Nice little addition to the universal oeuvre, although quite far out on the spectrum of the role spirituality plays. I find it hard to reconcile thisNice little addition to the universal oeuvre, although quite far out on the spectrum of the role spirituality plays. I find it hard to reconcile this with a society that can make sentient AIs, but it is quite plausible that a large enough "human" population could encompasses both at once....more
I heard about this on the KQED Forum podcast. I'm curious whether he tapped into the research of Dan Kahan, but the book sounds interesting regardlessI heard about this on the KQED Forum podcast. I'm curious whether he tapped into the research of Dan Kahan, but the book sounds interesting regardless....more
At the heart of this book is the Regional Security Complex Theory.
Briefly, and with substantial trivializations:
• Once upon a time, the cold war betweAt the heart of this book is the Regional Security Complex Theory.
Briefly, and with substantial trivializations:
• Once upon a time, the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union was so worrisome, due to the very real threat of nuclear armageddon, that the only analysis of security that mattered was at the global scale. Even local conflicts could quickly turn into proxy wars of the superpowers, which was even more true of regional conflicts.
• During this time of darkness, some light was perceived. The very plausibility of military conflict was diminishing between a growing number of states. The European Community, North America, and Japan, appeared to have entered into peaceful relationships that realist theory claimed was more or less impossible.
» "Security" (or, more often, insecurity) could be thought of as an arrow pointing from one state to another which it considered an ally or enemy.
» States will tend to have these relationships much more often with states they are neighbors with.
» If you draw all these arrows on a map, they will form "patterns of amity and enmity", which in turn trace out regional "security complexes".
• To the surprise of many, that nasty cold war came to an end. That meant that the single remaining superpower had much less reason to meddle in the affairs of other states (hah!), since it no longer needed to fight proxy wars. And that meant that regional and local security issues suddenly became much more interesting.
• Working with another clever research from Copenhagen, Ole Wæver, the idea of those security complexes was refined to come in various flavors, from conflict formation through security regime to security community.
• After some criticism, they the refined their thinking about what those "arrows" might be, creating the much more sophisticated securitization theory in another book, Security: A New Framework for Analysis.
Security: A New Framework for Analysis is a very important book in many schools of the social sciences, even if its origins lie in international relSecurity: A New Framework for Analysis is a very important book in many schools of the social sciences, even if its origins lie in international relations. The securitization that it defines has become, through several evolutions, on of the dominant lenses through which security and insecurity are studied.
“Security” and “insecurity” have a lot of meanings, but one easy way to think of this is that the feeling of security means one perceives no threats. So security studies are an examination of what is threatened, and by whom. The securitization framework in the book lays out an explicit methodology intended to identify the components that go into that threat.
It starts by locating “securitization” on the spectrum of politicization. At one end lie topics which aren’t politicized at all. For example, whether parents read bedtime stories to their children is not currently something that is part of public debate. Formerly, child abuse or spousal rape weren’t either, but they’ve since been politicized, and so are discussed as things which are, potentially, subject to public policy. Securitization lies at the other end of the spectrum, when something becomes so threatening that “normal” discussions need to be avoided. As in: “The house is on fire; now is not the time to worry about whether we’ve got enough fire insurance coverage.” Or, more pertinent: “Hannibal is leading his elephants over the Alps. Do you really think it is useful to discuss our relationship with Carthage?”
There are two key elements in that transformation that Buzan et al. make explicit many times in the book. First, there must be an existential threat that kicks the issue out of normal political debate. Second, the situation must be an emergency, not just threatening. While climate change might indeed be an existential threat for civilization, for existence, discussion about how to deal with it goes on, ergo it hasn’t been “securitized” as an issue. (Although those living on an island sinking below sea level might feed differently.) The emergency aspect also permits, critically, permission for “breaking the rules” — violating established norms, procedures, or even laws.
Securitization contains its own methodology as well. There are a number of specific components which should (must?) be identified in the analysis. Underlying this is the idea that insecurity is an emotion — something humans have, not something organizations have. Since it is essentially subjective, and shared, the term “intersubjective” raises its unruly grin.
Securitization — at least as it is officially defined in this book — is the result of an intersubjective agreement between whoever raises the concern that there is a threat and the appropriate audience, who approves that message as well as the conclusion that “breaking the rules” is appropriate.
So the components are:
• The securitizing actor. This is the individual who points to the threat and makes a lot of noise about it. It actually doesn’t have to be a human individual; it could be a committee or other group acting in unison. But that’s still the term.
• The threat. What is it that is being pointed at as threatening? Be specific, dammit!
• The referent object. What is being threatened? This will often be something tightly affiliated to the securitizing actor, but not necessarily. For example, when the United States was gathering partners and approval for the 1991 Gulf War, the actor was (nominally) George H.W. Bush, whereas the referent object was the territorial integrity of the Middle East, with the entailed risk of destabilization of the price of oil.
• The speech act. This is the sales pitch wherein the securitizing actor makes clear what that threat is. Does it have to be one explicit and unitary speech? Well, no, and not even actually a speech. The devil, it turns out, is in the details. More on that later.
• The audience. The community that receives the speech act and approves of the need for emergency action to deal with the existential threat.
• Facilitating conditions. These are other factors with either are necessary or contributory to the success of the securitization. For example, the Soviet Union or China could have vetoed the United Nations sanction of the counterattack against Iraq via a Security Council veto, but they didn’t.
• The intended outcome. Well, strictly speaking, this book never mentions this. It might be implied in the speech act, but some theorists using this framework want this separated. Given that the component analysis is one of the strengths of this methodology over a holistic security analysis, this makes sense.
An especially crucial aspect of Buzan et al.’s securitization theory is sectoral widening. In most of the history of Security Studies, the focus has been on the country, and specifically the offensive and defensive use of the military. This pattern came under stress due to a lot of modern changes, foremost among them the economic “insecurity” from globalized trade patterns, environmental “insecurity”, and social insecurity that arose as the European Community struggled to become the European Union, and especially salient as migrants and refugees transform societies.
This book makes quite clear that this securitization framework can be applied to other contexts:
Generally speaking, the military security concerns the two-level interplay of the armed offensive and defensive capabilities of states, and states’ perceptions of each others’ intentions. Political security concerns the organizational stability of states, systems of governments and the ideologies that give them legitimacy. Economic security concerns access to the resources, finance and markets necessary to sustain acceptable levels of welfare and state power. Societal security concerns the sustainability, within acceptable conditions for evolution, of traditional patterns of language, culture and religious and national identity and custom. Environmental security concerns the maintenance of the local and the planetary biosphere as the essential support system on which all other human enterprises depend (page 8).
Using the framework in a state-centric analysis is pretty clear.
In the run-up to the 1991 Gulf War, the components were: • The securitizing actor. The primary actor in this role was the U.S. President, although sometimes others took part, too. Thomas Pickering, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, would have been negotiating with China and the Soviet Union, for example.
• The threat. Saddam Hussein had just invaded another country, Kuwait, which meant that someone who thought territorial expansion via war was a pretty cool idea. At the time, he controlled one of the largest armies in the world, and now he was sitting right next to Saudi Arabia, and would have no problem overwhelming that country as well. He claimed he wasn’t interested in that, but that’s what Hitler said, wasn’t it?
• The referent object. President Bush quite explicitly said that the “acquisition of territory by force is unacceptable”, but everyone knew the world looked the other way quite often. He also happened to mention the global dependence on oil, and everyone nodded, yup.
• The speech act. Lotsa speeches were made. The book makes a big point of how speech acts are performative, and can create “social magic”, and there’s a really interesting discussion in footnote 5 on page 46, pulling in Bourdieu and Butler and Derrida. This could point to a speech Bush made on television to the United States, but it doesn’t seem too useful to narrow it down, although in other cases a textual analysis of a speech or speeches could be very interesting.
• The audience. The citizens of the United States were pretty supportive of the invasion, but then it turned out Kuwait had paid a U.S. public relations firm to create some really nasty anti-Iraq propaganda. The Senate approved action 52 to 47, and later complained they’d been swayed by that same propaganda. Which audience was important?
• Facilitating conditions. As mentioned earlier, the Soviet Union or China didn’t veto this. Why? It’s believed that the Soviet Union, facing imminent dissolution, wanted to play nice with the developed nations they might soon need help from, and China was still mending their relationship after Tiananmen. It would be difficult to find empirical evidence to support either of those, perhaps, but the assertion can still be useful.
• The intended outcome. The go-ahead to counterattack Hussein’s forces was the goal. In some alternate reality, this might have been enough to persuade him to retire his forces, avoiding war. So war, per se, wasn’t the goal, although it was the obvious outcome of that permission and Hussein’s intransigence.
But it is illustrative to use the same framework in non-military sectors:
Consider the takeover in early 2016 of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. » The securitizing actor was Ammon Bundy, et al.; » The threat was an over-powerful Federal government; » The referent object was an idealization of “real America”; » The speech acts were the manifestos and proclamations calling for an uprising; » The audience was the collection of “true Americans” Bundy et al. thought only needed a push to revolt; » Facilitating conditions included mistrust of Obama and the Federal government; and » The intended outcome was a grassroots “Constitutional” revolution.
In this case, the securitization failed because the expected audience either didn’t exist, or wasn’t persuaded that the situation wasn’t yet dire enough to warrant this kind of “breaking the rules”.
Consider the effort to prevent Donald Trump from securing the GOP nomination, specifically through manipulation of the primary process, perhaps including a brokered convention. » The securitizing actors were the GOP elites; » The threat was of a Trump nomination; » The referent object was the Republican identity; » The speech acts were the overt and covert #StopTrump and #AnyoneButTrump campaigns; » The audience was the GOP delegates who might cooperate in the manipulation; » Facilitating conditions included media complicity; and » The intended outcome was the denial of the nomination of the presumptive candidate.
In this case, the securitization has probably failed because it would have required Trump to only have a plurality, and the withdrawal of all the other candidates seems guaranteed to give him a pure majority.
Consider the pro-life/anti-abortion movement, specifically the violence that is associated with that movement; » The securitizing actors are the extremists among pro-life leadership; » The threat is of the societal tolerance of abortion; » The referent object is “pre-born children”; » The speech acts are the explicit association of abortion with murder; » The audience is extreme believers among conservative Christians; » Facilitating conditions include the ambivalence of U.S. society on the ethical nature of abortion; and » The intended outcome is the killing of those performing or assisting abortion, and the deterrence of abortion.
In this case, the securitization has largely succeeded, resulting in sporadic violence, which is then dismissed as aberrant and the result of disturbed individuals and unconnected to the overall campaign.
Securitization as a methodology is a powerful forensic tool. Examination of the components that make up a securitization event creates a finer-grained analysis than in most analyses, and a subsequent discussion can involve disagreements at the component level. Even so, many situations won’t permit that level of granularity. For example, when the Bush administration “broke the rules” with “extraordinary renditions” and torture, there was clearly something akin to a securitization happening, but it was hidden within the workings of the military and security agencies.
Securitization as an explanatory theory has different problems. Buzan et al. claim on one hand that it isn’t a securitization unless there is an intersubjective agreement the actor and appropriate audience, but in other places state that the critical elements are just the existential threat and emergency. While all the ideas herein are powerful and provocative, there’s quite a bit of theoretical and practical confusion.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a revised edition that addresses these concerns, so any social theorist using securitization needs to start with this book, and discover those critiques and their answers that are most pertinent to their cases. Hopefully this oversight will someday be remedied, although I think it is more likely that the accumulation of problems is insurmountable, and the usages of these concepts will sadly continue to propagate and diverge. ...more
I’ve got a book recommendation: Misbehaving, the making of behavioral economics by Richard H. Thaler. The standard economics (that you may have learned in college) is based on the notion that markets are made up of rational actors who use all the publicly available information to make the best possible individual decisions. Everybody knows that’s not strictly true, but since the 1950s economists have held that it’s a good-enough assumption for making economic predictions.
Since the 1970s, Thaler’s career has revolved around poking holes in that worldview. In other words, he’s been looking for and documenting situations where the quirky decision-making of real human beings leads to results very different than the rational-actor models constructed by economists.
Not only is that an interesting topic that has all sorts of fascinating real-world applications (including the over-valuing of high draft picks in the NFL), but Thaler is a marvelous story-teller. His stories — of experiments in human decision-making, and of his attempts to introduce more realistic thinking into the stuffy and self-important world of academic economists — are consistently amusing. The book’s ongoing theme is that whether you are talking about contestants on Dutch game shows or University of Chicago business school professors choosing offices in a new building, people are funny — and you can’t really understand the world until you account for the predicable ways that people are funny.
The title has a wonderful double meaning: Economic models can fail when humans “misbehave” by not making the supposedly rational choices the model calls for. But by pointing out such embarrassing glitches, Thaler was also “misbehaving” according to the community standards of economists. So his career is a story of successful rebellion.
Finally, there’s political significance to the revolution Thaler has been leading: Idealizing markets, and exaggerating the powers of the people who participate in them, tempts a person to turn all of society’s decision-making over to “the Market”. For decades, economists’ false assumptions have biased their analysis in favor of market-based solutions. But people who are still making those simplistic Econ-101 arguments in favor of free markets are behind the times. They are, as Keynes observed, “slaves of some defunct economist”.
Good book, but no longer recommended — too much has changed.
This is a well-written text on Iran's place in the world and a number of possible responseGood book, but no longer recommended — too much has changed.
This is a well-written text on Iran's place in the world and a number of possible responses the United States could take in response.
The difficulty is that the Middle East is a fast-changing region, and after only five years this no longer addresses some important contemporary issues.
• What does the surprising sweep of the reformist moderates in the election of Spring 2016 mean? Is this a temporary and tactical defeat of the conservative Islamist hardliners? Is it possible that some of the aging holy warriors of the revolutionary era are moderating their passion, as they see the suffering that extremism can cause? Does this provide an opening for the U.S. to pull Iran further along those lines?
• Like it or not, Iran is the most successful instance of a republican theocratic state, something most people probably thought would be a contradictory proposition. Iran is nowhere near eliminating the corruption of power politics, so the tensions between the religious and democratic aspects may never resolve. But if it is possible for Iran to evolve into a peaceful republican theocracy, that means a future Middle East could resolve the state-religion conflict in a way much different than the European Westphalian solution.
• Oil, the commodity that keeps the Arab monarchies wealthy, will someday run out. The emergency of climate change tells us we should stop using it even sooner, if we can muster the determination. In either case, what is holding those economies up won't be there anymore, and quite a few Gulf states have no real prospect for other revenues. Iran, while still getting much of its international trade revenue from petroleum and its derivatives, does have a substantially diversified economy. It might makes sense to "make nice" with the Middle Eastern nation that is most likely to survive the collapse of oil as a global commodity. For that matter, Iran should be looking into their crystal ball and seeing that future as very scary, with millions of neighbors dropping into poverty and seeking assistance....more
I really don't know what to make of this. Enjoyable overall, but there was so much that was bewildering.
I'm reminded of something I heard about humor.I really don't know what to make of this. Enjoyable overall, but there was so much that was bewildering.
I'm reminded of something I heard about humor. A psychologist who'd made a rather superficial study of responses to some form of humor remarked that subjects tended to fall into two categories: one group laughed uproariously, and the other group stroked their chins (or something similar) and quietly said, "Hmm, that's funny. Interesting." The point was that most comedians fell into the second group.
I think this book is analogous — most people scratch their heads and think "I know I'm missing something, probably a lot, and I have no idea how much it matters", while a smaller group of readers (including a lot of authors) stare off into the middle distance and think, "Deeply provocative confusion. Hmm, fascinating."
If I could, though, I'd be diving straight into the next in the series, because there are mysteries here. To quote Churchill, "It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key", and I'm willing to keep looking for that key. Unfortunately, real life responsibilities mean I can't read the next in the series for a while......more