This chapter provides a partial history of a label. It is partial both in that it is not, and cannot be, complete, and in that I, David Mutimer, am both the author of, and participant in, the history. It is therefore partial in the way all other history is partial. The label is ‘Critical Security Studies’. The chapter tells a story of the origin of the label and the way it has developed and fragmented since the early 1990s. It sets out the primary claims of the major divisions that have emerged within the literatures to which the label has been applied: constructivism, critical theory, and poststructuralism. Ultimately, the chapter suggests that Critical Security Studies needs to foster an ‘ethos of critique’ in either the study or refusal of security, and that the chapter is an instance of that ethos directed at Critical Security Studies itself.
7. Critical Security Studies: A Schismatic History
Mutimer David and Derek Verbakel
Edited by Alan Collins
Contemporary Security Studies provides an introduction to Security Studies. It features a wide breadth and depth of coverage of the different theoretical approaches to the study of security and the ever-evolving range of issues that dominate the security agenda in the twenty-first century. In addition to covering a large range of topical security issues, from terrorism and inter-state armed conflict to cyber-security, health, and transnational crime, the sixth edition features an examination of popular culture and its implications for security, as well as coverage of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout, readers are encouraged to question their own preconceptions and assumptions, and to use their own judgement to critically evaluate key approaches and ideas. To help them achieve this, each chapter is punctuated with helpful learning features including ‘key ideas’, ‘think points’ and case studies, demonstrating the real-world applications and implications of the theory.
4. Historical Materialism
This chapter begins with an overview of the social scientific, philosophical, and political dimensions of historical materialism (HM). This overview is followed by an elaboration of what HM involves, including its diversity, value, and potential but avoidable pitfalls. Key HM concepts are set out and used to show how capitalism generally and in its recent neoliberal form aims to generate insecurity for labour and security for capital. Rather than being a narrow approach to security that focuses on economics, at its best, HM is a holistic approach that provides a way of putting into perspective and relating the many components of security. It goes on to explore the relationships between HM and approaches to security in wider contexts (realism, liberalism, social constructivism, and gender) and then to various perspectives on security (securitization and the sectoral approach, peace studies, Critical Security Studies, and human security). Accompanying the text are Think Point 4.1 on using HM to understand arms production and the arms trade, and Think Point 4.2 on using HM to understand the connections between development and security. The conclusion provides an overall assessment of the contribution of HM to the scholarship and politics of security and insecurity.
6. Social Constructivism
This chapter examines the impact of social constructivism on Security Studies, and how it calls into question the assumed orthodoxy of rationalist approaches to security and the international system by asking how security and security threats are ‘socially constructed’. It focuses on the importance of social relations and why identity, norms, and culture matter. Whereas rationalist approaches focus on material forces to understand and theorize security, social constructivism argues that ideational as well as material factors construct the world around us and the meanings we give to it. Therefore, its significance for Security Studies is crucial in terms not only of conceptualizing security but of providing alternative readings of security. However, constructivism is not a uniform approach. As this chapter demonstrates, it is broadly divided into two camps, which differ on questions of methodology and particular aspects of how knowledge and identity are interrogated. Throughout this chapter case studies of constructivist approaches to security questions will be discussed, and the chapter concludes with a consideration of critiques of constructivism.
3. Critical Terrorism Studies
This chapter focuses on critical terrorism studies (CTS), which is an investigation into whether terrorism exists at all. These sorts of studies look into the different actors who play a part in different practices and consequences. CTS considers how the construction of the terrorist threat serves specific political, economic, and social functions. Additionally, CTS hopes for a political project aimed at changing the world's policies and practices of security and terrorism. The chapter lists the theoretical foundations of CTS, which derive from post-structuralism and constructivism, and the Frankfurt School's ideas on critical theory. Finally, the chapter shows that terrorism is primarily seen as a political issue under the stance of CTS.