Security, Security Studies and the Logic of Securitisation

Security and Security Studies




Security studies mainly focuses on how society dealing with threats that have potentials endangering lives and livelihoods. Some threats can be traced back from the beginning of its occurrence as a risk. The risk can actualise itself into a kind of problem in society. A set of problems, then, can escalate into crisis. At this level, society may perceive this situation as a threat for their society or individual lives in which serious attention and concern are needed to mitigate it. In line to this understanding, Fierke argues that, “security is typically about survival and about an existential threat to a particular object. The problem of security arises from an emergency condition which establishes the right to use whatever means are necessary to block a threatening development” (Fierke, 2007). Thus, Security studies is a set of studies that dealing with the measures to prevent any possibility of threat and efforts to eliminate the danger of threat since the very beginning of its development.

On the other hand, the Copenhagen School asserts that security is as a Speech act. Security as a Speech act means that it is the product of claims that made by certain party, usually the government or authority that determine particular risk as a threat for the society and by mentioning something as security, it is already a kind of act. As contended by Waever, “by saying it [security] something is done (as in betting, giving a promise). By uttering ‘security’, a state-representative moves a particular development into a specific area, and thereby claims a special right to use whatever means are necessary to block it” (Waever, 1995). This viewpoint portrays the ‘power’ of security in which when the authority claims something as a security issue than the authority can employ any measure necessary to block it.

The object where the security refers to or the referent object is also important topic in security studies. According to Peoples and Vaughan-Williams, referent object means the entity that is taken as the focus for analysis in security studies (e.g. the state, the human, the ecosystem); or put differently, ‘that which is to be secured’ (Peoples & Vaughan-Williams, 2014). In short, it can be understood as ‘what thing needs to be securitised.’ There are many debates over what is actually considered as the referent abject of security, or on debate over whether particular thing should be securitised or not.

The so-called, “Traditional Security Studies” perceived state as the main referent object of security. And security measurement responding threat to the state is by using military actions. However, nowadays there are also debates on the broadening of referent object of security, such as human (Human Security), economy (Economic Security), resource (Resource Security) and so forth. The broadening meaning of the referent objects of security closely links to the idea of securitisation (the process where particular issue somehow is categorised as a security issue).


According to Peoples and Vaughan-Williams, securitisation means “shifting an issue out of realm of ‘normal’ political debate into the realm of emergency politics by presenting it as an existential threat” (Peoples &Vaughan-Williams, 2014). Securitisation requires degree of certain issue that is originally considered as the non-political issue, before it is politicised. When certain issue is already politicised, then the next step would be to securitise this. As Peoples and Vaughan-Williams shows this process in a simple chart below:

Non-politicised  ->  Politicised -> Securitised

(Peoples & Vaughan-Williams, 2014)

However, Fierke suggests that, any issue is can be applied of securitisation if it is capable to be intensified at the degree whereby it is presented and accepted as an ‘existential threat’ (Fierke, 2007). When particular issue or problem has its potentiality as an existential threat, then it would be easier to be securitised. The question over ‘who does securitise?’ also needs to be considered. In most cases, the state ‘normally’ does the securitisation.

From the idea of securitisation, the broadening referent objects of security emerged. There are more issues, thus, can be securitised. As Biswas maintains that, as proposed by the Copenhagen School, whereby broadening of security beyond traditional military issues by incorporating also economic, societal, environment, resources and energy security as mentioned above (Biswas, 2011). Moreover, in the globalised world context, the threats and security issues are more interconnected and interdependence.

Peoples and Vaughan-Williams, furthermore, propose the prospect for ‘de-securitisation’ is some securitisation theory variants. ‘De-securitisation’ is perceived as process of moving an issue out of the realm of security and considered it back into the realm of non-political deliberation (Peoples &Vaughan-Williams, 2014).



Biswas, Niloy Ranjan. (2011). “Is the Environment a Security Threat? Environmental Security beyond Securitization”. International Affairs Review. Vol XX. No. 1: Winter 2011. Web.

Fierke, Karin M. (2007). Critical Approach to International Security. London: Polity.

Peoples, Columba and Nick Vaughan-Williams. (2014). Critical Security Studies: An Introduction. Abingdon: Routledge.

Wæver, Ole. (1995). “Securitization and Desecuritization”, in Ronnie D. Lipschutz (ed.) On Security, pp. 46-86. New York: Columbia University Press.