Securitization and the State

‘Emergencies’ have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have been eroded.  – F.A. Hayek

The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the “state of emergency” in which we live is not the exception but the rule. –Walter Benjamin

An interesting concept propagated by the Copenhagen school in the study of international relations and often the postmodern school accuses liberal democracies of being the principle champions of this line of thought: That extra security measures must be taken in order to protect civil liberties. The counter argument that Hayek, Benjamin, Agamben, and Foucault seem to offer is that such “extra security measures” such as border inspections, satellite monitoring, biometrical scanning, etc. are often infringement in and of themselves of civil liberties of the citizen or non-citizen entering a given country.

However, I wish to demonstrate that liberal democratic values in the Hayekian and Millian sense are not compatible with the securitization of the state and more importantly, their complete antithesis. The liberal philosophy believes that there should be checks and balances on the state so that the individual is afforded the maximum amount of liberty to achieve his aims in human self development or thymos (recognition) without infringing on the liberties of others. The state’s domain is then primarily the rule of law, which is itself restraining of the state and must work in the favour of the individual, and security, that is the safety of the population from internal (using the police) or external ( using the army) threats. Of course, the individual is well within his rights to take upon himself his own security, but the state is able to offer more competitive security in terms of the purchasing power for established technology and relations with other states to discourage conditions that would hinder human progress in all countries concerned.

That being said, postmodern IR scholars observe how these securitization measures actually create a permanent state of emergency, that is, the ability of the state to suspend the law in its own interests or in the belief that the protection of the masses (as represented by the Leviathan of the State) takes priority over the security of the individual. In these cases, the survival of the state is deemed more important than the survival of the population and must survive at times at the population’s expense. This recreates totalitarian conditions in very specific circumstances, such as border security and “states of exceptions” (such as American military bases or prisons like Guantanamo Bay or Abu Gharib). It is exactly these instances where state power must be checked and balanced or else the subject is bent before the brute force of the sovereign.

If these countries were true liberal democracies, securitization measures would be non-existent. Taking a cue from Hayek and Weber, a more accurate way to describe them would be as social democracies, that is the need for the state to control all aspects in the daily lives of citizens through taxation and spending on social programs for the greater welfare of the people. This spawns the bureaucracy, which also seeks to regulate every aspect of peoples’ lives. Though Hayek would not care about human migration flows being securitized so long as economic flows were unregulated, he would be opposed to this nanny state approach that appears to have crept into the democracies of all the current great world powers. It would take more than this post to explain how true liberalism has disappeared from most democracies, but I think it’s important to redirect postmodern accusations from liberal democracies to social democracies as the real source of these disciplinary and aleatory measures in securitization.