States, last resort and the obligation to securitize

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This symposium article aims to showcase the strengths of thinking ethically about securitization using the concept of “just securitization.” It poses the research question: When, if ever, are states required to securitize? I argue that using the just securitization concept leads to three rival answers, each modelled on competing interpretations of the just war tradition’s principle of “last resort.” The article examines the relative strengths and weaknesses of the literal strong last resort, ameliorated moderate last resort, and modified weak last resort principles. It then examines the validity of the three competing ethical stances regarding when states are morally required to securitize that can be generated from the respective interpretations of last resort. These ethical stances are: 1) securitization is never obligatory; 2) securitization is obligatory when it is necessary to achieving just cause; and 3) securitization is obligatory when it is expected to be the best option. While siding with the ethical stance contained within ameliorated moderate last resort, in which obligation remains tied to necessity, I caution that the utility of such a principle ultimately depends on intersubjective agreements among security scholars pertaining to definitions concerning, for example, the nature of viable alternatives to securitization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)378-394
Number of pages17
Issue number2
Early online date20 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


  • just securitization
  • last resort
  • ethics
  • Copenhagen school
  • just war theory


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