The discipline of security studies has been divided on the view of “wide” and “narrow” definitions of security since the post-Cold War era. The believers widening of the theory argues that the scope of security issues should digress to other areas like environmental and/or economic issues. However, the traditionalists believe that the study of security, if widened to such a broader scope, will lose its focus and will become more dangerous to a nation’s security.
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Buzan, Waever and de Wilde (1998) have tried to establish a framework incorporating both the arguments of the liberals and the traditionalists. Thus they put forth the idea that the definition of security need to be expanded, however, the expansion must be restricted to the economic or environmental activities related to military security alone.
In defining security, Buzan et al. suggest that military security traditionally is associated with a threat to existence, and to retaliate it, usually force is used. In the liberal sense, security may mean a threat to the state’s ideology and/or principles (Buzan, Waever & de Wilde 1998). Thus the relation of security is done with existentialism by the traditionalists. Here it can be argued that threat to ideology or constitutional principle is important as in the case of the European Union (EU) whose existence may be threatened by the advent of events that may try to elevate the integrated system.
The issue of security and its relation to existence has been related by the authors to different sectors viz. political, economic, military, and environmental. In the case of political survival the authors directed at survival of state ideology. For instance, the sovereignty of the government can be treated by anything or anybody who questions or doubts it. Thus, if one doubts the existence of the EU, it will cease to be. Thus recognition is essential for political will to exist. Similarly, in the case of the economic sector, the security of a nation’s economy will be threatened in case of a war. Therefore, the existence of economic well-being is related to military existentialism.
Societal security is threatened when collective identity is changed by internal or external forces, which may be viewed as heretical or existential threats. For instance the case of communism changing the nature of Czarist Russia. The upheaval during the communist movement which changed the whole course of the country was viewed as a threat to the societal norms of the erstwhile Russian society. Again, the case of skinheads in Germany must be mentioned. They are a neo-nazi group who believe in the ethnic cleansing of the Germans and thus have been attacking the immigrants to the country. This poses a threat as the immigrants drive in Germany due to the country’s open-door policy, however, are threatened by attacks by these groups which causes a threat to the security provided to them by the government.
According to the authors, the act of securitization and what should be securitized depends on the nation. Some nations will securitize religion (e.g. Middle Eastern countries), while others culture (former USSR), while others none of the two (the UK, the Netherlands). Thus, they believe securitization solely depends on the need and priorities of the countries. Therefore, they define security as “a self-referential practice, because it is in this practice that the issues become security issue – not necessarily because a real existential threat exists but because the issue is presented as such a threat.” (Buzan, Waever & de Wilde 1998)
The study of security, thus, according to Buzan et al. is textual and thus assumes the character of discourse study. They argue that if by making a simple issue an issue of threat, an actor successfully breaks the law and political structure of the nation, it is effectively a case of securitization. Thus they state:
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“A discourse that takes the form of presenting something as an existential threat to a referent object does not by itself create scrutinization – this is a securitizing move, but the issue is securitized only if and when the audience accepts it as such.” (Buzan, Waever & de Wilde 1998)
By this, the authors mean that securitization is not completely solely by breaking rules or by existential threats, rather due to existential threats that legitimize the breaking of rules. Thus for a successful securitization, the authors believe, there must be three elements: existential threats, emergency action, and effects on interunit relations due to breaking of the rules.
More explicitly, security is a generic term, though its exact meaning varies from sector to sector. Thus Bezan et al. evaluate the meaning of securitization for the different sectors.
In the case of societal security, the threat is perceived by a community when it feels that its existence is under threat. For instance, in the case of Jews in Nazi Germany. Here the case of Jews is acceptable because the definition as presented by Bezan et al. is not based on the nation, rather on a community. They define societal security as “large, self-sustaining identity groups” which differ from place to place. For instance the dispute between the Irish and British in the UK or the dispute between Israel and Palestinians. Here the root cause of the dispute lies in the threat of the Irish is that the British want to erase their cultural identity, and so in the case of the Israelis, who believe that the predominately Arab dominated region (the Middle East along with Palestine) want to drive them (Jews) out of their land.
The societal threats that have been described by the authors are migration, horizontal competition, and vertical competition. Migration is a huge source of problems for European countries like Germany or Norway where immigrants from turkey orte CIS countries flock in to take refuge. Such mass infiltration of migration in the national boundaries has raised the question of the threat that these migrant populations caused to the citizens. Examples of large-scale immigration which threatened the cultural identity of the nation have been seen in the case of Chinese migration in Tibet and Russian migration in various European countries.
Horizontal competition implies that one country will be influenced hugely by the language and culture of the neighboring country. Such instance has been observed in the case of Canadians fearing Americanization. Another that can be viewed in this regard is the Muslimification of the UK, where the ratio of people belonging to the Islamic religion has been increasing constantly. Vertical competition arises when one country ceases to believe in these older ways and a new identity formation happens. For instance the case of inclusion of Yugoslavia in the EU. In a way, vertical competition is most intense in the case of vertical integration as was in the case of the EU. Here the force is centripetal, where Yugoslavia willingly joins the EU. In another case, was the capture of Poland to Germany during Second World War. In this case, the force is centrifugal.
In conclusion, it can be said that the concept of societal security may vary from one nation to another depending on their identity and the nature of the creation of their identity. Therefore the level of security and the feeling of security that a nation feels depends on many factors. For instance, if a country, like Finland, is based the identity of separateness will be threatened by the advent of foreigners. Again in the case of Serbia in Kosovo, they are controlled by the state alone by a small number, so a larger influx of Russians with greater fertility would threaten their identity.
Buzan, B, Waever, O & de Wilde, J 1998, Security: A new Framework for Analysis, Lynne Reiner, Boulder, Colorado.