The West: A securitising community?

Gunther Hellmann*, Benjamin Herborth, Gabi Schlag, Christian Weber

*Corresponding author for this work

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    The primary objective of this article is to theorise transformations of Western order in a manner that does not presuppose a fixed understanding of 'the West' as a pre-constituted political space, ready-made and waiting for social scientific enquiry. We argue that the Copenhagen School's understanding of securitisation dynamics provides an adequate methodological starting point for such an endeavour. Rather than taking for granted the existence of a Western 'security community', we thus focus on the performative effects of a security semantics in which 'the West' figures as the threatened, yet notoriously vague referent object that has to be defended against alleged challenges. The empirical part of the article reconstructs such securitisation dynamics in three different fields: the implications of representing China's rise as a challenge to Western order, the effects of the transformation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) towards a global security actor, and the consequences of extraordinary renditions and practices of torture for the normative infrastructure of 'the West'. We conclude that Western securitisation dynamics can be understood as a discursive shift away from a legally enshrined culture of restraint and towards more assertive forms of self-authorisation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)301-330
    Number of pages30
    JournalJournal of International Relations and Development
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Apr-2017


    • reconstruction
    • securitisation
    • security community
    • the West
    • NATO
    • STATES
    • POWER
    • RISE

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