (Salter 2010).

The development can be observed in expanding amount of statistical data-mining software that can be used to identify personal characteristics far beyond security needs. The development leads to the situation where governments manage citizens in terms of statistics data rather than direct human judgment and reasoning (Lyon 2003; Foucault 2008; Salter 2010). However, complex systems have by definition insufficient data amounts for statistical methods, thus current statistical data-mining methods can expose us to a meta-threat – used methods overlook key societal vulnerabilities.

FOCUS contribution to managing securitization#

The FOCUS project contributes to rational assumptions that balance the tensions that securitization theory evokes in the non-congruency between securitized subjects and objective reality. FOCUS overall results - in the form of FOCUS conclusions for future security research - reinforce a set of criteria for good security research conscious of its broader societal impact, and situates at the center the societal creation of security. The implications of this normative concept is on creating a successful securitization with maximal congruency between securitized subjects and objectivity that will eliminate politicized dominant securitizing actors through active social participation in the creation of security.


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