Journal of International Relations and Development

, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 883–908 | Cite as

Critical situations, fundamental questions and ontological insecurity in world politics

  • Filip EjdusEmail author


The central premise of ontological security theory is that states are ready to compromise their physical security and other important material gains in order to protect their ontological security. While the existing studies have primarily focused on how states defend or maintain their ontological security, little attention has been paid to critical situations that make states ontologically insecure in the first place. Drawing on the work of Anthony Giddens, I conceptualise critical situations in world politics as radical disjunctions that challenge the ability of collective actors to ‘go on’ by bringing into the realm of discursive consciousness four fundamental questions related to existence, finitude, relations and autobiography. The argument is illustrated in a case study of ontological insecurity produced in Serbia by the secession of Kosovo.


critical situations discourse fundamental questions Kosovo ontological security Serbia 



I thank Miroslav Hadžić, Jelena Subotić, Tim Edmunds and anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article.


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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS)University of BristolBristolUK

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