Barry Buzan - 1/5 - Security Concept





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Published on Mar 23, 2010

Dr. Barry Buzan discusses the concept of security.

"My name is Barry Buzan, I am professor of international relations at the LSE. I took my first degree at the University of British Columbia. I did my PhD here at the LSE in what now seems a very long time ago. I taught at UBC briefly, had a post-doc there, then I was at Warwick for a long time and now Ive fetched up here.

My work has mostly been on the theoretical side of security. Ive been working with the concept of security for a very long time. I think I can reasonably claim to have written the first book that was about the concept of security because it was an odd hole in the literature if you wanted to study justice or love or any other kind of social concept you probably would find a shelf load of books that discuss the concept. But security, there wasnt such a book. So my interest has been in the concept itself, both what it covers what the terrain of it is and also, more recently, in conjunction with colleagues in Copenhagen, to look at the process by which something gets designated in security language. Its a more constructivist take on it. In other words, here the perspective is not that threats are necessarily objective things that if there are fifty tanks on your borders, thats necessarily a threat because theyre tanks but how it is that a society or any group of people come to designate, or not designate, something as a threat.

This offers you a range between paranoia on the one hand like individuals, societies can see threats where there are none in an objective sense or complacency on the other hand; where societies dont define something of a threat when it actually is. So it offers two ways of looking at security: the more traditional objective threat analysis which can be military, but it can also be environmental and societal, depending on what you want to designate as a threat and what youre concerned about the security of; and then theres the social side of it whats the process by which threats get constructed: who speaks it, who listens to it, how does something get put together and accepted as a threat.

You can see that process with the ending of the Cold War. It was a very interesting example of how something which had been very successfully constructed as a threat, and I think in most peoples eyes, not everyone, but in most peoples eyes, in the West and probably in the East, was accepted as a real threat and probably was but all of that disappeared in four or five years. The rhetoric changed and a different discourse began to emerge, and within four or five years it was all gone as indeed was the Soviet Union. So thats a very interesting example of what I would call a de-securitizing process; where something which is established as a threat gets un-done and wound down and accepted as no longer being a threat. So its a process that works in both directions."


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