Securitisation gaps: towards ideational understandings of state weakness

Kevork Oskanian

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This article contributes a securitisation-based, interpretive approach to state weakness. The long-dominant positivist approaches to the phenomenon have been extensively criticised for a wide range of deficiencies. Responding to Lemay-Hébert's suggestion of a 'Durkheimian', ideational-interpretive approach as a possible alternative, I base my conceptualisation on Migdal's view of state weakness as emerging from a 'state-in-society's' contested 'strategies of survival'. I argue that several recent developments in Securitisation Theory enable it to capture this contested 'collective knowledge' on the state: a move away from state-centrism, the development of a contextualised 'sociological' version, linkages made between securitisation and legitimacy, and the acknowledgment of 'securitisations' as a contested Bourdieusian field. I introduce the concept of 'securitisation gaps' - divergences in the security discourses and practices of state and society - as a concept aimed at capturing this contested role of the state, operationalised along two logics (reactive/substitutive) - depending on whether they emerge from securitisations of the state action or inaction - and three intensities (latent, manifest, and violent), depending on the extent to which they involve challenges to state authority. The approach is briefly illustrated through the changing securitisation gaps in the Republic of Lebanon during the 2019-20 'October Uprising'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)439-458
JournalEuropean Journal of International Security
Issue number4
Early online date28 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), 2021.


  • Bourdieu
  • Copenhagen School
  • Lebanon
  • Securitisation
  • State Weakness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Safety Research
  • Political Science and International Relations


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