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Security and the democratic scene: desecuritization and emancipation


While the Copenhagen School has provided security analysts with important tools for illuminating processes of threat construction, the reverse processes of un-making security or desecuritization have remained seriously underspecified. Informed by a critical sensibility, this article asks the question ‘how can desecuritization be thought’ and argues, contra the Copenhagen School, that desecuritization has to be tackled first politically and not analytically. I show that the dynamics of securitization/desecuritization raise questions about the type of politics we want, whether that is democratic politics of universal norms and slow procedures or the exceptional politics of speed and enemy exclusion. I subsequently propose a different concept of emancipation, which is informed by the principles of universality and recognition. This concept distances itself from both desecuritization and the equation of emancipation with security by Critical Security Studies since it has a different logic from the non-democratic and exclusionary logic of security and it engages more thoroughly with both democratic politics and the ‘conditions’ in which securitization becomes possible.

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Aradau, C. Security and the democratic scene: desecuritization and emancipation. J Int Relat Dev 7, 388–413 (2004).

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  • democracy
  • desecuritization
  • emancipation
  • securitization
  • recognition
  • universality