The function of Functional Actors

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This article examines the role and nature of functional actors in securitization processes, which have been almost completely ignored in an otherwise booming literature. I argue that functional actors are a useful analytical category only if such actors are functionally distinct from other actors in the securitization process. A close analysis of The Copenhagen School’s Security: A New Framework for Analysis (1998) reveals that this is not the case; the majority of the functions such actors have (in the different sectors) are covered by other categories, including threatener and securitization requester. The exception is that they may contest securitization; yet in securitization studies this function has become associated not with functional actors but with audiences. I show that when the audience is conceived in line with its meaning in common usage (i.e. as the addressee of the securitizing speech act) only specific actors (most notably, referent objects who are promised protection via securitizing moves) can object to securitization, and only on securitizations (ostensibly) intended to save them. Based on the twin observation that: a) contestation matters normatively; and b) that – especially in liberal democracies – actors regularly object to securitization in which they are not the referent object or the threatener, I go on to locate the ability to veto/endorse securitization on behalf of others with functional actors. The remainder of the article sketches out what kind of functional actors exist in the different sectors of security and distils disparate functional actors into the roles of: gatekeeper, (de)legitimater, epistemic community, rebel and champion. I conclude by arguing that audience-focused securitization scholars should embrace the notion of functional actors, after all scholars too are functional actors. As such they can enter securitization processes in a truly critical capacity without the need to locate ‘audiences’ that ‘speak’ for the analyst.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages30
JournalCritical Studies on Security
Issue number1
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 21 Sept 2020


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