Securitization and the New Security Agenda

This is part of our special feature on SECUREU.


Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a significant shift in the conception and perception of security as a political value and policy goal. New issues have been brought forward in the security agenda; issues largely neglected in the past due to the Cold War hostility. The greatest threats to security are no longer considered to be only between states but also within and above them. As a result, the concept of security is being redefined and the security agenda is expanding beyond interstate relations and military issues. This course explores such theoretical debates on security in their formative stages. It does not focus on the causes of conflict and war per se, since these are discussed in other international security courses. Instead, it critically assesses the contribution of new approaches to the study of security and provides an in-depth analysis of some of the most urgent new security threats.

More specifically, this module aims to critically explore the process through which issues are socially constructed as threats and the political implications of placing them in the security agenda. The first part of the class will review conceptual and theoretical debates about international security, with a particular focus on securitization theory. The second part will explore a range of contemporary challenges in the military, societal, environmental and economic sectors. The securitization of ‘new threats’ such as migration, the environment and international terrorism will be assessed. The Eurozone economic crisis and Great Recession will also be discussed, as well as the current COVID-19 pandemic. Key questions to explore include how these issues are framed, by whom, for what reasons and with what consequences for politics and policies.


Aims and Intended Learning Outcomes

  • To interrogate longstanding approaches to security as a concept and policy value
  • To analyze reconstructions and redefinitions of security in the context of recent world events
  • To explore the reasons and the processes through which issues are prioritized in the security agenda and its implications
  • To discuss the contribution of securitization theory and identify its shortcomings
  • To encourage students to reach their own understanding regarding the ‘broadening’ and ‘deepening’ of security studies


By the end of the course, students through essays, seminar preparation, and the final exam should be able to:

  • Map and evaluate on-going debates about the concept and focus of security and assess the challenges posed by recent empirical and theoretical developments;
  • demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of securitization theory;
  • appreciate the reasons and the processes through which issues are prioritized in the security agenda and its implications;
  • assess the range, nature, extent and causes of contemporary security challenges;
  • construct their own understanding of the most appropriate policy responses to dealing with them and explore associated trade-offs. In addition, through seminar presentations and discussions and through essay/exam writing, students should also acquire the following transferable skills:
  • the ability to access and make effective use of bibliographical and electronic sources of knowledge and information;
  • the ability to analyze written texts and prepare, articulate and defend reasoned answers to set questions;
  • written communication skills, conveying information and ideas fluently to form sustained arguments;
  • presentation skills, conveying information and ideas succinctly and effectively by using PowerPoint and handouts and by keeping within prescribed time-limits;
  • working collaboratively with others in order to reach and sustain convincing lines of argument;
  • self-motivation and time-management in order to meet specified deadlines; and
  • experience of how to use empirical data to evaluate theoretical claims.


Readings and Resources

There is no single core text for the course, which relies primarily on journal articles. However, the following books offer extensive coverage of many of the seminar topics and are often a good starting point for seminar preparation:

  • Collins, Alan (ed). 2013. Contemporary Security Studies. 3rd edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Dannreuther, Roland. 2007. International Security: The Contemporary Agenda. Cambridge: Polity.
  • Hough, Peter. 2008. Understanding Global Security. 2nd edition, New York: Routledge.

In addition, the following book presents the securitization framework of the Copenhagen School and is thus a valuable resource for the class, but note that it is not a textbook.

  • Buzan, B., O. Waever and J. de Wilde. 1998. Security: A New Framework for Analysis. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.


Journals which students on this course should find useful include:

  • British Journal of Politics and International Relations;
  • Ethics and International Affairs;
  • European Journal of International Relations;
  • Foreign Affairs;
  • Foreign Policy;
  • Foreign Policy Analysis;
  • Global Governance;
  • International Affairs;
  • International Organization;
  • International Security;
  • International Studies Quarterly;
  • International Studies Review;
  • International Studies Perspectives;
  • International Theory; Political Studies;
  • Review of International Studies;
  • Third World Quarterly;
  • World Politics.


Week 1: Introduction: Security Studies as a Field

This introductory session will provide an orientation to the structure and demands of the class. Seminar presentations will be allocated. This seminar will also provide an overview of security/strategic studies as a sub-discipline of International Relations and revise traditional approaches to national security.


Seminar Questions

What are the main concerns of security studies?

Why has the scope of security studies changed over the past twenty years? How has war changed during the 20th century?

What are the implications of how we study security?

What are the main features of the realist approach to security?


Seminar Reading

Baldwin, David. 1995. “Security Studies and the End of the Cold War.” World Politics 48, pp 117-41

Davies, Matt. 2014. “IR Theory: Problem-Solving Theory Versus Critical Theory?” E- International Relations.

Hobsbawm, Eric. 2002. “The Future of War and Peace.” Counterpunch.

Walt, Steven. 1998. “International Relations: One World Many Theories,” Foreign Policy 110, Special Issue, pp. 29-47.



Week 2: Redefining Security

This seminar will explore recent challenges to traditional security approaches. We will start by assessing the realist approach to security, before attempting to define the concept itself. We will then identify the most important international security threats and discuss the purposes that security policy should serve. This will allow us to make a clear distinction between the ‘broadening’ (not only military issues) and the ‘deepening’ (not only state security) of the concept of security, which will inform debates in subsequent seminars.


Seminar Questions

What are the weaknesses of the realist approach to security and why are realists opposed to the redefinition of the concept?

What is security? Is security a ‘contested concept’?

What are the key values that security needs to safeguard?

How would you retrospectively assess the foreign policy priorities of the US, as presented by Condolezza Rice in 2000?


Seminar Reading

Baldwin, David. 1997. “The Concept of Security.” Review of International Studies 23, no. 1, pp. 5-26.

Miller, Benjamin. 2001. “The Concept of Security: Should it be Redefined?” Journal of Strategic Studies 24, no. 2, pp. 1-29.

Rice, Condolezza. 2000. “Promoting the National Interest,” Foreign Affairs 79, no. 1, pp. 45-62

Walt, Stephen. 1991. “The Renaissance of Security Studies,” International Studies Quarterly 35, no. 2, pp. 211-39.



Week 3: Human Security

One of the most influential efforts to deepen the concept of security is developed under the banner of Critical Security studies, which places the individual -or people collectively- as the referent object of security. Along those lines, ‘human security’ is the most frequently used term to frame a broader theoretical concept of security and propose a practical agenda. This seminar will explore this approach and discuss its implications for the security policy of states and international organizations.


Seminar Questions

What are the key elements of critical/human security? How are these different from the realist approach to security?

What is human security? Why has it risen to the fore of security theory and practice?

How useful is the concept of human security in guiding national security policies? Can national and human security considerations be compromised?


Seminar Reading

Booth, Ken. 1991. “Security and Emancipation.” Review of International Studies 17, no. 4, pp. 313-26.

Krause Keith. 1998. “Critical Theory and Security Studies: The Research Programme of “Critical Security Studies.” Cooperation and Conflict 33, no. 3, pp. 298-333.

Liotta, P.H., and Taylor Owen. 2006. “Why Human Security?” The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations. (Spring/Winter)

Paris, Roland. 2001. ‘Human Security: Paradigm Shift or Hot Air’, International Security 26, no. 2, pp. 87-102.



Week 4: Securitization and the ‘Copenhagen School’

In this seminar, we will discuss the main principles of the ‘Copenhagen School of Security Studies’. The starting argument of this approach is that instead of focusing upon security as something out there, a security analysis should consider the process by which actors construct issues as threats to security (i.e. ‘securitization’). Yet, despite its prominence in the literature on security studies, the specific dynamics of securitization remain poorly understood. In this seminar, we will try to unveil the strengths but also the shortcomings of ‘securitization and the Copenhagen School. Read below instructions for an online task on this topic!


Seminar Questions

What does the concept of ‘securitization’ entail and how useful is it in explaining security?

Who are the main securitizing actors and why do they decide to make securitizing moves?

What are the consequences of securitizing an issue?


Seminar Reading

Balzacq, Thierry, Sarah Léonard, and Jan Ruzicka. 2015. “Securitization” Revisited: Theory and Cases.” International Relations 30, no 4, pp. 494 – 531.

Buzan, Barry et al. 1998. Security: A New Framework for Analysis. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner. Chapter 2

Oren Ido and Ty Solomon. 2015. “WMD, WMD, WMD: Securitization through ritualized incantation of ambiguous phrases.” Review of International Studies, 41(2), pp. 313-336.

Peoples, Columba and Nick Vaughan-Williams. 2010. Critical Security Studies: An introduction. London: Routledge. Chapter 5: Securitization.



Week 5: Desecuritization and Security Dilemmas

In this seminar, we will investigate the complex nature of the relation between security and freedom in liberal democracies and the normative dilemmas and perceived trade-offs associated with pursuing security, at any cost. The concept of desecuritization will be discussed and, overall, the seminar will provide opportunities to apply (desecuritisation theory to empirical cases, with the view of evaluating its main principles, strengths and weaknesses.


Seminar Questions

How much security is good? At what cost? What are the dangers with securitizing non-traditional security threats?

Is securitization a positive or a negative development?

What is desecuritization and how may it be pursued? What is counter-securitization?


Seminar Reading

Baker, Nancy. 2003. “National Security Versus Civil Liberties.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 33, no. 3, pp. 547-567

Floyd, Rita. 2011. “Can Securitization Theory be Used in Normative Analysis? Towards a Just Securitization Theory.” Security Dialogue 42 no 5-4, pp, 427-439.

Hansen, Lene. 2012. “Reconstructing desecuritization: The normative-political in the Copenhagen School and directions for how to apply it.” Review of International Studies 38, no 3.

Paterson, Ian and Georgios Karyotis. 2020. ‘‘We are, by nature, a tolerant people”: Securitization and counter-securitization in UK migration politics”, International Relations.



Week 6: The Migration-Security Nexus

This seminar opens the discussion on the broadening of security to include non- traditional threats. We will analyze the reasons and the process through which migration has come to be considered a security issue and will discuss whether the securitization of migration is justified. The overall discussion will provide you with the opportunity to think of security in terms of identity.


Seminar Questions

To what extent and in what ways can population movements lead to conflict or tensions between states

What are the perceived threats that immigration poses to the state and to society and how serious are they?

What are the implications of securitizing migration? What are the implications of the politics of bounding in Europe?


Seminar Reading

Ceyhan, Ayse and Anastasia Tsoukala. 2002. “The Securitization of Migration in Western Societies: Ambivalent Discourses and Policies.” Alternatives: Global, Local, Political, no. 27 (suppl.), pp. 21-39

Crawley, H. and D. Skleparis. 2018. “Refugees, Migrants, Neither, Both: Categorical Fetishism and the Politics of Bounding in Europe’s “Migration Crisis””. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 44, no 1, pp 48-64.

Huysmans, Jef. 2000. “The European Union and the Securitization of Migration.” Journal of Common Market Studies38, no.5, pp. 751-77

Weiner, Myron. 1992. “Security, Stability and International Migration.” International Security 17, no. 3, pp. 91-126.


Week 7: Economic Crisis and Austerity Politics

This seminar will explore the framing and responses to the Great Recession and post-2008 global economic crisis. It begins with a brief overview of debates relevant to security in the economic sector. It then explores how the current economic crisis has been framed, draws historical parallels and explores its implications.


Seminar Questions

What are the most important economic challenges for states and individuals?

What are the key features and consequences of austerity politics?

How were austerity measures legitimized in the context of the global economic crisis?


Seminar Reading

Buzan, Barry et al. 1998. Security: A New Framework for Analysis (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner), chapter 5.

Hart, Paul’t and Tindall, Karen. (eds). 2009. Framing the Global Economic Downturn: Crisis Rhetoric and Politics of Recessions. Canberra: ANU E Press. particularly chapters 1-2.

Karyotis, Georgios and Wolfgang Rudig. 2015. “Blame and Punishment? The Electoral Politics of Extreme Austerity in Greece.” Political Studies 63: pp 2-24.

Neocleous, Mark. 2006. “From Social to National Security: On the Fabrication of Economic Order.” Security Dialogue37, no 3. Pp 363–84.



Week 8: Pandemic and Health Security

Following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) declaration of a global health emergency on January 30th, which was later upgraded to a ‘pandemic’ on 11th March 2020, the spread of COVID-19 has emerged as the most urgent global threat. The aim of this seminar is to explore broader debates about health security, before tentatively exploring how the world in general, and individual countries in particular, have been affected and responded to the global emergency.


Seminar Questions

What is health security? To what extent and in what ways can health challenges represent a national security threat?

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected individual countries and global politics?

How has the crisis been framed by different actors and what are the emerging lessons for crisis management and security politics?


Seminar Reading

Caballero-Anthony, Mely. 2006. Combating infectious diseases in East Asia: securitization and global public goods for health and human security.” Journal of International Affairs 52. pp 105-27.

Connolly John, Collignon Sofia, Judge Andrew., Karyotis Georgios, Makropoulos Iakovos, Rüdig Wolfgang and Dimitris Skleparis. 2020. “Crisis Framing and the Drivers of Support for Social Distancing in Britain.” Journal of European Public Policy.

Rushton, Simon. 2011. “Global Health Security: Security for Whom? Security from What?” Political Studies 59, no 4


Week 9: Environmental Security and Resource Scarcity

The aim of this seminar is to explore the link between environmental issues and security. We will first analyze the ways through which environmental change and resource scarcity can lead to conflict, with reference to past and current examples. We will then assess competing views on the practical and conceptual utility of the concept of environmental security and discuss the role of key actors.


Seminar Questions

To what extent can environmental change trigger violent conflict?

Is the environment a national security issue? How useful is the concept of environmental security?

Who promotes and who opposes the securitization of the environment?


Seminar Reading

Deudney, Daniel. 1990. “The Case Against Linking Environmental Degradation and National Security.” Millennium 19, no. 3, pp. 461-76

Homer-Dixon, Thomas. Summer 1994-5. “Environmental Scarcities and Violent Conflict: Evidence from Cases.” International Security 19, no. 1, pp. 5-40.

Dupont, Claire. 2018. “The EU’s Collective Securitization of Climate Change.” West European Politics, pp 1-22.

Trombetta, Maria Julia. 2008. “Environmental security and climate change: Analyzing the discourse.” Cambridge Review of International Affairs 21, no. 4, pp. 585-602.


Week 10: Terrorism and the War on Terror

This week we will first attempt to define terrorism and discuss its evolution. We will then focus on the terrorist attacks of September 11 and their implications for the ‘macro-securitization’ of terrorism and for global politics. In addition, we will touch upon some of the ‘grey’ areas relevant to the “War on Terror” and the “War in Iraq” and associated dilemmas.


Seminar Questions

What is terrorism? What are the differences between ‘old’ and ‘new’ terrorism?

What is macrosecuritization? To what extent is the War on Terror the new Cold War? What were the objectives and implications of the ‘War on Terror’?

What was the role of the media in the securitization of terrorism post 9/11?


Seminar Reading

Buzan, Barry. 2006. “Will the Global War on Terrorism” be the new Cold War?” International Affairs 82, no. 6, pp 1101-1118.

Grob-Fitzgibbon, Benjamin. 2005. “What is Terrorism? Redefining a Phenomenon in Time of War.” Peace and Change 30, no. 2, pp. 231-246.

Qadri, Nasser and Karyotis Georgios (forthcoming) “Why do Americans Support Torture? The Role of Political and Media Frames Post 9/11.”

Roberts, Adam. 2005. “The War on Terror in Historical Perspective.” Survival 47, no. 2, pp. 101–130.



Georgios Karyotis is Professor of Security Politics in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Glasgow. His main research and teaching interests lie in the areas of securitization theory, crisis management, protest and voting behavior, and migration studies. Among others, he was the Principal Investigator on an ESRC/AHRC-funded project on the skills and aspirations of young Syrian refugees and the corresponding attitudes of host populations in Greece, Lebanon and the UK (see His research has been published in top academic journals, including in the Journal of Peace Research, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Political Studies, the British Journal of Political Science, International Political Sociology, Cooperation & Conflict, International Relations, Electoral Studies, and Mobilization. He is currently serving as the Convenor of the Evidence Group on Asylum and Migration, which is a core group of the Scottish government’s New Scots initiative. He is also the Co-Convenor of the Greek Politics Specialist Group, a network of 450 academics, which received the group of the year award in 2019 from the UK’s Political Studies Association.

Published on April 18, 2022.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email