The three faces of securitization: Political agency, audience and context

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The prime claim of the theory of securitization is that the articulation of security produces a specific threatening state of affairs. Within this theory, power is derived from the use of 'appropriate' words in conformity with established rules governing speech acts. I argue, however, that a speech act view of security does not provide adequate grounding upon which to examine security practices in 'real situations'. For instance, many security utterances counter the 'rule of sincerity' and, the intrinsic power attributed to 'security' overlooks the objective context in which security agents are situated. As a corrective, I put forward three basic assumptions - (i) that an effective securitization is audience-centered; (ii) that securitization is context-dependent; (iii) that an effective securitization is power-laden. The insights gleaned from the investigation of these assumptions are progressively integrated into the pragmatic act of security, the value of which is to provide researchers in the field with a tractable number of variables to investigate in order to gain a better understanding of the linguistic manufacture of threats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-201
Number of pages31
JournalEuropean Journal of International Relations
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2005


  • Agency
  • Audience
  • Context
  • Discourse
  • Pragmatic act
  • Securitization


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