Words, Images, Enemies: Securitization and International Politics


  • Author's note: For helpful and thoughtful comments on previous drafts, I would like to thank Rita Abrahamsen, Barry Buzan, David Campbell, Alexandra Gheciu, Ole Wæver, and Richard Wyn Jones, as well as ISQ's three anonymous reviewers. An earlier version of this argument was presented to the Strategic Studies Group at Oxford University, and I would like also to thank the participants at that session for their responses and criticisms.


The theory of “securitization” developed by the Copenhagen School provides one of the most innovative, productive, and yet controversial avenues of research in contemporary security studies. This article provides an assessment of the foundations of this approach and its limitations, as well as its significance for broader areas of International Relations theory. Locating securitization theory within the context of both classical Realism influenced by Carl Schmitt, and current work on constructivist ethics, it argues that while the Copenhagen School is largely immune from the most common criticisms leveled against it, the increasing impact of televisual communication in security relations provides a fundamental challenge for understanding the processes and institutions involved in securitization, and for the political ethics advocated by the Copenhagen School.