The notion of Securitization is among the most significant conceptual innovations to have emerged out of the debate on the nature of Security. It is associated with the Copenhagen School of security studies which is linked to the likes of Barry Buzan and Ole Wæver. However, overtime, the concept has also been taken up and adapted by those outside the realm of Copenhagen School.
What is securitization? The work of Copenhagen School and their initial development of the concept of securitization as the basis for a new framework of analysis can be understood as a fusion of two works. First being Buzan’s notion of different sectors of security and second, Wæver’s concept of securitization. Later authors have asked the question of how to define security in the context of the ever-broadening agenda. The all important question was- what is a security issue and what is not one? They argue that we need a principle to help answer this. Otherwise, it would become way too broad a concept and effectively.
To answer the question of what is a security issue and what is not a security issue, they say that security as a concept is fundamentally about survival. Therefore, an issue is a security issue when it is represented as possessing an existential threat to the survival of a referent object. This is the same basic principle that is found in the conventional notion of national security and defence. One of the ways to identify an existential threat is to see the response it generates because when an issue is presented as an existential threat, it legitimizes the use of exceptional political measures. For example: A State’s right to self-defence when under attack, it can legitimately use extraordinary measures that go beyond normal day-to-day politics. It can declare emergency and suspend or change its functions during it. An appropriate understanding of Securitization would thus be: shifting an issue from the realm of normal politics to that of emergency politics by presenting it as an existential threat.
One of the most striking implications of the Securitization Theory is that it believes that security need not always be a good thing. It states that more securitization need not always be better as securitization of an issue brings with it emergency politics where space and time for deliberation and participation is constricted and also results in a militarized mode of thinking. Thus, thinkers like Wæver argued that in most cases we should aim for Desecuritization. It refers to shifting an issue out of the realm of emergency politics back to the that of normal political or technical debate. He also suggests that the condition of Asecurity is optimal. It refers to a condition where occurrence of securitization is minimal or absent and issues, unless necessary, are not conceptualized in terms of security.
Securitization Theory has had significant impact on the way security is studied as it offers a clearly identifiable research agenda. It studies societal security as an alternative to focusing solely on the state. It offers an analytical framework and also a site of critical opportunity for thinking through the important questions of the nature of contemporary security politics.