Securitisation – Turning Problems into Threats

by Allan Behm

‘Securitisation’ is a post-WW2 phenomenon. It began as part of the expanding struggle between the US and the Soviet Union for pre-eminence during the Cold War, where the US, as a matter of policy, leveraged the full panoply of its state power to prevail over the Soviet Union. As used in contemporary security policy texts, ‘security’ addresses the freedom from threat to the collective (the state) rather than the equanimity that individual citizens might enjoy. So the connotation of the word ‘security’ currently has much more to do with the state’s ability to defend itself against subversion (in all its forms) and armed attack (in all its forms, including terrorism) and, in the case of totalitarian states, against its own citizens. The external or inter-state focus of ‘securitisation’ has broadened to include the intra-state dimension: states increasingly leverage their military, para-military and quasi-military capabilities, including commercial enforcement capabilities, to control their own citizens as well as foreign nationals who might be resident. ‘Securitisation’ both creates and exploits fear. It is the practice that accords significant public danger, menace and threat to politically and socially important issues and accordingly seeks to deal with such issues by employing personal and social controls, enhanced intelligence gathering powers, law enforcement protocols and national military capabilities. Securitisation has the perverse effect of both fomenting and assuaging public fear. 

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