Perspectives from the Right and the Left


Contesting the Meanings of Safety

As many important IR students extensively acknowledge, safety is an ‘basically contested idea’. Imported within the discipline by Buzan (1991), this lucky definition expresses how subjective an idea safety is, grounded in ‘ideological or ethical components’ (Fierke, 2015:34) that eschew exact categorization and empirical evidences. Within the wake of post-positivist analysis agendas in IR, securitization theories of first (Buzan, Waever and the Copenhagen Faculty) and second generations (Paris Faculty and the collective C.A.S.E., 2006) have grow to be a well-established sub-field. Loads of younger students excavated how safety is socially constructed in a given context by political brokers with the aim to prioritize the urgency of a difficulty and the existential menace it poses to – many of the instances – the survival of the State. Furthermore, a heated debate started between critics of the alleged racial biases inherent within the idea and students upholding the applying of securitization to debunk racial and ethnical biases inherent in home and worldwide safety insurance policies.

The interpretation of safety as a semantic discipline that goes past army and strategic research has been by now accepted. Not solely did important theorists decide up the safety language to deal with financial, well being, environmental and cultural challenges. Following this wave, policymakers veer in the direction of a broader understanding of the plural safety threats and referent objects that electors take into consideration whereas uttering the codeword safety. In endorsing this contextual understanding, but, we should always not ignore that safety ‘carries with it a historical past and a set of connotations that it can’t escape’ (Waever, 1995), specifically a Manichean and coercive logic that dangers to escalate the talk on the problem deemed beneath menace (cf. Balzacq, 2015). Bearing such moral and epistemological caveats in thoughts, this quick intervention suggests studying some safety dynamics and implications of the COVID-19 outbreak by the interpretivist lens of securitization. Let me make clear from the outset that adopting a constructivist prism doesn’t imply to disclaim the fabric lethality of the virus. To the other, a important perspective serves to uphold a consideration of pandemics as public well being points, quite than safety drama (for a common overview of the safety – well being nexus, cf. McInnes, 2008).   

As witnessed over the past months, safety is a polymorph and thick idea that may evoke processes of securitization and of good friend/foe binary oppositions. Moreover this inside agonistic core, I agree that securitization is a posh course of laying on three pillars (Balzacq, 2005): the brokers (actors, audiences, and silenced topics); the discourses sedimented in plural historic and geographical contexts; the acts mobilized to translate safety in efficient instruments, which might be broadly divided in speech acts, insurance policies, practices and non-verbal gestures. The Copenhagen Faculty authentic model (Buzan et. al., 1998) has been hitherto the commonest one privileged by students who delved into well being points. But, I proceed in another way by giving analytical buy to contextual drivers of safety making and to the identification of political brokers shaping securitization.  

My framework is much less moulded upon the Copenhagen Faculty than on an eclectic cross-fertilization between Paris Faculty contributions and “ontological safety” concentrate on how the safety of the Self is jeopardized when her norms, values and routines are challenged by surprising sources of discomfort, anxiousness and psychological trauma (cf. Mitzen, 2006; Browning, Joenniemi, 2017). In doing so, I stress how COVID-19 is being framed just about throughout the globe as a nationwide and worldwide menace in opposition to each bodily security and the existential lifestyle of residents. A 3rd aspect of my method is the concentrate on political ideology, a shadow cone of securitization literature that begs for deeper analysis (cf. Williams, 2019). Though narratives about COVID-19 converge on its imminent menace to our life, the method is nuanced as it’s entangled with ideological views and conventional safety insurance policies put ahead by political events. Most of securitization theorists and ontological safety students assume that the securitizing actor is the central State which speaks safety to guard its survival or to push back threats in opposition to its regular institutional routine.  

The State-centric perspective has been translated right into a methodological privilege to (i) analyse safety bureaucracies (resembling governmental departments), the armed forces and the Police as an alternative of political topics and social gathering leaders and (ii) to deal with some points as common nationwide safety prerogatives, by that means that defence, safety and intelligence affairs shall be dealt independently from the affiliation of the social gathering in energy. The wave of coronavirus embodies firstly a menace to human well being. It may be argued, thereby, that each the abovementioned situations are revered. Despite loud disagreement upon the measures to implement to maintain ourselves protected and flatten the curve of infections, a majority of political actors deemed COVID-19 as imminent menace to the safety of State establishments and to the cohesion of nationwide group at first. The consensus prompting to securitization of well being issues has been pretty bipartisan, initially eased by a short lived rally-round-the-flag mechanism and by the plea to search out nationwide unity vis-à-vis the invisible enemy.  Nonetheless, in a definite understanding of securitization, I argue that discursive variations impinge upon how Proper (radical, conservative) and Left (social-democratic, social-liberals) policymakers articulate safety threats in accordance with values and ideological moorings cherished by their partisan custom.   

The try herein under is to not infer generalizable findings about Western social gathering typologies, divided by fairly blurred political cleavages. Too many elements could be at stake to elicit the methods dropped at the fore by differing Cupboards, even amongst case research often included in one-size-fit-all class (e.g. the Danish and the Swedish social-democratic events). Nevertheless, the analytical concentrate on the political polarities, ranging from the muscular revival of far proper, helps to decipher the discursive repertoire behind securitization of COVID-19. After an early interval of ambivalent hesitations, the prioritization of the virus amidst safety affairs was solicited by scientific epistemic communities and endorses by political elites by extremely efficient however problematic metaphors of battle. Regardless of the similarities, leaders of various political affiliations created their very own cluster of intertwined safety points worsened by the virus. In hindsight, COVID-19 has been an acceptable excuse to additional securitize occasions and insurance policies already very important for every political agenda.   

Such a short contribution has some evident limitations, vitiated as it’s by a prevalent concentrate on Italian political events – understood in relation to the broader Western geopolitical scenario- and by a cherry-picking methodology that goals to be important quite than rigorous. I actually restrain from providing a complete evaluation of occasions which can be nonetheless ongoing and that might by all means want finetuned scrutiny and broader comparative consideration. That mentioned, I purpose to offer some related illustrations to unpack the fissiparous meanings of safety – e.g. how completely different political ideologies craft safety – and stress the normative issues raised even by the intuitively justified securitization of a really demanding well being difficulty. Extra particularly, some questions impressed me within the statement of safety discourses wrapping the governance of pandemic: Which quantity of freedom ought to we sacrifice to safe our life in opposition to COVID-19? Is it such pressing safety menace to be prioritized over the others? Is the enemy embodied by COVID-19 invisible or seen?

Far-right and Safety Clusters: Xenophobia, Libertarianism, Negationism

Let’s begin this enquiry from the Far Proper – each as Radical Proper events and as Excessive Proper actions (Mudde, 2019). Radical proper leaders have exploited the concern mongering round COVID-19 to scapegoat foreigners for the pandemics and to suggest the adoption of harder entry and integration insurance policies. The Italian case research is exemplary. From the very starting of the disaster, each the League and Brothers of Italy vigorously known as to seal the borders with China. Whereas a sure Sinophobia was usually widespread between January and February – alongside with the concern of contagious Italians travelling from Lombardia and Veneto – COVID-19 was an excessive amount of of an event for nativist politicians to preventively securitize Mediterranean flows, even in a interval when the virus was not circulating in Africa. The nexus migration-terrorism was cunningly changed by the one between migration-diseases, as proven by the vigorous interactions and likes obtained by some articles on social media. Up to now, many right-wing newspapers (Il Giornale, La Verità) and excessive proper web sites (Il Primato Nazionale, voice of CasaPound Italia) have fuelled xenophobia and hostility in the direction of alleged plague-spreaders, as we just lately witnessed earlier than migrants rescued by the Ocean Viking had been allowed to disembark. Safety discourses of this material elevate Italian “forgotten males” as first reference of pressing measures: not solely are subaltern subjectivities marginalised, but in addition accused of embezzling very important assets that ought to have been allotted to the Italian healthcare system.

By an analogous token, one other contentious difficulty tightly entangled with the securitization of migration is said to Islam, as Muslims in Italy are nonetheless massively pushed exterior the boundaries of the social contract. An unsurprising double customary framed Salvini’s request to open Catholic Church buildings for Easter (an electoral transfer promptly dissuaded by the Vatican) and the articles printed two weeks later by Il Giornale evoking the eventual turmoil because of the closure of mosques throughout Ramadan. Chauvinist and populist tones had been chosen to bolster the Islamophobic narration supplied by right-wing publishing trade, that dealt with the COVID-19 outbreak with the aim to strengthen well-known anti-Muslim tropes – hyper-religiosity, communitarianism, dangers of social unrest. Inside far proper narratives in Italy and worldwide, the invisible virus was embodied by extra-European migrants – chief amongst them Muslims-, by the evergreen Jewish international menace – COVID-19 as an invention of Soros – or by despised members of financial globalist elites à la Invoice Gates. These handful of arguments determine amidst the leitmotivs hijacked by far-right audio system to help the implementation of safety decrees and promote a violent radicalization of the talk.

Moreover, authoritarianism – the third function of Radical Proper events apart with nativism and populism (Mudde, 2007)- was tactically endorsed whereby ideological cognates events had sufficient clout to name for distinctive measures and rule by decrees. The limitless powers handed to Orbàn in Hungary to halt the unfold of the virus with no predefined finish date – formally ended on June 16 – was positively welcomed by each Salvini and Meloni. And but, the penchant for such authoritarian manners and centralized options has not introduced them to sympathize with the gradual imposition of lockdown measures, fiercely contrasted by social gathering leaders, excessive proper actions, soccer hooligans and road degree thuggery (as witnessed throughout some protests in Rome). The unsettling occasions ushered in by COVID-19 drove to ironical convergencies within the battle in opposition to top-down emergency decrees. An uncommon entanglement bundled collectively post-fascists rioters, anti-welfare conservativism, and significant authorized / safety theorists by the likes of Agamben (2005), whose early polemical stance in opposition to governing the pandemics by the “state of exception” earned him a lot criticism.

For my part, a twofold interpretation is required. On one hand, the anti-lockdown campaign has been prosaically instrumentalised to undermine the solidity of centre-left Cupboards (e.g. Italy, Spain) and to stop conservative governments (e.g. the Tories) to endorse the identical alleged intolerant measures. On the opposite, this sample harks again to clear ideological references that result in a double securitization of (i) particular person and (ii) financial liberties, preserved by Proper-wing actors in opposition to new safety threats – quarantine measures, masks sporting and governmental restrictions. These two libertarian sides of safety have been energetically flagged throughout the right-to-centre spectrum, from excessive fringe networks to mainstream political formations. Within the anglosphere, it’s price how alt proper and nationalist teams weaponized white masculine particular person freedom to contest the imposition of lockdown. Past the scepticism in the direction of the prevention of COVID-19 confirmed by Johnson and particularly by Trump – who joggled between minimizing the dangers and blaming China- the armed protest and irruption in Michigan Capitol is a poisonous mixture of white privilege and pandemic conspiracy theories. As trivial an episode pinpoints that referent objects of securitization change in accordance with concepts and norms – even probably the most brutal – superior by specific brokers. Which means that securitization idea, with its concentrate on existential threats and extraordinary instruments, is neither essentially centred on the survival of State establishments nor declared by State bureaucrats.

Centre-Left Events: An Urge for food for Securitization?

I’ve mentioned that COVID-19 was framed as a nationwide and worldwide safety difficulty by most of Governments in cost, by an obvious shared consensus amongst political events of distinct political opinions. And but, in my try and drill down into partisan ideology and discourses on pandemics and safety, I illustrated some related propositions superior from a far proper background, the place the brand new coronavirus has been cunningly related to threats from migrants, Jews, Muslims, globalist elites and top-down imposition of “stay-at-home” insurance policies. To say that many Cupboards led completely or partially by Western left-wing events are turning into authoritarian decision-makers would imply to pander in a fallacious accuse violently cultivated by populist trolls and accelerationist conspiracies.

Nonetheless, a important look on a sure securitizing habitus developed earlier than COVID-19 after which reproduced by Western left-wing events (socialists, social-democrats, social-liberals) shouldn’t be dismissed in any respect, as we’d throw away the infant with the bathwater. Admittedly, such evaluation is quite restricted due to the scattered and heterogeneous pattern of Leftist events in Western European Cupboards (Italy, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Sweden). On high of that, a complementary reflection on which historic Left-wing values are preserved or uncared for immediately falls out of the scope of this contribution. However nonetheless, claiming that the Left additionally speaks safety and evokes regarding threats shouldn’t be anathema. Some preliminary proof, which must be additional constructed, is out there each by way of insurance policies and with respect to referent norms and values of safety discourses.

It needs to be a matter of dialogue why some left-wing events indulged in a quite authoritarian model to handle surprising occasions framed as emergency disaster throughout final decade – Mediterranean migration flows, terrorist assaults, and final however not least the worldwide pandemics. I might not underestimate the danger {that a} gradual inclination to translate right-wing jargon and recur to extraordinary options could flip right into a regular choice. Specializing in Italy, some former Cupboard members of the Democratic Occasion (DP) (within the earlier legislature, 2013-18) ushered in a right-ward flip in securitizing Mediterranean migration, implementing harder counter-terrorist insurance policies and knotting the constitutional recognition of Islam as official faith to inescapable safety issues about Muslim radicalization.    

COVID-19 appears to be one other pair of sleeves. Firstly, the DP occupies a minority place within the coalition Authorities with the 5 Star Motion. Its implicit help to shift the realm of discussions exterior the Parliament and advocate for extreme lockdown measures needs to be fastidiously evaluated as soon as the panic is over. Secondly, the DP succeeded to suggest some measures that design another manner of conceptualizing safety, clustering the safety of our bodily security with the safety of subaltern subjectivities, too typically stored on the bay of official discourses. As underlined by Shani (2020) the referent topic of typical COVID-19 securitization is the ‘home-owner with the financial means to take time without work work and stockpile meals (…) a racialized, bourgeois and gendered topic’.   

After an early ambivalent section, the DP tried to fill the gaps within the steadfast plea to pursue strict quarantine guidelines. The approval of beneficiant welfare State insurance policies to “remedy” and “restoration” Italy – as the 2 most important decrees had been dubbed – has the credit score to incorporate some international employees (employed in agriculture and caretaking jobs) who might be regularised after the expiration of their residence allow.  So far as gender points are involved, regardless of the preoccupation of the Minister of Well being, additional efforts might have been carried out for one more form of viral menace, specifically the home violence escalated in the course of the quarantine. Current knowledge collected from a number of international locations present an appalling rise of texts and messages to report abuses, which is one other demonstration of the mutable essence of securitization in accordance with variable norms and priorities – who’s in jeopardy and from what sort of threats?

Concluding Remarks

To sum up, it’s affordable to foretell that over the approaching years safety students and pundits could interpret COVID-19 by the lens of securitization idea. To make it a fruitful mental enterprise, such analyses on the interaction between well being affairs and safety slogans ought to be mindful no less than two caveats.

The primary one is normative. Even when safety has been widened and deepened by way of referent objects, it nonetheless evokes a constellation of classes related to the ‘mindset of nationwide safety issues’, as Deudney harassed in relation to environmental issues (1990: 466; see additionally Huysmans, 2002). Sedimented grammars of safety can’t be instantly eradicated from historic nexus with State sovereignty and army laws of threats, as final spring dialogue on Chinese language “masks diplomacy” and present fears on “vaccine nationalism” aptly testify. There are undoubtedly constructive outcomes within the safety paradigm, resembling increased diploma of public consciousness and richer assets. Albeit Floyd (2011) designed a simply securitization mannequin based mostly on (i) goal existential menace, (ii) a morally legit referent object and (iii) an applicable safety response, a number of pioneering articles on the securitization of well being points (HIV/AIDS, Elbe, 2006; avian flu, Youde, 2008; SARS and avian flu, Wishnick, 2010) contend that such method leads to extra shortcomings than sensible benefits. Specifically, Elbe (2006:120) cautioned in opposition to shifting the governance of viruses from civil society to State bureaucracies by funding allocations and potential crackdown on particular person civil liberties and human rights. The good friend/foe dynamics triggered by safety lexicon finally ends up nationalizing the efforts to include the virus and to hinder multilateral concertation. On a micro scale, it exacerbates every day interactions up till regressing in Hobbesian state of nature, sadly instantiated by supermarkets looting of final March. Neither do we’d like this agonistic narrowmindedness, nor to magnify the deadly threats aroused by COVID-19, as some pundits did relating to doable bioterrorist assaults. Selling a more healthy international society and stopping well being risks needs to be hierarchized, quite than potential escalating name to securitize.

Moreover, I might recommend a methodological orientation to hyperlink the enquiries about safety and COVID-19 with the cluster of associated referent objects – business and financial curiosity, gender and racial equality, preservation of nationwide social bonds – that political actors and stakeholders advance throughout securitization of as pressing a difficulty because the pandemics. As I pinpointed on this article, the safety of bodily security, above all in instances of pandemics, seems to be a mutually shared nationwide safety difficulty to deal with in an goal and rational vogue. A restricted understanding of this method ignores that events and actions are as an alternative extra prone to instrumentalize such threats according to sedimented framework of beliefs and values on the core of their safety agenda.   

The evaluation of nationalistic, liberal-conservative, and progressive discourses uttered round COVID-19 can induce some conclusions.  For instance of chauvinistic rhetoric, the scapegoating of vacationers, international college students and employees, and ethnic minorities that erupted from far-right narratives (not solely within the West, as Islamophobic reactions in India remind us) existed even earlier than infections fanned out throughout borders. With respect to mainstream policymakers, liberal and conservatives alike wholeheartedly requested to remain at house to save lots of lives. A belated transfer that might be learn as an try and safe public well being providers after years of super finances cuts and privatizations, steadily enacted by the exact same events in cost to control the pandemics. Financial and business pursuits are an apical preoccupation and referent object of securitizing discourses about well being. This was disclosed in literature, like in Elbe (2018) enquiry on pharmaceutical insurance policies and medical safety counter measures, and extra prosaically exhibited by slogans resembling “shield the NHS”.  By way of progressive agenda inspired by topics on the Left, the securitization of well being may be clustered in a selected dedication to the safety of subaltern topics and minority teams. On this respect, events could be extra wise to take heed to the home abuses suffered by girls throughout lockdown and to weak classes disproportionally focused by COVID-19 – e.g. BAME residents are at elevated danger of buying the an infection.


Agamben, G. (2005). State of Exception. College of Chicago Press. Chicago. 

Balzacq, T. (2005). The Three Faces of Securitization: Political Company, Viewers and Context. European Journal of Worldwide Relations. 11(2). 171-201.

Balzacq T. (ed.) (2015). Contesting Safety. Methods and logics. Routledge. London: New York.

Browning, C.S., Joenniemi, P. (2017). Ontological safety, self-articulation and the securitization of identification. Cooperation and Battle. 52(1), 31-47.     

Buzan, B.. (1991). Individuals, States and Concern: An Agenda for Worldwide Safety Research within the Publish Chilly Conflict Period. Harvester Wheatsheaf. London.

Buzan, B., Waever,O., De Wilde J. (1998). Safety: A New Framework for Evaluation. Lynne Rienner.Boulder, London. 

Collective, C. A. S. E. (2006). Crucial Approaches to Safety in Europe: A Networked Manifesto. Safety Dialogue37(4), 443–487.

Deudney, D. (1990). The Case Towards Linking Environmental Degradation and Nationwide Safety. Millennium19(3), 461–476.

Elbe, S. (2006). Ought to HIV/AIDS Be Securitized? The Moral Dilemmas of Linking HIV/AIDS and Safety. Worldwide Research Quarterly, 50(1), 119–144.    

Elbe, S. (2018). Pandemics, Drugs, and Politics. Governing World Well being Safety. Johns Hopkins College Press. Baltimore.

Fierke, Okay. (2015). Crucial Approaches to Worldwide Safety. 2nd Version. Polity. Cambridge. 

Floyd, R. (2011). Can securitization idea be utilized in normative evaluation? In the direction of a simply securitization idea. Safety Dialogue42(4–5), 427–439.

Huysmans, J. (2002). Defining Social Constructivism in Safety Research: The Normative Dilemma of Writing Safety. Options27(1_suppl), 41–62.    

McInnes, C. (2013). Well being. In : Williams P. (ed.). Safety Research. An Introduction. 2nd Version. Routldedge. London : New York. 324-336.

Mitzen, (2006). Ontological safety in world politics: state identification and the safety dilemma. European Journal of Worldwide Relations. 12(3), 341–370.

Mudde, C. (2007). Populist radical proper events in Europe. Cambridge College Press. Cambridge.

Mudde, C. (2019). The Far-Proper immediately. Polity Press. Cambridge

Shani, G. (2020). Securitizing ‘Naked Life’? Human Safety and Coronavirus. E-Worldwide Relations, Three April 2020 (retrieved https://www.e-ir.information/2020/04/03/securitizing-bare-life-human-security-and-coronavirus/)

Waever, O. (1995). Securitization and de-securitization. In: R. Lipschutz (eds.). On Safety. Columbia College Press. New York.

Williams, M. (2019). The New Age of Ideology. In: Salter M. et. al. (ed.). Horizon Scan. Crucial Safety Research for subsequent 50 years. Safety Dialogue. 50(45), 18.

Wishnick, E. (2010). Dilemmas of securitization and well being danger administration within the Individuals’s Republic of China: the circumstances of SARS and avian influenza. Well being Coverage and Planning, 25(6). 454–466.

Youde, J. (2008) Who’s Afraid of a Rooster? Securitization and Avian Flu. Democracy and Safety, 4(2), 148-169.

Additional Studying on E-Worldwide Relations


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here