Extraordinary or ordinary emergency measures: what, and who, decides the “success” of securitisation?

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This paper is concerned with two interrelated problems in the Copenhagen School’s (CS’s) securitization theory. The first is the challenge that non-exceptional security polices pose to the theory, which starts from the assumption that securitization is ‘successful’ only when extraordinary emergency measures are adopted. The second arises not from what factors define securitization’s ‘success’, but rather from who does so. Securitization theory suffers from a constructivist deficit because the criterion for the ‘success’ of securitization is set by scholars, whereas a more ‘radically constructivist [theory] regarding security’ would require practitioners to be in charge of defining the ‘success’ of securitization. The paper offers a solution to both of these problems by suggesting that securitization is ‘successful’ only when (1) the identification of a threat that justifies a response (securitizing move) is followed by (2) a change of behaviour (action) by a relevant agent (that is, the securitizing actor or someone instructed by the same), and also (3) the action taken is justified by the securitizing actor with reference to the threat they identified and declared in the securitizing move. It goes on to reject the ideas of a sanctioning audience and of the insistence on existential threats as also set by the CS.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)677-694
Number of pages19
JournalCambridge Review of International Affairs
Issue number2
Early online date24 Sept 2015
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sept 2016


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