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Audience – Modus – Acceptance. Why Some Issues Are Being Securitized and Others Not

Philipp Klüfers
Universität der Bundeswehr München
Susanne Fischer
Universität der Bundeswehr München
Philipp Klüfers
Universität der Bundeswehr München
Open Panel

Abstract

For the last two decades, securitization theory has been a prominent tool in IR to analyze how an issue is transformed into a security problem. A key assumption of securitization theory is that security is not an objectively given condition but constructed through social discourse. The concept describes the political process through which an existential threat to a referent object becomes recognized by a societal “audience”. However, empirical investigations deliver counterintuitive insights. Although vast majorities of Western societies seem to have accepted terrorism as existential threat, severe controversies have arisen within those societies on how to counteract this threat. These controversies take place within and among several societal groups, each following a distinct logic of acceptance. As a consequence, an issue becomes securitized exclusively in case of multiple, heterogeneous audiences accepting both the threat and the security measure. Therefore, the authors of this paper introduce a triangular model of audience acceptance which combines (1) the moral acceptance—that is, the social discourse within the respective society, (2) the formal acceptance deriving from the legal-procedural and institutional structures characterizing the political setting, and (3) the applicant acceptance of the selected extraordinary measure. Each of these forms of acceptance discourse is channelled within a distinct context. While moral acceptance rather follows from the logic of appropriateness, formal acceptance is gained by legal-procedural mechanisms, and applicant acceptance is linked to more technical cost-benefit perceptions. Thus, the authors categorize distinct modes of audience acceptance underlying the respective discourses. In a last step, the process of securitization is conceptualized as series of securitizing moves addressing different audiences through discursive, time-dependent dynamics. As each of the proposed acceptance discourses interfere mutually, the dynamical view reflects inter-discursive effects and dependencies. In sum, the paper seeks to broaden the understanding of securitization as a multidimensional and context-dependent social process.