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doi: 10.1111/j.1467-856x.2005.00204.

B JP I R : 2 0 0 5 V O L 7 , 4 8 5 5 0 7

Into Cerberus Lair: Bringing the Idea of

Security to Light1
Graham M. Smith
Using the motif of Cerberus, the three-headed monster watchdog of Hades, this article attempts to
bring security to light. Specifically, it addresses two related questions. The primary question is:
What does security mean?. Here it is argued that security is related to order and is a reflection not of a positive value in and of itself, but the relative success of any given order to realise its
core values in relation to other orders. Therefore, security is found to be like Cerberus insofar as
it exists not as an independent value or being, but only in relation between two orders. Having
located security within this conceptual framework, the article then addresses its second question:
What are the effects of security?. The motif of Cerberus suggests that security bites in three ways:
first, that specific measures of security control the members of an order; second, that the identification of security threats reinforce certain persons and structures of the order as being the definers of the order; and finally, that the implementation of certain security measures can change and
transform the order itself. In this way the analysis offered here brings security to light not only
as an inherently political term connected to political values, but to provide foundations for critiquing the rhetorical use of security in contemporary political discourse and thought.

There is a cavern with a dark, yawning throat and a way down-sloping,

along which Hercules, the hero of Tiryns, dragged Cerberus with chains
wrought of adamant, while the great dog fought and turned away his
eyes from the bright light of day.
Ovid, Metamorphoses (Book VII)
In our current climate security has become a political watchword. Whilst security
was a focus for theorists of the cold war2 its current rise to prominence has seemingly been escalated by dual forces. On the one hand there has been a desire to
re-theorise security away from its military and state-centric orientation,3 and on
the other hand there has been a rise in popular attention to the notion and practice of security in response to the ongoing war on terror.4 However, as yet little
attention has been paid to the conceptual analysis of this term with specific reference to debates within political theory and international relations.5 Such an analysis would not only provide conceptual clarity, it would also provide tools for a better
interrogation of the invocation and practice of security in contemporary politics
(Rothschild 1995, 5759; Baldwin 1997, 24, 26).
Taking the three-headed watchdog Cerberus as its motif, this article is one such
contribution to this task. Cerberus was charged with two inter-related duties. The
first of these was to prevent the shades of the House of Hades from returning to
the earth; the second was to deter would-be heroes from entering the Underworld.
Using this evocative motif, this article will address two related questions. The first
asks, what does security mean?. The second asks, what are the effects of
Political Studies Association, 2005. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road,
Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.



security?. Turning to the first question, it will be argued that the idea of security
is related to the preservation, maintenance and separation of orders. Specifically,
security is charged with the preservation and realisation of political orders. A political order consists of both a set of core and subsidiary values, and a membership
which acknowledges those values intersubjectively through their socio-political
arrangements. Thus, like the watchdog Cerberus who maintains the integrity of
two orders, security does not appear in our lexicon as an independent being. Security is not a value in itself, but is the reflection of, and an attitude towards other
values, and especially the core values of the order. Therefore, whilst security is also
necessarily and inescapably political, it is not a political value or end in its own
The second question concerns the effects of security. To continue with our motif,
we could ask, how does security bite?. Here we employ security as a relational
term which is connected to the preservation and realisation of the core values of
orders. It is therefore possible to say that security bites in three directions. First,
security is argued to bite the specific members of the order, either individually or
as sub-groups. Second, by declaring both the security threat and the response to
that threat, certain members of the order come to hold privileged positions. Finally,
the third bite is manifest in the acts or measures of security. Those engaged in
decreeing measures which follow from the identification and response to threats
to values begin to redefine the contours and values of that order.6 Thus, the three
bites of security can be seen to seize an order both internally and externally, and
at a variety of levels.
The remainder of this article is divided into four sections and a conclusion. In the
first section an initial account of the idea of security is sketched making the prima
facie case for understanding security in relation to orders as manifestations of political values. The second section considers this sketch in relation to the burgeoning
literature on this topic. Whilst this literature identifies and explores specific
instances of security, it does not engage sufficiently with the idea itself. A closer
analysis of the idea of security can reveal what is common to these literatures, and
will offer a way in which we might negotiate between some of their entrenched
disputes. The third section will refocus on the initial sketch, adding depth to three
related notions: orders, politics and values. Here an alternative framework is outlined which draws on the strengths of the existing literature and approaches and
provides a guiding thread for an understanding of security which is implicit in
these approaches. The final section suggests how security bites by outlining how
the foregoing analysis illuminates the practices of security.

I. That Monster-Watchdog Cerberus: The Idea and

Practice of Security
Security has a double location. Just as Cerberus plays a dual role as idea and actor,
so too does security. In the first instance security is a term within our theoretical
lexicon. It is located as an idea or concept amongst other such ideas and concepts.
Thus, security can be treated analytically in much the same manner as other terms
such as power or the state. However, whilst security can be treated in much



the same manner as these concepts, it is also evident that security is not simply an
idea or concept. Security is also an act; security (or its effects) can be located in
our political actions, rhetoric and technologies (Dillon 1996, 16; Buzan, Waever
and de Wilde 1998, 2729; Burke 2001, xxv, xxxiii). Security, then, is equally an
idea and a practice, and must be understood as both (McSweeney 1999, 21).
Having noted this double location, the first question we must answer is, what does
the idea of security mean?. In addressing this I edge towards a prima facie account
of security. Initially we are concerned with the conceptual role of security, a
concern previously pursued by both Richard H. Ullman (1983) and Emma
Rothschild (1995). Their articles locate security in its historical context. This is
useful as the historical roots of the term help to inform our current usage and
understandings. However, for our purposes, more needs to be done to develop a
sufficiently abstract understanding of security. Whilst Ullman and Rothschild
offer a history of the idea, they do not develop what unifies the specific instances.
Thus, our current task is to build on this work and to clarify and locate security
in relation to its logical structural family which will provide a nexus of context
and meaning. In this way it is possible to link security to its logical relations, and
to produce a genealogy of terms which help us to make sense of both the term
itself and how it is used.
So, the term security cannot be understood in isolation, and we must identify it
in a nexus or landscape of related terms and ideas. However, security is not only
a contested concept (Baldwin 1997, 1012; Dalby 1997, 6; Smith 2005); it is also
a term which is used in a variety of circumstances. Thus, its use is not confined to
theoretical discussion alone; it is also a term which has acute resonance in politics,
not to mention a host of non-political uses. Even the most cursory consideration
of the term produces a catalogue of contemporary usage: the state of being secure;
assurance from poverty; a person or a thing that secures; precautions taken to
prevent theft or espionage; an asset that can be claimed by a creditor; something
that is given or pledged to secure the fulfilment of a promise.7 Additionally, security is also related to securing (McSweeney 1999, 14). There are many meanings
of securing, including being free from danger; free from fear; in safe custody; not
likely to become loose or to fail; to become certain; to make safe from attack.
Clearly, if security is to have any analytic utility, we need to establish a tighter
definition which relates to its political meaning (and closes off the everyday, nonpolitical meanings and uses of the term).
If it is true that security concerns itself with securing then we might further our
exploration by asking four related questions about this security and securing (cf.
Baldwin 1997, 1217, where seven such questions are generated). All the questions suggest a range of answers. (1) Who or what is being secured?;8 (2) who or
what is doing the securing?; (3) who or what is the subject being secured from?;
(4) why is the subject being secured? Thus, securing is something which might be
thought of as being done, and security a reflection of the success of that action.
Security is therefore a reflection of a relationship between a subject and an object.
Indeed, the third question (who or what is the referent object of security being
secured from?) is dependent on this meaning. In this sense, security is simply a reflection of the relative success or failure to secure.



In order to develop this idea further it is now necessary to introduce the idea of
an order. At present, no more than a basic conceptual outline will be provided,
as here I am merely attempting to offer a prima facie account of the term and
its relation to our central focus of security. These ideas, and their relationship,
will be developed more fully in section III (after we have examined some of
the conceptual difficulties of the established understandings of security in section
What, then, is an order? An order is a political entity which can be understood to
consist of two related components: (1) values (which shape and define the order);
and (2) a membership (who subscribe to those values). The values that define the
order, although abstract and general, are the result of political judgements. They
are recognised intersubjectively by the members of the order. This is not to imply
that the intersubjective values of the members of an order are necessarily chosen
in a conscious or deliberative manner. It is merely to suggest that these values are
recognised or acknowledged in an intersubjective manner by the members of the
order, and that these values are privileged over other possible values which might
be subscribed to. The members of an order attempt to realise these intersubjective
political values in their institution of particular socio-political relations, bodies,
practices and discourses (in other words, institutions broadly conceived). In any
given order there can be a hierarchy of values, but some values will be agreed by
all members of the order to constitute the core values of the order, and to take priority over lesser values. In summary, an order can be said to exist where we can
identify both a set of related political values, and a constituency who are bound
together in their intersubjective subscription to those values. Thus, when the
members of an order seek security they seek to realise their values (and especially
core values), and to protect the institutions and arrangements which they understand to best preserve and promote those values.
Therefore, as has been claimed, as an idea security is a relational term. Security is
not a value in and of itself; it has meaning only insofar as it presupposes values
which are considered as ends-in-themselves (cf. Rothschild 1995, 63; Graeger
1996, 113). It is in this way that security can be said to be a reflection of the relative
success or failure to secure. What are being secured are orders. As has been suggested,
orders have two components. At the ideational level they are structured by core
values. At the material level they are manifest by the creation of groups who subscribe (intersubjectively) to those values, and seek to realise them in their institutions. Thus, the idea of security can be seen to make sense only in relation to these
previously presupposed values. This is the case whether or not the values are coherent, rational or even explicit.9 Security, then, stands between two conceptions of
order. Security has the potential to appear only when alternative orders are brought
into relation to each other. Thus, the practice of security relates to the specific actions
of political entities (such as individuals, states, nations, religious communities). As
a practice, these groups use security to motivate the defence of particular conceptions of order. In doing so, they attempt to solidify or identify the core values of
their orders.
This understanding of security as a relational term draws from and refocuses the
much cited essay by Arnold Wolfers, National Security as an Ambiguous Symbol



(Wolfers 1962). In turn, Wolfers argument draws on the thought of Walter

Lippmann. It is worth repeating the core of this account:
Security points to some degree of protection of values previously acquired
... a nation is secure to the extent to which it is not in danger of having
to sacrifice core values, if it wishes to avoid war, and is able, if challenged,
to maintain them by victory in such a war. This definition implies that
security rises and falls with the ability of a nation to deter an attack, or
to defeat it (Wolfers 1962, 150).
What is interesting about this formulation from our current perspective is that with
careful refocusing we are able to transform this understanding of security from the
narrow national focus offered by Lippmann and Wolfers to an abstract category
which permits both multiple referents and a variety of practices. Thus, whilst
Wolfers clearly sees the link between security, values and the political, he limits
his analysis to what could be termed a state-centric focus. Wolfers recognises that
the determination both of the security threat and of core values is a political act
(Wolfers 1962, 151, 154); he is also clearly concerned with the security of
the nation through the state as primary amongst those values (Wolfers 1962, 163
164). In doing so, Wolfers asserts that the nation is the primary political value,
and that the nation is to be understood as having its survival connected to the
tool of the state (a position which is implicit throughout the remainder of his
Although Wolfers state-centrism presents an unduly restrictive conception of security, what his analysis highlights is the importance of the notion of core values,
and this is the key to developing an encompassing definition of security. In thinking of security as being related to core values we are instantly transported out of
the limitations of some common discussions. These discussions have both characterised previous security literature and resulted in a failure to produce a coherent
conceptualisation of security qua security. In particular, we are able to see beyond
the confines of three related controversies. First, by specifying core values as the
referent object of security (without specifying those values as such), we unravel
the difficulties produced by trying to pin the referent object of security somewhere on the spectrum between the individual and humanity. What unites all the
points where the pin could pierce is that all these points are concerned with values.
All potential referents of security, from the individual through to the state to the
whole of humanity, are possessors and promoters of values, and where an analyst
places their pin also reflects the analysts own political values. All of these entities
can be the objects of security, but only as the result of a political determination. It
is not so much that the individual or the state has to be the object of security, but
that at some point there is a constituting political move to assert or establish the
primacy of the object in question. Thus, the primary referent object must remain
normative and not simply descriptive.
The second difficulty which is addressed by this approach is the security threat.
If it is true that security can relate to any point in a nexus of relations, then it is
also the case that security threats can also emerge at any point on this nexus.
Indeed, this also begins to untangle the complex relationship between individuals,
groups, states and humanity. Just as no single entity has the monopoly on the claim



to being the referent object of security, no single entity has the monopoly of being
the security threat. Different actors and entities can be aggressor, defender and
defended at different times and in relation to different entities or events.
Finally, if we accept the stress in our formula on the foundational role of political
values to security, then we can understand how there can be a whole range of
security issues. That the identification of the security threat is an intersubjective
decision has long been recognised (Wolfers 1962, 151; Art 1993, 820; cf. also
Waever 1995, 5457). However, by attempting to fix the referent object of security, and the attendant failure to recognise that security relates to values, both analysts and politicians alike have foreclosed some avenues for understanding security.
In doing so they have not defended a conception of security understood as politics, but a particular politics understood as security. The next section will develop
these points, and explore them in relation to existing literatures. In doing so I will
show how the approach outlined here helps to alleviate some of the tensions within
these literatures without negating the contribution that these literatures make to
specific conceptions and practices of security.

II. The Landscape of the Underworld: Mapping the

Meanings of Security
As has been suggested, previous accounts of security have tended to focus on
the practice of security rather than the concept of security per se. This approach
has led to robust accounts of security in relation to the particular instance of its
practice, but not an account of security that identifies what lies behind (or is
common) to all such practice. Nevertheless, whilst in previous accounts the
meaning of security has often received little conceptual scrutiny, they work within
the framework provided by our four questions. To repeat, these are: Who or what
is being secured? Who or what is doing the securing? Who or what is the subject
being secured from? And why is the subject being secured?. This has led not
only to a dominance of certain assumed understandings of security; it has also led
to an under-theorisation of the concept itself. Thus, there is no stream of debate
about this term in the same way that there is for terms such as liberty, democracy and the state. We might find this both somewhat surprising and troubling
given the amount of attention that the idea otherwise receives, and its regular
This under-theorisation manifests most clearly when we consider the debates that
have arisen over the referent object of security (i.e. what is being secured). Many
previous accounts of security have restricted security to an association with military action and the state (cf. Walt 1991, which can be viewed as a self-conscious
representation of this line of scholarship). Thus, there has been a tendency to identify security threats as those which threaten the territory or continuance of the
state. Evidently, this privileges the state as the referent of security, and military
activity as the primary threat and tool of that referent. This has been especially so
in realist discourse where the state is seen to seek to perpetuate itself in the context
of possible threats from other states (Wolfers 1962; Krasner 1978; Waltz 1979;
Ayoob 1995). Of course, this is the well-known security dilemma which arises



from the proposed anarchy in which states find themselves (cf. Bull 1977;
Mearsheimer 1990; Jervis 1978; all of which stands in the shadow of Hobbes
Leviathan). However, whilst the state-centric school of thought has been dominant,
there has also been a growing body of literature which attempts to move away
from this approach and to broaden the meaning of security. Under these lights
we have seen the referent object of security being refocused from the state to substate groups and the individual (Rothschild 1995, 61; Havel 1992, 1820). In other
attempts, the referent of security has been broadened to include what has become
known as human security. This has been variously defined, and has occurred both
within academic thought (Thomas and Wilkin 1999; Duffield 2001; Paris 2001)
and the initiatives of policy-makers.10 Others have identified the environment as
a possible referent of security (Mathews 1989; Graeger 1996; Ronnfeldt 1997),11
whilst still others have considered the possibility of economic security (Nye 1974;
Deese 19791980; Mastanduno 1998).
The defence of traditional understandings of security and the emergence of alternative accounts have created what may be considered a rift in security literature.
We can understand the source of this rift as being an outcome of the tension
between the advocates of the security of individuals on the one hand, and the security of the state on the other. Some have argued that the state is the rightful focus
of security, as although there are tensions between the state and its citizens, ultimately only the state is powerful enough to ensure and realise the claims of the
individual. Without the framework afforded by the state, human rights are meaningless, and individuals are powerless to enforce their rights (cf. Arendt 1963,
230231, 290302; Buzan 1991, 362363; Waever 1995, 49 who makes a conceptual link between security and the state). There is some truth to this. There is
a real sense in which individuals are dispossessed of their rights if they are not conscious of them, and do not know to whom to appeal to have them enforced. It is
also true that the failure of states can lead to all kinds of violence, inequity and
humanitarian disasters. Considered as the referent object of security, it has been
noted that states face both external and internal threats (Ayoob 1995, 89).12
However, what these state-centric conceptions of security tend to underplay is the
potential of states to act as security threats to their own citizens. It is clear that the
state-centric account cannot be considered as a general account of security. This is
particularly the case when it is employed to attack the broadening agenda of
others (cf. Ayoob 1995, 812). Whether the strengthening of the state necessarily
brings security or stability to their citizens or their region is a debatable point. It is
also debatable as to whether a strengthening of the state and those who profess
to represent the state territorially and institutionally would worsen or alleviate
this problem (Ayoob 1995, 9; cf. Wheeler 1996; Smith 2005, 45).
From the perspective adopted here, the problem with both the state-centric and
the individual-orientated approach to security is that both of these approaches
suffer from the same category of limitations. They fail to adequately recognise that
security threats can arise at multiple levels for, and from, multiple actors.13 Additionally, these literatures pay insufficient attention to the idea that the security
threat can arise in this way because in concentrating on the defence of one particular conceptual instance of security (the state), they fail to develop a conceptualisation of a generic security. Identifying the de facto referent object of security



can only be accomplished if we understand the nature of the generic referent. It

is here suggested that that referent is the notion of value. It is these values that
nominate and locate the de facto referent object as a political entity. Thus, security is not related to objects as such (be they individuals, groups or states) but to
constellations of political values. In both cases what is being secured is not so much
the state qua state, or the individual qua individual, but a political understanding
of each. The state and the individual are not facts, but entities prescribed by
political values. Indeed, if we assume the primacy of the individual, we are making
a normative political judgement about value. That value might guide our analysis
of how the world is, and frame our conception of how the world should be, but it
remains a value linked to a political moment. Thus, from the viewpoint of this
analysis, security is inextricably political and could not be otherwise (cf. Dalby
1997, 22; McSweeney 1999, 92, 208; Walker 1997).
The moves to distance security from the political can be understood if security is
conceptualised solely in terms of militarisation. It might well be undesirable to
treat some issues as a matter for military action, or to exclude other issues because
they are not responsive to military action. It is also understandable that it might
be desirable to define some issues as security issues to give them prominence and
the air of requiring immediate action and response. Equally, it might be desirable
to see some issues as simply too important to become politicised in the sense of
becoming embroiled in the daily cut-and-thrust of the machinations of political
(and especially party-political) power. However, ultimately the attempt to separate
security from the political must end in logical failure.14 This is the case because all
referents of security are susceptible to the question of why they should be secured
(especially over and above other possible referents), and this necessarily rests upon
a political determination. That security has had a history of meanings and contestations is a reminder of this flexibility (cf. Rothschild 1995). Thus, the referent
objects of security, and the measures that are taken to secure those objects, are the
results of determination about our values and priorities and remain both tied to,
and defined by, the political.
In this way Buzan, Waever and de Wildes attempts to analyse security through
sectors also seem misguided (Buzan, Waever and de Wilde 1998). From our
present perspective the state is a possible category of the political, and not the
reverse. Whilst Buzan et al. explicitly claim that their objectives are to present a
framework incorporating both the wider and traditional agendas of security, they
quickly adopt a state-centric framework (Buzan et al. 1998, 4, 18). What this allows
(by a theoretical sleight of hand) is an analysis of the state-centric understanding
of security, rather than their avowed aim of exploring the logic of security itself
to find out what differentiates securing and the process of securitization from that
which is merely political (Buzan et al. 1998, 4). Of course, this presupposes that
security is something more than the merely political. Additionally, in order to attain
security status, issues have to be staged as existential threats to a referent object
by a securitizing actor who thereby generates endorsement of emergency measures
beyond rules that otherwise bind (Buzan et al. 1998, 5). Whilst Buzan et al. initially imply that security is linked to the political, they simultaneously wish to say
that it is something beyond the political.15



This issue can be further pursued through a consideration of Jessica Tuchman

Mathews influential article on environmental security (Mathews 1989). Despite
the article being entitled Redefining Security there is no real discussion of what
security is, but only a demonstration that there is environmental change.16 What
is telling about this is the emphasis on the human role in environmental degradation and resource shortage. As is implied throughout Mathews article, we should
be concerned about this change for aesthetic, economic and political reasons; that
is to say, the threat of environmental change is important as it undermines the realisation
of our values. What is more (as Mathews herself points out), what is significant about
the climatic change that we are currently experiencing is that it is also a result of
human actions. This is made explicit in section IV where Mathews writes that environmental concern has arisen from mankinds new ability to alter the environment
on a planetary scale (Mathews 1989, 168). In terms of this change, Mathews
singles out state (governmental) policies and actions (or inaction) as being the
driving forces behind this (Mathews 1989, 172173, 174177). Thus, environmental change could constitute a security issue; a point which (despite his reluctance) Bill McSweeney would surely have to concede (McSweeney 1999, 8991).
However, our admittance of the environment to the fold of security is not
achieved in the manner in which Mathews would intend the issue to be recognised. Environmental issues are not security issues simply because of environmental change and degradation, and the fear that this could lead to hardship and even
war; environmental degradation can become or be constituted as a security issue
insofar as (1) the changes are brought about by human action, and (2) the changes
threaten the realisation of core values (some of which might concern notions of a
decent life, or the normative value of avoiding war). Thus, it is precisely the political dimension of environmental change that makes it a security issue.
It is in this way that Mohammed Ayoobs criticisms of those who would seek to
broaden the security agenda are also misframed. Ayoob (who criticises both human
and environmental security) implies that such a broadening of the concept removes
its political character (Ayoob 1995, 812). For Ayoob, security relates to the state.
Indeed, he argues that types of vulnerability, whether economic or ecological,
become integral components of our definition of security only if they become
acute enough to acquire political dimensions and threaten state boundaries, state
institutions, or regime survival (Ayoob 1995, 9; emphasis added). Whilst Ayoobs
approach is explicitly state-centric, and his specific problematic that of successful
state-building in the Third World, this definition of security is far too restrictive
and exclusionary. Whilst Ayoobs aim is to defend the political against misunderstanding, we may well wonder as to whether his own definition of security actually contributes to this misunderstanding. Ayoobs notion of the political precludes
groups and individuals who might not share his normative commitment to the
primacy of the state, however useful for regime survival this might be. If we share
the value that the state is the most important political entity then it is almost
inevitable that we will view security issues under this aegis, and the perpetuation
of the state as being the key referent of security. However, there is no a priori reason
to do so. Indeed, to limit our notion of the political to that of the state is to misunderstand the political itself. The political is the realm of contested values, and



other constellations of values can emerge than that of the individual and the state.
Thus, from this perspective, neither Ken Booths (1997) notion of emancipation,
nor Thomas and Wilkins (1999) notion of human security, nor Mathews notion
of environmental security (Mathews 1989), nor notions of economic security
can be ruled out a priori. However, what this confrontation does reveal is that whilst
Ayoob has an unnecessarily restrictive notion of politics and security, those who
would seek to broaden the category of security often also fail to successfully link
it to the notion of political value, and thus their accounts suffer from the weakness not of an overbearing state but an insufficiently developed notion of the
political. In other words, these broadening accounts of security present political
manifestos under the banner of security, thereby often disguising the political
nature of their manifestos and actions by masking them with the assumed apolitical status of security.17 In challenging state-centric accounts, those who attempt
to broaden the agenda often fail to recognise the political constitution of security
and so mirror the moves of the state-centric approach by also treating security as
an apolitical fact. Therefore, to understand and redefine security we must return
to the political itself (cf. Walker 1997, 69).

III. Barking Orders at the Dog: Politics and Values

Let us recapitulate. The first section offered a brief outline of the account of security offered here, and the second section related this account to some of the existing literature. There has been a concern to show that it is desirable to make value
per se the referent object of security, rather than any specific object (such as the
state or individual). By doing so we can generate an account of security that is
comprehensive and inclusive in its application. In what follows we return to this
initial sketch of security and pay particular attention to understanding the relationship between security and order. Specifically, having argued that security is the
relative success or failure of any given order to realise its core values, it is now necessary to elaborate on what is intended by order. An order consists of two related
components: values and a membership. The membership of an order seeks to
realise their core values in their institutions (broadly conceived). Without core
values an order can be said to desist. Thus, security speaks to orders: it manifests
as the barometer of the success or failure of any given order in its attempt to realise
its core values through its institutions in relation to any other given order. Therefore, all orders are political (both by definition and de facto), and security is the
political move par excellence insofar as it is a move which declares, promotes and
realises political values against alternative orders.
Orders, then, can be considered to be inter-related and relatively coherent wholes.
However, this is not to say that all orders follow a rationally articulated, or even
consciously articulated, programme.18 Any particular order has its own power
dynamics, social relations and ideational structure. Orders can have component
parts which conflict, compete or co-operate, but this is not necessarily a threat to
the coherence of that order. The degree to which these groups can be multiplied
and tolerated is a reflection of the structure and core values of the order itself. It
is important to note here that the notion of order is not restricted to a notion of
the state. Here, order indicates a wider framework in which the state is only one



possible part of a wider sense of pattern or structure such as liberalism, socialism,

feudalism, Christianity or Islam. Whilst all orders are political (i.e. they are concerned with realising value), they might not retain an overtly political face: they
could appear social, cultural, civil or even fraternal. What gives an order its coherence is that its members share core values which they seek to realise in specific
relations and institutions. This does not mean that all members of an order have
to agree all the time, or even have completely identical values. However, members
of a group must hold certain core values which allow them to hold opposing values
at a lower point in their hierarchies of values. Clearly there is an optimal point, or
threshold, over which disagreement must pass before an order is in mortal danger
of transforming into something else. Thus (notwithstanding the conceptual link
between disorder and forms of violent anarchy), disorder can be understood in
two ways. Disorder could be the pejorative description made by one order of rival
orders. Or, disorder could refer to a state of affairs where there is not sufficient and
widespread recognition of core values.19
In this sense security cannot be said to be the maintenance of order per se, but is
a reflection of the relative success of any given order to maintain its core values and
institutions against the claims of other forms of order. Security relates to particular
orders, and not to order in general. If the order is relatively successful in establishing its values, then it can be said to be secure, or to have securityif it has not
been successful in a relative realisation of these values and institutions, then it can
be said to be insecure, or to suffer from insecurity. Thus, security itself cannot
be the aim or value of any particular order, or indeed even order as such. Security is only a reflection of the success of an order in realising its values and institutions in relation to any other order. Clearly, then, it should be concluded from
this that order is synonymous with the political, but not with the state. The state
represents a visible and powerful manifestation of order: orders (properly understood) are the constellations of political values. States are always political insofar
as they are one possible star in that constellation of order, but states do not define
the political, nor are they necessary to the political. Politics can exist without the
state, but the state cannot exist without the political. Additionally, we should note
that the notion of order (even when the state is identified as a core value) need
not be monistic. As suggested here, an order is a relationship between persons and values
which seeks to realise itself. As such, the order need not be built upon any single value.
Indeed, the order could be based upon the relationship between values. In this sense,
an order need not have a single core value (such as liberty, equality or fraternity), but be based around a complex relationship of these values. Therefore, the
order could (in principle) tolerate a degree of competition and disagreement within
its confines without this leading to the disintegration of the order. We might
even think of the members of orders as relating to each other in the same way as
sets are related on a Venn diagram. Whilst not all members of all sets overlap with
each other, all sets might overlap with at least one other set; thus, there is sufficient overlap for the sets to be related, although they do not correspond in all
As has been argued, an order, then, is a relationship between persons and values
which seeks to realise itself. Security is a barometer of the relative success of any
given order in realising its core values and relations. The impediment to any given



order realising its aims is the existence (even as a possibility) of other orders (i.e.
alternative sets or configurations of values). Thus, whether change, developments, impediments or threats are security issues is a political decision.20 It must
be a political decision as orders are (in their very nature) political entities, and the
threat is not to security per se, but to the potential realisation and maintenance of
any given order. No obstruction to the establishment of a particular order is a threat
in and of itself. An impediment which does not compromise the overall project of
the order might be tolerated or simply ignored. Some localised forms of impediment might even be encouraged and welcomed by an order, such as alliances,
covenants, treaties, promises, protocols, co-operative agreements, and even war, if
this helps to realise core values (cf. Clausewitz, 1968, 119, 122; Jervis 1983,
This focus on the defence of values as being intrinsic to an order was implicit as
far back as Thucydides. Robert J. Art, summarising Thucydides point, writes that
What was thus at stake for Sparta, if Athenian power grew too great, was not
simply safety from military attack but also the protection of Spartas moral values,
its way of life, and the material prosperity of its citizens (Art 1993, 821). Whilst
Sparta might well have feared physical attack, it also feared the loss of its way of
life and values. Thucydides observations are echoed still. Indeed, we can also see
the threat to values reflected in the ideology and rhetoric of contemporary times.21
For example, it is interesting to consider Henry R. Luces comments in Life where
the American Century is an expression of the fate of the US to lead the world not
only as a military power, but also in the values of spirituality, politics, culture and
economics. Thus, the picture presented is not simply a secure state, but an established way of life (Luce 1941). This kind of thinking can also be identified in the
uncompromising position of the Bush administration in 1992 at the Earth Summit
in Rio de Janeiro. Aides insisted that the United States standard of living is not
up for negotiation (The Independent on Sunday, 5 July 1992; The Guardian, 1 June
1992). Finally, in our current climate the need to defend values can be detected in
the speeches of Tony Blair, who claims that:
The best defence of our security lies in the spread of our values ...
freedom, democracy, the rule of law, religious tolerance and justice for
the oppressed ... we wage war relentlessly on those who would exploit
racial and religious division to bring catastrophe to the world (Blair 2004;
cf. also Lake 1994).
Thus, we can consider security threats as the declared obstructions to the realisation of values for members of orders. Whilst the use of this term is usually
reserved for the state, it is important to note that in principle other entities could
use this term such as the groups and associations that form civil society (e.g. businesses, religious movements or environmental groups). Here, the members of an
order make an explicit decision, and that decision is based upon whether the particular restriction of the practices of the order is severe enough actually to inhibit
and to destabilise the order in terms of a destruction or significant erosion of the
core values and relations of such a group. Such an erosion would destroy the particular order in essence, if not existentially.



Three things follow from this claim concerning the location and participants in the
decision that identifies the threat. As has been noted, whether something is
deemed to be a threat is a matter for the members of the order. This is to say, it is
a matter of political judgement. What might appear to be a threat to one kind of order
might not appear so to another. Thus, security threats are intersubjective in the
sense that their identification is a matter of judgement and perspective and involves
a degree of consensus. Second, it should also be underscored that the identification
of the threat is not really an identification of a threat to security per se (despite how
it might be expressed), but an impediment to the attempts of members of a particular order to realise their core values and relations. In connection with this, it is
also worth recalling that security cannot be a core value of any order, as the term
security does not have content as such. It is a reflection of the status of other values
(and especially core values), and not a positive value in its own right. Third, and
crucially, the identification of a security threat being an intersubjective judgement
of a particular order on what it deems as its values under threat is, above all else, a
political act. This is the case whether or not the order recognises itself as being political, or whether or not the order terms the security threat as a political threat. It is
political precisely because orders are born out of political decisions, agreements or
norms; that is to say, decisions relating to the establishment and pursuit of values
and relations. Indeed, the security threat is political in two senses. First, it is connected to the realisation and preservation of previously acquired political values;
second, it is invoked as a political decision (or act) by members of an order.
From this perspective, whilst it is not nonsensical to differentiate in our use of the
terms non-political, the political and securitisation, the three terms are related.
The identification of both the non-political and the identification of a security
issue are, in fact, political moves. Both the non-political and any securitisation
retain their political character by virtue of the fact that these realms are demarcated by the political. It might appear that they are depoliticised (that is to say
outside of the political), or not a matter for the political. However, all that this
amounts to is that a political move has been made to place certain spheres outside
of the cut and thrust of politics as an activity. This does not mean that these groups
really have lost their political character. Moreover, the apparent depoliticisation of
some issues or spheres is an important political move. By embarking on these
moves, an association, regime or community can raise the importance of certain
issues and relations, and provide more pressing and powerful justifications for
certain political moves and division of resources. Of course, by depoliticising a
section of its membership (for example, religious communities, or the family, or
certain cultural communities), then an order can also eliminate the need to deal
with threats to that community as security threats. In contrast, an order might
present certain security threats as being both objective and non-political. From
an analytical point of view these threats should not be viewed as either objective
or non-political. On the contrary, the identification of a security threat is the
political move par excellence: it is a defining of the core values and relations of the order
itself, either explicitly or tacitly (cf. Schmitt 1996, 26).
Thus we have returned to the core of what security is about. Security is a relational term which acts as an indication of the relative success or failure of any given



order to realise itself. Orders are a constellation of political values that are recognised and pursued intersubjectively by members of an order through their institutions. Thus, security itself is inherently political, and in its generic forms relates not
to specific referent objects (such as the individual or the state), but to the core
values of an order. It is here that our theoretical discussion rejoins and informs our
discussion of the rhetorical use of security, or how security bites. As we have seen,
it is important to undertake such an analysis as it provides a logical and theoretical framework for the term, which is separate (although related) to its de facto use.
This analysis provides the critic of contemporary political rhetoric with a more
powerful tool of analysis, and the framework for a clearer articulation for

IV. The Three Heads of Cerberus; or, How Security Bites

Having outlined the relational and inherently political nature of security, and its
logical relation order, this final section of the article will sketch a response to the
second question: How is it possible for security to bite?. Like Cerberus standing
between the earth and the Underworld, security stands in relation between two
orders; and just as Cerberus has three heads, security bites not simply in one, but
in three directions. First, security bites both specific members of orders and the
membership of orders in general. Security does this either by channelling and
directing their actions, or (in the most extreme cases) by actually excluding some
members of the order from participating in and realising the core values of the
order. Second, security bites in the sense that in identifying security threats some
members of an order develop a privileged position and come both to identify and
to define the core values of the order, and how they should be realised (cf. Waever
1995). Although distinct, the first two ways in which security bites are two sides
of the same conceptual coin. Finally, although security measures might be introduced to maintain and even realise the core values of an order, it is possible that
these measures work against or attack the core values of the order. In doing so
they risk transforming the order into a new entity.22 Here we are not simply concerned with the logic of the concept of security, but with how the logic of security
produces tangible effects.
Recalling our motif, it will be remembered that Cerberus was commissioned with
a dual task: preventing the shades of the Underworld from escaping to the world
of the living and preventing the living from venturing into the Underworld. Like
Cerberus, it has been argued that security is also commissioned with keeping separate orders distinct. That is to say, security is invoked in connection with the
realisation of the core values of a particular or given order in distinction to, and in
opposition to, any other order. It will also be noted that not all orders explicitly
invoke security, although all orders pursue their own survival. Additionally, some
orders can overlap or co-exist. Most orders can achieve this precisely because they
do not mutually undermine each others core values in any significant way, or even
share core values.
However, when security measures are invoked, the members of an order seek to
curtail the actions of their membership, and possibly even the membership itself.



Moreover, the members of the order seek to perpetuate their order in relation to
an identified alternative order. How far these invocations of security are seen as
being restrictive upon the members of an order depends entirely on how the
members of an order relate the measures to their understanding of the core values
of the order, and the possibilities of realising them. Members of orders can accept
all kinds of restrictions as long as they are understood to aim at a realisation of
the core values of the order. Indeed, many actions and moves that an order makes
will not be termed security measures, and will be seen by the membership as consistent with the core values of the order. As such they will not be viewed as alien,
dangerous or as interventions.23 Security measures arise precisely when the order
seeks to articulate its core values, or when these are brought into question. Whilst
an order might be relatively self-maintaining, it regulates its membership through
the pursuit of its core values. That is to say, the membership of an order is identified by their intersubjective subscription to core values, values which they seek to
realise through their institutions (broadly defined). However, when it is judged that
these core values are placed in jeopardy (which happens when they are brought
into conflict with, or subverted by, an alternative order), then the security measure
arises. The security measure can appear alien to some members of the order precisely because, for the measure to be invoked, the core values of the order (which
might otherwise remain merely vague and tacit) must be exposed and articulated.24
The first way, then, that security bites is in relation to the members of a given
order. Security bites the external challengers of a given order through conflict and
control (the termination point of which might manifest in physical violence, conflict or war); however, it also has the capacity to bite the members of a given order
through general restrictions and controls (such as detention, imprisonment and
even exclusion from core values).25
This first bite leads to the second. Indeed, the first and second ways in which security bites are conceptually related. For a security threat to emerge, and for measures or sanctions to be enacted in relation to it, it has to be declared. As Ole
Waever has argued, security is not simply a concept, but it is also a speech-act
(Waever 1995). This is also consequent from the subjective nature of the identification of the security threat. It is this declaration of the security threat, and the
power to enforce its general acceptance and compliance, that constitutes the second
bite.26 However, what is important about this logical claim is that the core values
of the order are viewed as being common to all, even if orders could exist where
core values overlap like the sets displayed on a Venn diagram. In practice, values
might remain tacit; that is to say, we all think that we agree until we attempt to
discuss exactly how we agree. This conceptual framework helps us to expose
further the relationship between security and order, and the basic relationships
between the members of an order and its core values. However, it is also recognised that other forces can be brought into play and that not all members or structures in that given order have the same ability to declare security threats and to
implement or impose security measures. For example, government or the state is
obviously one important and powerful site of such declarations in most actual
orders. In itself, this is not necessarily antithetical or corrosive to the core values
of an order. Indeed, that groups and structures such as government are recognised
within orders might be a reflection of the commonality of the members in sharing



core values.27 What this reflects is that particular members, groups or structures
can become privileged and even dominant within a given order. It is these groups
that position themselves as the identifiers of security threats, and who become the
instigators/initiators of security measures. However, in doing so, there is also the
attendant move for the group to identify itself not only as the identifiers of security
threats and the implementers of security measures, but also, and necessarily, as the
defenders and definers of the core values of the order.28
Security, then, is seen to bite not only the members of a given order in terms of
restrictions, directives and controls, but also in terms of empowering selected groups
and structures within a given order with a privileged position over other members
of the order. The ability to define a security threat to the core values of an order,
and to implement or impose security measures to defend or perpetuate those core
values, is simultaneously to enable certain structures and groups to take hold of
the core values of an order, that is to define the order itself, and to attack or chase
away potential challengers of that order, or potential power rivals.
In themselves, these first two bites might appear relatively unproblematic. Indeed,
clearly they are (potentially) more troubling to pluralistic or liberal orders than
they are to orders which edge towards monism and especially particular kinds of
conservative, anti-liberal or authoritarian orders. There is nothing inconsistent or
contradictory in an order assigning a group or structure with a privileged position
in identifying security threats and proposing measures to combat these threats. If
the core values of a given order revolve around especially authoritarian themes
then this would necessarily follow. For pluralistic and liberal orders these bites are
more serious as they might run against the core values of those orders, especially
if they revolve around the themes of individualism, autonomy, equality, democracy and the rule of law. Clearly, whilst some groups (such as governments) might
be sanctioned by these core values, the practice of governmental power might be
extended too far.
Having seen the first two bites of security, let us now confront the third. It is the
third bite which is potentially lethal to any given order, and represents a mortal
danger to the core values of orders. It is with the third bite that we recognise the
tension implicit in the location of, and relation between, the first two bites. With
the third bite we must consider the relationship between the privileged groups
within an order as being able to declare both the security threat and the core values,
and the result of this declaration and implementation of measures for those core
values and therefore the order itself. The question now arises as to how far the
declaration and defence of core values transform the core values and therefore the
order itself.
This issue demands a keen focus. It has already been claimed that an order is a
relationship between persons and values which seeks to realise itself. Furthermore,
whilst orders can overlap, they are also frustrated in their attempts at selfrealisation through the presence and objectives of some other orders. What the first
two bites of security bring to light is the idea that orders are not simply corroded
from outside, but that orders can also be attacked from within. If it is true that an
order rests on the relationship between persons and values, then it is also clear
that in declaring the security threat, the privileged groups within an order are also



declaring what the core values of the order are. As such they have the potential
not only to define, but also to modify and reassign those core values. This can be
seen in the common move of declaring that liberties must be sacrificed in order to
achieve greater security.29 If this is the case, then we might be tempted to ask, what
exactly is being secured here? Surely not liberties, as these are exactly what are
being eroded or withdrawn in the name of security. From the perspective developed here, the declaration that liberty must be exchanged for security is misleading, and is actually masking a variety of political moves. First, it covers the
political move that the privileged group is actually declaring the security threat in
relation to its notion of the core values, and thus reinforcing its own status. Second,
it is masking the political value judgement that liberty is an inferior value when
compared to some others within the order. Third, it is masking the fact that in
making these moves, the order itself is being changed. That is to say, security is
often invoked in relation to core values, but core values which are then sacrificed
for the sake of security. As the framework developed here has exposed, talk of such
a trade-off is confused as security is a relational term which points to the success
of the realisation of core values; it is not an end in and of itself which can be invoked
as a value.

Conclusion: Bringing Security to Light

Finally, then, security is brought to light. Using the motif of Cerberus, the threeheaded monster-dog who guards the entrance of the House of Hades, we have
explored two questions relating to the theme of security. The primary question
which was explored in detail is, What does security mean?. It has been argued
that security is related to order and is a reflection not of a positive value in and
of itself, but the relative success of the membership of any given order to realise
its core values and institutions in comparison to other orders. Therefore, security
is found to be like Cerberus insofar as it exists not in its own right, but only in
relation between two (or more) orders. Additionally, securitisation is a political
move; it rests upon not the objectivity or foreclosing of the threat, but the intersubjective identification of the core values of any given order.
Having located security within this conceptual framework, we then addressed the
second question: How does security bite?. Here we were concerned with the logic
of the effects of security. Again, the motif of Cerberus was employed suggesting
that security bites in three ways: first, that specific measures of security control
the members of the order; second, that the identification of security threats reinforce certain persons and structures of the order as being the defenders and definers of the order; and finally, that the implementation of certain security measures
can change and transform the order itself, tearing it away from its core values and
Thus, we are able to link the conceptual analysis undertaken in the first three
quarters of this article to the very real concerns of those who are engaged with
challenging or defending the actions and discourse of orders on the contemporary
political stage. We have followed that incline into the House of Hades, and
attempted to bring the monster watchdog Cerberus to light. Despite its dreadful



aspects, security is not, and cannot be, a value or objective in and of itself. Security cannot be attained either in general or particular terms; the attainment of
security is always simply shorthand for the realisation or pursuit of another value.
Despite the rhetoric of politicians, and the arguments of some theorists, there can
be no trade-off between liberty and security, but only a repositioning of liberty
in our constellation of core values. What is more, security threats do not exist in
and of themselves, but have to be identified, and it is in this identification that
certain groups emerge as dominant actors within orders. Security is not an apolitical issue, but concerns the realisation of core values; as such it is the political
move par excellence. Finally, in misunderstanding the political foundations of security and its relationship to order, we stand in the presence of a danger. That danger
is the risk that we trade away our values for monstrous shadowsand that we lose
what is valuable about politics itself.

About the Author

Dr Graham M. Smith, Department of Politics and International Relations, County South, Cartmel
College, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YL, email:

1. I am grateful to the members of POLSIS at the University of Queensland (April 2004), and participants at Lancaster Universitys Security Bytes conference (July 2004), who engaged with presentations
of an earlier draft of this piece. I would also like to acknowledge the comments and criticisms of
Alan Metcalfe, Gerd Nonneman, Eric Grahn, and especially those of Adam David Morton. Finally, I
would also like to acknowledge the assessments of the four anonymous reviewers of this piece who
have helped me to clarify my position in important ways.
2. Instances of such concerns can be found in Wolfers (1962); Morgenthau (1966); Bull (1977); Jervis
(1978); Buzan (1984); with Mearsheimers article of 1990 forming a Janus-faced endpoint to this
3. Such as McSweeney on identity (1999); Mathews on environmental security (1989); Deese on
economic security (19791980); and Thomas and Wilkin on human security (1999); see also
Campbell and Dillon (1993); Krause and Williams (1997); Lipschutz (1995).
4. This line of concern has been an ongoing theme in the discussions of the liberal press. For example:
In terror of Blunketts security measures (The Guardian, 3 February 2004); An authoritarian state
is in the process of construction (The Guardian, 23 February 2004); One step forward, several steps
back in the fight to protect civil liberties (The Independent, 26 February 2004); Take no comfort in
this warm blanket of security (The Guardian, 15 March 2004); Aliens in their own country (The
Guardian, 1 April 2004); Mr Blunketts plans for ID cards are costly, illiberal and will not be effective (The Independent, 26 April 2004); Half of terror suspects are freed without any charges (The
Independent, 30 April 2004); David Blunkett has betrayed the trust of all those who care about civil
liberties (The Independent, 23 June 2004).
5. There are, however, some notable exceptions. For examples of those who have attempted to theorise the concept of security, consult: Ullman (1983); Rothschild (1995); Baldwin (1997); McSweeney
(1999). Additionally, Buzan, Waever and Wilde (1998) can also be considered to be such an attempt.
Smith (2005) gives an overview of the attempts to refocus security by the main players in the debates
to broaden and deepen the notion.
6. A point, we might add, which was not wasted on Hobbes or Schmitt. For example, consider the
rights of the sovereign outlined by Hobbes in Chapter 18 of Leviathan; and this is echoed by Schmitt
who opens his Political Theology with the infamous claim that Sovereign is he who decides the exception (Schmitt 1988, 5). Indeed, in these thinkers security is seen to intersect with the theory and
practices of power and sovereignty.
7. To see how others have treated these connections cf. der Derian (1993); McSweeney (1999, 1322);
Rothschild (1995).



8. As explored in section II, the subject of security (or the referent object) has been much debated
in security literature, and has ranged from the individual, to the state, to humanity and even the
9. It should not be assumed that these values are necessarily those which would be accessible to the
sober-minded theorist. Whilst liberty, equality and the rule of law could form the basis of the
core values of an order, it could equally be a less conceptually sharp constellation. Such a constellation could perhaps shine with the fuzzy but emotionally intense energy of traditions and feelings
such as nationalism, history, religion or language.
10. An example of this can be found in the discussion and development of the idea of human security
in the United Nations Human Development Report of 1994 (United Nations 1994, ch. 2). Whilst this
concern with human security might appear to be a new focus for security (especially after the dominance of the realist paradigm of the cold war) it is important to remember that this approach has
deeper historical roots. For example, Rothschild traces this approach back to the thought of Enlightenment liberalism (Rothschild 1995, 6567). However, in one sense human security is the implicit
theme of nearly all political theory in the western tradition which attempts to give an account of
the good life and how that life can be realised, or secured (cf. Wilkin 2001, 47). This is reflected in
the eudemonia of Aristotle, the Christian polities of Augustine and Aquinas and the rationalism of
Hobbes and Locke, both of whom explicitly name security as an end of government, and the desire
of the individual (Hobbes, Leviathan, ch. 18; Locke 1963, 39599).
11. This has also been reflected in the thinking of Boutros-Ghali in An Agenda for Peace (UN Document
A747/277), and the World Commission on Environment and Development in Our Common Future
12. Ayoob maintains that, unlike most first world states, third world states face largely internal conflicts
which can become interstate conflicts. For Ayoob, the solution to this insecurity is for third world
states to engage in state building (Ayoob 1995, 78; Ayoob 1997, 128129). Thus, in Ayoobs account,
the state, which is not only the conceptual but also the historically de facto referent of security (Ayoob
1997, 131), becomes both the referent of security and the provider of security for all other levels
(Ayoob 1995, 89).
13. For example, despite highlighting the observation that there is no necessary harmony between individual and national security and that The unavoidability of this contradiction between individual
and national security must be emphasised, Buzan goes on to conclude that individual security is
essentially subordinate to higher-level political structures of state and international system (Buzan
1991, 50, 51, 54).
14. Here we can learn an important lesson concerning moving from an is to an ought from David Hume
(2000, 302).
15. This state-centric bias (which is expedient if they are to keep realists on board) prevents them from
explicitly admitting that security is a political issue; that is to say, an issue which rests on political
moves. As such it does not lead to an endorsement of emergency measures beyond rules that otherwise bind. In fact, the provision for certain groups to identify a security threat is a provision that
has already been determined by the political. The identification of the security threat is not a move
beyond the normal political moves that usually bind, but is a normal political move (cf. Hobbes
1968, 232; Clausewitz 1974, 109, 119; Schmitt 1996, 45ff.). What is important here is that the
account of Buzan et al. falters because it refuses to recognise that security is a political issue other
than in a restricted state-centric sense of that term.
16. A point that Levy (1995) uses as a pivot on which to swing his own attack on the concept of environmental security as divorced from the interests of the nation state.
17. Wilkin is notable in being more explicit about this. For example, consider the claims that he makes
in The Political Economy of Global Communication that an integral aspect of human security is the attainment of human autonomy and the possibility of meaningful participation in the institutions and procedures that shape political, economic and cultural life (Wilkin 2001, 6). Although Wilkin attacks
those who would limit security to a realist and state-centric agenda (Wilkin 2001, 7ff.), his own
definition of human security does not (logically) exclude security also being understood from this
perspectivealthough it is clearly a perspective from which Wilkin recoils. Thus, Wilkins conception of human security is simultaneously both a conceptual or analytical tool and a political ideal.
18. See Note 8.
19. I am especially grateful to members of POLSIS at the University of Queensland who encouraged me
to tease out this point when I delivered an earlier version of this article to them in April 2004.
20. To elaborate and illustrate this point: whilst liberalism and Christianity might be said to co-exist,
liberalism has identified certain forms of religious fundamentalism and socialism as its special threat.
However, Christianity could become a security threat to liberalism if it were to promote certain forms
of equality, spirituality and resistance to the power and moral authority of the state. Indeed, whilst



it was by no means a liberal order, this is how Christianity was initially viewed by the Roman Empire,
and this was the basis for the disputes of the Middle Ages. Both of these periods reflect a struggle
between Christianity and sovereign orders; both of these periods illustrate the struggle between
two conceptions of order (Held 1997, 70106; McClelland 1998, 278279; W. Ullman 1961, 1926).
Additionally, these struggles might serve to unsettle the seemingly supportive relationship between
Christianity and the sovereign power of the modern state; moreover, they might also question the
dominance of the modern state itself.
21. It is important to note the thrust of the argument here. It is recognised that de facto political entities act as if security is an end in itself or a goal, and that (historically) this has important consequences. However, in acting in this way states (and their theorists) betray a degree of conceptual
confusionand it is this confusion which compounds the force of those effects. What is being
attempted here is a clarification of the idea of security in order to provide a tool for identifying and
understanding how security is used and abused in both thought and practice.
22. What is important to note here is that whilst these bites might not be fatal in and of themselves,
they are more serious for certain kinds of order, which is to say, certain configurations of value. A
monistic order, which is also especially illiberal or extremely repressive, might not be unduly troubled by the first two of these bites. However, for pluralistic orders, and especially those which are
liberal in nature, all three of these bites are serious, and especially the last. This is especially true
for orders which celebrate and promote the tropes of liberty, equality, the rule of law and
23. Lockes understanding of tacit consent to the law (which is a security issue) is a fair example of this.
24. One contemporary example of this is the debate in the UK over immigration and the effects of the
European Union. Both of these issues challenge the hazy core value of Britishness. What is noteworthy here is that whilst the former issue is often seen in terms of security, the latter is not. This
is telling because (at face value) both issues can be seen to compromise the integrity of the British
way of life, and in the case of the EU (from one perspective at least) the British state itself is having
its sovereignty challenged. However, whilst politicians often cite immigration as a potential security
issue with an emphasis on the need to maintain core values and the integrity of borders, security
rhetoric tends not to be used in debates about the influence of the EU, even though there are worries
from some quarters over both immigration and border controls.
25. Again, the instance of immigration and especially asylum seekers and terror suspects is a clear
example of this. Whilst proclaiming themselves to be the defenders of liberty, democracy and human
rights, some liberal democratic states (such as the UK, US and Australia) are demonstrating a willingness to exclude individuals from the realisation of these ideals.
26. The declaration of the security threat could (in principle) be made by any member of the order.
Indeed, in the theoretical Hobbesian state of nature we are asked to imagine an order exactly where
this is the case (i.e. a state where each individual decides on what is a threat to their life and wellbeing).
27. Again the models offered by Hobbes and Locke are good examples. Clearly the core value that the
members of the Hobbesian order share is that of the preservation of life and predictable use of power.
In order to achieve this they are prepared to forego their natural rights. The Lockean account of
order is more interesting to the argument in hand, as in that account Locke does not simply give an
account of government and the state, but he also bases this account on a developed understanding
of civil society, and the role of non-political actors such as the church, family and commercial
28. Whilst this analysis draws on Waevers notion of security as a speech-act, it also deviates in significant ways from Waevers account. It is not possible to develop a full account of those differences
here, but it is possible to raise the differences as two general points. First, whilst it is accepted here
that in contemporary times the state is an historically important and powerful performer of the
speech-act of security, our current perspective stresses that there are other actors capable of speaking security, both theoretically and de facto. Thus, contrary to Waever, it is not claimed here that
The concept of security refers to the state, or that Security ... has to be read through the lens of
national security (Waever 1995, 49, original emphasis). It is indeed true that, in order to understand
the historical way that security has been used and thought about since the consolidation of the state
system, then this kind of analysis is necessary. What is contested here is that a historical account of
security must be pursued exclusively from this perspective (cf. Rothschild 1995), or that this is the
only way to theorise security. The second point relates to Waevers understanding of the political,
which he shares with Buzan and de Wilde (Buzan et al. 1998). In particular, Waever employs the
notions of societal security and political security (Waever 1995, 6571). However, whilst Waever
makes a distinction between societal and political security, he also explicitly links the idea of the
political to the idea of the state (Waever 1995, 66). Additionally, Waever goes on to argue that State
security has sovereignty as its ultimate criterion, and societal security has identity (Waever 1995, 67,
original emphasis). The perspective developed here argues for a greater differentiation between the



state and the political than Waevers account seems willing to concede. Specifically, whilst the state
is an important political actor, the two terms are not synonymous. Moreover, the attempt to divide
the societal and the political, and to assign separate security concerns, both presupposes certain
political values, and is an important political move in itself.
29. This kind of thinking occurs at three loci. In the history of ideas it is instanced in the thought of
such figures as Hobbes (1968), Locke (1963) and Rousseau (1968). In contemporary scholarly literature it is echoed by Wolfers (1962, 158), Mearsheimer (1990, 44) and Ayoob (1997, 126). Finally,
at the level of political rhetoric, it is a common theme purported by Blunkett, Blair and George W.
Bush (cf. America way out of order on War on Terror, The Times, 20 November 2001; No, not quite
a dictatorship, The Economist, 8 December 2001; Dont give terrorists the gift of bad laws, The Independent on Sunday, 9 December 2001); and by Blunkett himself (Freedom and security are two essentials that citizens look to the government to provide. Whatever balance is struck, someone will be
unhappy. But negative attitudes to the state simply distort the debate, The Guardian, 14 September
2002; Heading in the wrong direction, The Economist, 8 March 2003; A question of freedom, The
Economist, 8 March 2003; Kennedy: Ministers using terror threat to erode civil liberties, The Independent, 26 October 2004; Blunkett warns of growing danger: UK government Chancellor to maintain security, The Guardian, 13 March 2004). This understanding of security as an end-in-itself
which can be balanced or traded off with other ends is also accepted by such figures as Louise
Arbour (United Nations, Human Rights Vision and Promise Under Considerable Strain, Says High
5761F3C22335D3EFC1256F65007782D2?opendocument, Internet; accessed 9.12.04).

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