‘Securitization’ revisited: theory and cases

Thierry Balzacq (Lead / Corresponding author), Sarah Leonard, Jan Ruzicka

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    241 Citations (Scopus)


    Securitization theory seeks to explain the politics through which: (i) the security character of public problems is established; (ii) the social commitments resulting from the collective acceptance that a phenomenon is a threat are fixed; and (iii) the possibility of a particular policy is created. In the last decade, research on securitization has grown significantly. The aim of this article is to evaluate the achievements of securitization theory. Firstly, its main concepts and premises are critically discussed. The article then proceeds to examine the empirical applications of securitization theory to a broad range of issues, as well as the theoretical implications of these studies. Finally, it discusses the main challenges faced by securitization scholars and puts forward strategies to overcome them. This article develops three inter-related arguments. Firstly, notably thanks to empirical studies, securitization theory has significantly developed beyond its initial focus on the speech act. Secondly, as a result, the distinctiveness of securitization theory currently lies in its capacity to articulate a specific approach to security - influenced by the speech act - with an ‘analytics of government’, which emphasises practices and processes. Thirdly, securitization theory faces three types of challenges, related respectively to theory, method and methodology. The capacity of scholars to overcome those will strongly influence the extent to which securitization theory will be able to make significant contributions to the debates in Security Studies and International Relations in the years to come.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)494-531
    Number of pages38
    JournalInternational Relations
    Issue number4
    Early online date5 Aug 2015
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


    • Case studies
    • Methods
    • Securitization
    • Theory
    • Analytics of government


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