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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 February 2024

Rita Floyd
University of Birmingham


The introduction explains the purpose of this book and situates this book in the relevant literature. It discusses the meaning of securitization as used in this book, and it introduces Just Securitization Theory on which the theory of the moral duty to secure developed in this book builds. It also discusses the methods employed and methodology informing this work. Finally, it provides a chapter overview.

The Duty to Secure
From Just to Mandatory Securitization
, pp. 1 - 41
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2024

I.1 Purpose of This Book

Terrorism, climate change, organized crime, immigration, state failure, fake news, nuclear proliferation, infectious diseases, natural disasters, anti-microbial resistance, cyber threats, the list of real or perceived security threats, are seemingly endless. Rhetorically at least all these issues (and many others besides) have – at one point in time – been elevated to security threat status to all manner of ‘referent objects’, including states, regions, group identity, individuals, and even non-human entities (e.g., the biosphere, different animals, and plant species) (Buzan et al., Reference Buzan, Wæver and de Wilde1998). The rationale for the increase in security language is usually the hope that security threat status will translate into an issue that is addressed quickly and efficiently by relevant power holders. After all, security pertains to survival and as such it commands more urgent action than other negative states of being (notably, inequality, injustice) (Buzan et al., Reference Buzan, Wæver and de Wilde1998: 39).

The hope that the link to security will deliver the desired result is not unfounded; after all, states are obligated to provide security for people living within that state (cf. Chapter 2, Section 2.2; Chapter 5, Section 5.4). But are states and other actors morally obligated to address real/objective security threats via securitization? which is to say by using threat-specific, often liberty defying, rigorously enforced, and sometimes forcible emergency measures to address a threat, for example, mass surveillance, limited military action, and forced restrictions on freedom of movement. The answer to this question is not straightforward. Thus, we know that securitization does not necessarily lead to greater security as a state of being,Footnote 1 and that security interests’ conflict. During the writing of this section (April 2020) for example, I – along with millions of other Britons – am in lockdown because of the UK government’s response to the coronavirus crisis – a clear example of securitization. While this measure appears to ensure health security (directly by slowing down infections and indirectly by not overburdening the National Health Service), the economy is in freefall, with businesses big and small faced with great economic insecurity.

By contrast, we also know that provided several stringent criteria (including just cause, right intention, and proportionality) are satisfied, securitization can be morally permissible (just) (Floyd, Reference Floyd2019a; Wolfendale, Reference Wolfendale2022; Polko and Ratajczak, Reference Polko and Ratajczak2021; Makahamadze and Sibanda, Reference Makahamadze and Sibanda2021; Dimari and Pakadakis, 2022, Thumfart, Reference Thumfart2022). And from just securitization it is but a small step to contemplate whether sometimes securitization is not merely morally permissible and hence optional, but morally required, or else mandatory.Footnote 2 Further impetus is given to this when we consider that some threats (at a minimum, an incurable and deadly infectious disease affecting all people equally) seem to be so significant that they require nothing short of a securitizing response because the alternative of not acting in this way has more harmful consequences.

Moreover, states already have a social contractual duty to ensure citizens’ security (e.g., Sorell, Reference Sorell2013, N. Lazar, Reference Lazar2009). What is more, the condition of morally mandatory securitization already extends beyond the borders of nation-states also to outsiders, albeit on a very limited number of issues. Notably, as part of the responsibility to protect (RtoP), unaddressed atrocity crimes within sovereign states already require the international community to protect affected individuals from genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, or ethnic cleansing everywhere (cf. Chapter 5; see also Glanville, Reference Glanville2021: 7), where necessary with a range of securitizing measures and, in some cases, even with war.Footnote 3 Unlike with states, where there is a contractual requirement to secure people within the state (albeit not via securitization), here the moral duty to intervene rests on ‘the fundamental moral premise that human suffering ought to be tackled’ (Pattison, Reference Pattison2010: 19), which is based on the principle of the moral equality of people.

Just Securitization Theory (JST), which, in this capitalized form refers to my version of a theory of just securitization as developed in my 2019 book The Morality of Security: A Theory of just securitization, rests like practically all secular, moral theories on the moral equality of people. Beyond ‘a requirement of equal treatment’ the moral equality of people also includes – at a minimum – a general, but not an assigned, duty to enable people to live minimally decent lives (Miller, Reference Miller2007: 28).Footnote 4 Taken together, we can say that there exists a prima facie case for a theory of morally mandatory securitization to complement a theory of morally permissible securitization. The development of such a theory is the objective of this book. As part of this, I will trace existing commitments that are in line with morally mandatory securitization; nevertheless, the theory here developed is overtly normative. It is ‘a theory that states standards, values, or concrete proposals that involve criticism of present arrangements and thus calls for change in order to create a better future’ (Castree et al., Reference Castree, Kitchin and Rogers2013: 349).

Three interrelated principal research questions inform the analysis:

  1. (1) In what circumstances is securitization morally required?

  2. (2) Who, or what kinds of actor, are morally required to securitize, and to what referent objects?

  3. (3) On what grounds are different types of actors required to undertake self- or other-securitization?

Several secondary research questions are also important, including: Can unjust actors be morally required to securitize or is this the prerogative and responsibility of just actors only? Is there a pro tantoFootnote 5 obligation to securitize simply when securitization is morally permissible? What, if any, factors, or concerns can override the pro tanto obligation to securitize? In cases where several actors have a pro tanto obligation to securitize, who is the primary duty-bearer, and why? And who must act when designated primary duty-bearers fail?

I.2 Place in the Literature and Value Added

My interest in mandatory securitization grows out of my previous work on morally permissible securitization. It is my ambition to build up a subfield of ‘just securitization studies’, where scholars develop, refine, and challenge principles of just securitization with a view to positively influence security practice. Put differently, JST offers emancipation from ‘poor security practice towards a more just and enlightened security practice’ (Floyd, Reference Floyd2022: 279).Footnote 6

Just securitization studies are ultimately incomplete without a corresponding theory of the moral obligation to securitize (Floyd, Reference Floyd2019a: 210–211; Reference Floyd, Nyman and Burke2016b). Notably while my JST aims to enable scholars and the public to hold practitioners accountable for how they practise securitization (justly or unjustly), the here-proposed theory goes further. The theory of morally mandatory securitization enables users to hold ‘should-be’ securitizing actors accountable for not securitizing, after all duties enable actors to demand relevant action and to place blame for inaction’ (cf. D. Owens, Reference Owens2015). This is important. Thus, while state actors tend to overzealously securitize against all manner of things as matters of national security, after all securitization has well-recognized benefits for the security industry, indeed for all ‘security-Fuckers’, as Mark Neocleous (Reference Neocleous2008: 5) albeit citing James Kelman so crassly puts it, states are less eager to securitize when people in other states are threatened. Moreover, state actors are often blinded by ideological commitments and beliefs. For example, left-leaning governments are unlikely to securitize against immigration and are thus unlikely to act on a corresponding duty, while right-leaning governments are likely to securitize against immigration when it is morally impermissible, for example, because there is no real threat.

The theory of morally mandatory securitization can also guide policymakers and security practitioners on their duties to secure and to securitize, respectively. As such, the theory has the potential to make a positive difference in the world. Notably, the theory gives way to a revision of North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Article 5 and to a refocusing of RtoP away from humanitarian war and on a broader range of issues. Moreover, if adapted it would ensure that relevant insecurities (i.e., those that affect just referents and that are sufficiently harmful) are addressed – including, when necessary, via securitization – before they get even worse, including before they can turn into war. As such, the theory of morally mandatory securitization is closer to the work of Burke et al. (Reference Burke, Lee-Koo and McDonald2014), who, with their theory of cosmopolitan security, seek to increase every person and other sentient beings’ condition of being secure, than my previous book, which some saw as simply focusing on managing or limiting insecurity caused by securitization (cf. Burke et al., Reference Burke, Lee-Koo and McDonald2014: 8; Loader, Reference Loader2022).Footnote 7 Unlike some of these writers, however, I acutely distinguish between security as a condition (being secure) and security as a special kind of social and political practice (securitization) (see Herington, Reference Herington and Bourbeau2015: 29–32, for these distinctions). This means that I do not start from the assumption that the right kind of ‘securitization’ is a desirable solution, let alone a panacea to the world ills. Instead, I consider the need for securitization ultimately a failure of politics and decision-makers to prevent insecurity. While not all forms of insecurity are preventable (the realist in me ultimately believes that humans are prone to tribalism and hence conflictFootnote 8), many – given the right political institutions, behaviour, and fair distribution of resources – are preventable (cf. J. Floyd, Reference Floyd2017a). This is a point I will return to in the conclusion to this book; for now what matters is that because the prevention of insecurity is not widely practised or successful, insecurity remains very much part of the human condition. If this is so, then we need a theory that tells us when exceptional emergency measures may be used, and how such policies ought to be carried out. This was delivered by JST. Beyond that, however, we are also in need of a theory that enables ‘us’ to demand securitization effectively. In short, we need a theory that tells us when reluctant relevant actors must securitize to address insecurity. In other words, we need a theory of morally mandatory securitization.

To achieve my wider goals, my theory of morally mandatory securitization must be fair, relevant, and able to guide action in the real world. In short, I agree with James Pattison’s (Reference Pattison2018) view that moral theorizing for international politics must be pragmatic. Any such theory should be, first, ‘determinate’. This is, it should ‘offer clear normative prescriptions that can be used to advise policymakers, and […] to hold them to account for their selection of measures [and be able to] guide the public debate’ on the relevant issue (Pattison, Reference Pattison2018: 19). Second, a theory needs to be ‘relevant’ and concern the here and now. Third, it needs to be intuitively ‘plausible’. And fourth, it needs to have ‘wide appeal’, by which he means that ‘the approach could be endorsed by those who have differing but reasonable underlying world views’ (Pattison, Reference Pattison2018: 20).

In my view, an important contributing factor towards determinacy is that my theory must recognize that there are limits to what morality can demand (this also falls into plausibility) that need to be built into the theory itself. For example, it is important that states are awarded enough self-determination in matters of (national) security. Moreover, it is crucial that principles of fairness govern burden sharing for other-securitization. In more detail, I hold that moral responsibility for an agent-caused but not intended threat obligates – in the first instance – threateners to react and not more capable states or even the international community in form of the United Nations (UN). Evidently, where threateners will not act, ‘remedial responsibility’ (Miller, Reference Miller2007) must pass to other actors, including to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

While the ethics of security/securitization is slowly gaining in importance (see, e.g., Nyman, Reference Nyman2018, and Burke et al., Reference Burke, Lee-Koo and McDonald2014; Browning and McDonald, Reference Browning and McDonald2013) the policy-relevant question, whether states and other actors have a moral duty to securitize is widely neglected. The reasons for this are different for distinct theoretical approaches to security. Traditional scholars in security studies, which is to say realists and liberals, believe that states need to deal with threats when they (have the potential to) lead to violent conflict. In other words, there is no question to be answered. Copenhagen School scholars and other constructivists ignore the question because they consider securitization a securitizing actor’s political choice, and usually the wrong one, as all securitizations have adverse consequences. Critical theorists such as Ken Booth are generally pro-security, but often so opposed to the state that they consider states as counterproductive to achieving security. Moreover, Booth (Reference Booth2007) – and ultimately also Burke and other ‘security cosmopolitans’ – believes that true security (as a state of being) is best achieved if the means match the ends, ergo that non-violent means are used, a position that does not sit easily with morally mandatory securitization, which includes the use of violent means.

Although steeped in security studies, the here-proposed approach sits perhaps most comfortably with the emerging work on the ethics of ‘soft war’ (Gross and Meisels, Reference Gross and Meisels2017), ‘alternatives to war’ (Pattison, Reference Pattison2018, also Dill Reference Dill and Ohlin2016), or the jus ad vim (force short of war) (Walzer, Reference Walzer2006 [1977]: xv, Brunstetter, Reference Brunstetter2021). This is so for two reasons. First, like me this emerging literature draws heavily on the just war tradition. Second, many of the measures discussed as part of this nascent literature are expressions of securitization. Soft war or ‘forcible alternatives to war’ (Dill, Reference Dill and Ohlin2016), for example, refer to types of war that do not involve armed conflict or kinetic force. A narrower reading is the jus ad vim, which considers the use of military force short of war (Brunstetter and Braun, Reference Brunstetter and Braun2013). In its broadest reading, ‘alternatives to war’ (Pattison, Reference Pattison2018) comprise a range of activities including economic sanctions, dialogue, mediation, arms embargoes but also positive incentives. In short, Pattison’s alternatives to war refer to a mix of politicization and securitization. While this literature is thus relevant to what is proposed here, none of these scholars offer a comprehensive ethics of securitization.Footnote 9 Most notably, all such work focuses on agent-intended threats only (notably Pattison, Reference Pattison2018, focuses on atrocity crimes and aggression), and it is limited to conflicts between groups that are so intense that the state can no longer protect civilians and vital infrastructure.Footnote 10 By contrast, my framework includes besides agent-intended also agent-caused and agent-lacking threats of lesser intensity. Indeed, the defensive measures that comprise securitization – in relevant cases – precede war. Moreover, as far as I can see, the literature on broadly ‘soft war’ is largely about the moral permissibility of war-like responses, not moral obligation. The reason for this is simple: it is generally believed that war-like responses in self-defence are an actor’s prerogative (cf. Chapter 1, Section 1.2). As we shall see in Chapter 1, however, this changes were other-defence, most notably armed humanitarian intervention is concerned.

As this shows, the theory of morally mandatory securitization as developed in this book does not exist in a vacuum. Indeed, many of the themes discussed in this book have been explored by others in extensive detail. Notably, social contract theorists discuss the duties of states towards their citizens (Hobbes, Reference Hobbes2002; Gauthier, Reference Gauthier1969, Sorel, Reference Sorell2013; N.C. Lazar, Reference Lazar2009, Glanville, Reference Glanville2013). Scholars concerned with humanitarian intervention or RtoP discuss the duty to intervene militarily to save strangers (e.g., Glanville, Reference Glanville2021; Pattison, Reference Pattison2010; Tesón, Reference Tesón and Scheid2014). Global justice scholars examine more broadly the duties the better off have to the least well off and why they have such duties (e.g., Miller, Reference Miller2007; Risse, Reference Risse2012; Pogge, Reference Pogge2001; Caney, Reference Caney2005; Brock, Reference Brock2009). Just war scholars have examined the relationship between unjust regimes, rights, and obligations (e.g., Rodin, Reference Rodin2002; McMahan, Reference McMahan2005). Given this, the sceptical reader may ask what is the added value of the theory of morally mandatory securitization? I would like to start by saying that practically all new and innovative scientific contributions are only ever newish; inevitably we all work with what has gone before. Not doing this would be both ignorant and unscientific. Inevitably, this means that oftentimes, newness lies more in making new links between existing literatures or findings, rather than truly novel approaches to either method, theory, or an empirical question. From this baseline then, what is it about the theory of mandatory securitizationFootnote 11 that makes it worthwhile?

Two things in particular stand out. First, uniquely, the theory of mandatory securitization offers a big picture approach on who has a duty to securitize, when and under what circumstances. Unlike more direct theories, for example, on armed humanitarian intervention, it is not tied to specific actors or acts but rather it considers the duties to secure and securitize by any actor on any issue.Footnote 12 This ability stems from the theory’s rootedness in securitization theory, which, as we shall see, is very much an open-ended framework that allows us to understand a hugely complex area of issues by separating the security landscape into different sectors of security (environmental, military, and so on), different referent objects (states, orders, identities, etc.), and providers of security (states, regional bodies, and so on) (Buzan et al., Reference Buzan, Wæver and de Wilde1998). Moreover, although not knowing a priori what form securitization will take (beyond it being a deviation from normal conduct) is a considerable challenge for the just securitization theorist, this also has vast benefits. Most notably, our understanding and theorizing are not limited to what we already know. As such, the theory leaves open room for things we have not yet experienced. It is thus securitization theory that can theoretically grasp COVID-19’s novel social distancing best.

Second, the theory of mandatory securitization offers a comparatively rare non-cosmopolitan perspective on issues of global justice. While statist, communitarian, and other non-cosmopolitan accounts of global justice exist (most notably Miller, Reference Miller2007; Walzer, Reference Walzer1990 but also Nagel, Reference Nagel2005), they are in the minority. The reason for this is that most people interested in global justice are interested in the subject because they are concerned with achieving equality or with ending poverty. In other words, they are committed to achieving global justice (cf. Nagel, Reference Nagel2005: 119). By contrast, non-cosmopolitans generally hold that we do not have a duty of justice to the less well off, but simply a humanitarian duty to alleviate suffering. Although the theory of mandatory securitization builds on top of a theory of just securitization (namely JST), it is important to recognize that JST is not a theory of justice. It is a theory of justified action; it does not advance a theory of distributive or global justice. The normative grounds JST and mandatory securitization appeal to are facts about human well-being, moral equality, and a corresponding humanitarian duty. As such my theory offers a much less demanding contribution to the global justice literature than most. Indeed, by focusing on a duty to securitize, the theory of mandatory securitization makes the topic of moral duties more manageable, perhaps even more palatable, than general theories of global distributive justice, which focus on global inequality. To be sure, I am not claiming that the duty to securitize is necessarily the only duty actors have; my claim is rather that by thinking of the duty to securitize, the general subject of moral duties is rendered accessible to reluctant practitioners, policymakers, and the public. This is even more the case because the word securitization is increasingly used outside of academia in the think tank community, including in dialogue with policymakers (see, e.g., NATO, 2021a, 2021b, Amnesty International, 2017, 2018).

I.3 The Meaning of Securitization

Securitization theory was initially developed by Ole Wæver in the late 1980s and the 1990s and developed further in collaboration with inter alia Barry Buzan (collectively called the Copenhagen School) in the late 1990s and the 2000s. In the school’s 1998 seminal Security: A New Framework for Analysis, securitization theory is described as a third way between realists’ narrow and Critical Theorists’ excessively wide take on the meaning and nature of security (Buzan et al., Reference Buzan, Wæver and de Wilde1998: 203–207). Rather than focusing on the objective existence of threats, the novel contribution offered by Wæver and his colleagues was to view the practice of security as an illocutionary speech act. To wit, an issue becomes a security threat when it is socially and politically constructed as such, notably in language. While language thus plays a major role in securitization, the Copenhagen School also argued that successful securitization involves the use of extraordinary measures (Buzan et al., Reference Buzan, Wæver and de Wilde1998: 25–26). The inclusion of extraordinary measures served to sort important securitization from less important ones and was thus in line with the claim that the theory simultaneously opens and yet limits the meaning of security. Due to some inconsistences across and within Wæver’s individual and the Copenhagen School’s joint writings, however, not everyone accepts that successful securitization involves actual policy change (i.e., the adoption of extraordinary measures), and indeed multiple interpretations of securitization exist (see, e.g., Huysmans, Reference Huysmans2011; Neal, Reference Neal2019; Corry, Reference Corry2012).

More postmodern scholars, for instance, are fixed on the role of language in securitization (e.g., Philipsen, Reference Philipsen2020). For these scholars, securitization succeeds when a relevant audience accepts the existential threat articulation contained in the securitizing move. The audience begins to feature in Wæver et al.’s, writings from 1998, however, without sufficient explanation of who or what this is (Stritzel, Reference Stritzel2007). I have argued elsewhere (Floyd, Reference Floyd2019a, Reference Floyd2016a) that the term audience makes sense only when audiences are treated coterminous with the addressees of securitization. And that if securitizing moves are either warnings or promises (as once suggested by Wæver Reference Wæver1989, 42), then audiences are either threateners or referent objects of securitization (Floyd, Reference Floyd2016a).Footnote 13 I have shown that the actors’ acceptance of the warning or the promise entailed in the securitizing move can but may not affect the trajectory of securitization (Floyd, Reference Floyd2019a: 55–58). Consequently, in the absence of a conclusive relationship between audience acceptance and securitization’s success (in a sense of completeness), the audience ought not to play a decisive role in the process of securitization. In JST it is bracketed from the process of securitization (for more detail see Chapter 3, Section 3.3.1).

Moreover, for the purposes of studying the ethics of securitization, securitization involves the use of threat-dependent extraordinary measures to combat the danger.Footnote 14 Considering that threats are different, this can take a myriad of forms. The securitization of terrorism is likely to involve an increase of powers of a state’s executive, including the home secretary (or equivalent), while the police force may be awarded controversial coercive powers to fight terrorism (including detention without trial or extensive powers of surveillance and one-off military strikesFootnote 15). By contrast, in cases of currency collapse in a liberal market economy, securitization might take the form of capital controls on private money to stop the outflow of funds, while private money may forcibly be used to keep the national economy afloat or to fund bail-outs of specific sectors of the economy (cf. Floyd, Reference Floyd2019d). In cases of the securitization of the environment or the climate (droughts, etc.), securitization might involve the passing of emergency laws that forbid citizens to conduct hitherto ordinary activities (involving the use of water), as well as an increase in police powers to enforce these new laws. In case of military threats – for example, the nuclear threat from North Korea – securitization often refers to a range of punitive economic sanctions against the aggressor state. Finally, in the case of COVID-19 in many states, securitization took the form of nationwide lockdown, increased police powers to enforce the lockdown through steep fines, the closing/reinstatement of borders, tracing apps, and much else besides.

These examples do not exhaust the concept of securitization, but they merely demonstrate that the descriptive words exceptional or extraordinary designate that whatever is done to address a given threat is at odds with ‘whatever passed as normal until an exception was installed’ (Wæver and Buzan, Reference Wæver and Buzan2020: 6). Given that in autocratic states what passes as normal is often far removed from the normal in free societies (for instance, the now lifted restriction on women driving in Saudi Arabia), a more accurate definition of exceptional politics might be that the exception entails measures and conduct that most reasonable personsFootnote 16 would ordinarily (i.e., in times when there is no relevant threat) consider unacceptable largely because of the harm or the violence they risk or entail.Footnote 17

Another way to think of securitization is as the breaking of established rules (Buzan et al., Reference Buzan, Wæver and de Wilde1998: 26).Footnote 18 The notion of rules aids our understanding of this multifaceted concept further. Depending on the threat, the rules that are broken may be rules within states or societies (e.g., when free societies expand surveillance and curtail freedom of movement) but also to the myriad of informal and formal rules that regulate, indeed co-constitute global international society in times of peace. While rules and practices are not distributed evenly throughout all sub-global international societies (Buzan, Reference Buzan2004), some rules and practices are accepted by all. For example, all states use channels of diplomacy to interact with one another; they tend to abide by existing trade agreements; they are sovereign over their territory and people and much besides. Punitive economic sanctions, unexpected and/or harsh trade tariffs, the cutting of diplomatic ties, other forms of coercion (e.g., the threat of expulsion from specific regional bodies, etc.) that break these practices and rules are thus expressions of securitization.

Securitization is not the prerogative only of individual state actors; collectives of states (e.g., the European Union (EU) or NATO) and other actors also can use exceptional emergency measures to deal with a perceived threat. Moreover, NATO, the EU, and individual states can not only securitize against threats to their members, or to the organization at large (i.e., self-securitization); instead, these actors can also use extraordinary emergency measures with the aim to save outsiders from suffering great harm. Let us call this other-securitization.

As we shall see in the next subsection, in line with my JST, not only people qualify for the status of just referent object (the thing or entity in danger). Some ecosystems and non-human species (both plant and animal) as well as more abstract things such as political and social orders can be just referent objects for securitization. This means that just other-securitization could quite legitimately focus on threats to these kinds of just referents. Given, however, that (in line with criterion 2 of JST below) the justness of referent objects depends on the referent object’s contribution to human well-being, relevant threats to things and orders are always also indirect threats to people (cf. Chapter 1, Section 1.3). Hence, I think it is legitimate to speak of outsiders as the ultimate referents of other-securitization in the way I do.

Other-securitization may – on occasion – see an actor (for instance, a state or NATO) act on the territory of another sovereign state (e.g., aid the host state with enforcing curfews or border controls during a pandemic). Often, however, other-securitization will be restricted to measures that are launched remotely, such as sanctions, expulsion, and one-off military strikes. To be sure, however, not all securitizing action taken to coerce other states is necessarily primarily a case of other-securitization. For example, securitizing action by non-rainforest states that aim to compel states with rainforests to stop deforestation of the same might be driven by the urge to save local peoples, but it could be one of self-securitization against climate change.Footnote 19 As ever in securitization studies, it is therefore important to be clear on who securitizes, what entity, and by what means (cf. Buzan et al., Reference Buzan, Wæver and de Wilde1998: 27).

On the issue of clarity, it is important to take note of another thing. In securitization studies, it is common to use the expression ‘the securitization of X’ and to refer by X to the threat. For example, the securitization of climate change designates that actors have constructed climate change as a threat. The preposition ‘of’ here likely results from the fact that securitization is concerned with the social and political construction of security threats. Certainly, a more adequate formulation would be to speak of the securitization against climate change. Especially also because at times, by the X in the ‘securitization of X’, scholars mean not the threat, but the referent object instead (this is also sometimes expressed as securitizing X), for example, when they speak of the securitization of identity, health, the environment, or women’s rights. The securitization of health, for example, does not mean a defence against health, but rather a defence against disease to ensure health. Given the customs described, my term ‘other-securitization’ could potentially be interpreted to mean ‘the securitization of another to protect the self’ or even ‘securitization against another’. Nothing could be further from the truth. I use the terms self-securitization and other-securitization as analogous with self-defence and other-defence both of which we can find in just war theory (cf. McMahan, Reference McMahan2005: 1). I do this because securitization is of course a specific form of defence (i.e., the use of exceptional countermeasures short of war to combat a threat), and self-securitization thus simply refers to the defence of the self by means of securitization, while other-securitization refers to the defence of outsiders/others/third parties by means of securitization. To make this clear to the reader, in this book I differentiate between the securitization of X, whereby X refers to the referent object, and the securitization against X, in cases where X is the threat. When used as a verb, this leads to the hard-to-get-used to phrase ‘securitize against, for example, climate change’.

I.4 Synopsis: Just Securitization Theory

While the present book is free-standing and complete, my theory of the obligation to securitize builds on my existing work on the moral permissibility to securitize (Floyd, Reference Floyd2019a). Just Securitization Theory is relevant for this project because obligation entails permissibility; after all no one can have a duty to do something unless that something is also morally permitted. Importantly, however, this does not mean that readers of this book must agree with the specifics of JST, but it simply means that readers must understand that a general theory of morally mandatory securitization is based on the finding that securitization can be morally justified. Given that in my case this takes the form of JST, it is necessary to explain this theory in some detail.

Just Securitization Theory sets out universal moral principles designating when states and other actors are permitted – from an ethical point of view – to use exceptional emergency measures. The moral principles advanced fall into three different groups:

  1. 1) Just initiation of securitization (specifying when the move from politicization to securitization is morally permissible),

  2. 2) Just conduct in securitization (specifying what practitioners of security need to consider when they carry out securitization), and

  3. 3) Just termination of securitization (specifying when and how securitization must be unmade).

Just Securitization Theory combines insights from moral philosophy’s just war tradition with insights from security studies’ securitization theory. This is an unusual marriage to say the least. Ole Wæver, the originator of securitization theory, has strong postmodernist leanings (see Floyd, Reference Floyd2010: 23–31). As such, he does not engage in differentiating perceived from real threats and indeed his version of securitization theory is concerned mainly with how issues become security threats through threat construction in language. Neither does he believe in the desirability, nor in the possibility, of universal truth claims regarding morality (Wæver, Reference Wæver2011). The just war tradition by contrast sits firmly in analytical political and moral philosophy with proponents subscribing to universalism and reason, taking manifest aggression as a just cause for war. So why then combine these two theories? The advantage of Wæver’s securitization theory vis-à-vis all other existing theories of security is that the theory has no fixed view on who securitizes, the origin of threats, or the objects in need of being saved (referent objects). As such, the theory is uniquely able to capture different actors at all levels of analysisFootnote 20 and manifold threats to all manner of referent objects. That – for me – is the unique ‘selling point’ of securitization theory. It is the reason for why I have spent so many years engaging with this theory, and why I commence from securitization regarding the morality of security.

So far so good, but can an ethical approach that rests on objective threats really be reconciled with a theory that focuses on the social and political construction of threats only? Or else, why is JST a progression and not a perversion of the Copenhagen School’s securitization theory?Footnote 21 There are two parts to my answer. First, leading proponents of securitization theory including Ole Wæver (Reference Wæver2011: 472) and Thierry Balzacq (Reference Balzacq and Balzacq2011) acknowledge that real threats exist. This is important simply because it shows that there is no insurmountable ontological chasm that divides securitization theory(ies) and JST (cf. Floyd, Reference Floyd2019a: 10–12).

Second, the element of social and political construction is not lost from JST. Here as in other versions of securitization theory, security threats are and remain socially and politically constructed by securitizing actors. The difference is that in JST what matters is that securitized threats refer to real/objective threats. Notably, securitization cannot be morally permissible, let alone required, unless there is a real existential threat. Even if some critical (in the broadest sense) scholars accept that real threats do exist, most consider them epistemologically inaccessible ergo: we cannot know for sure whether a threat is real or not. Drawing on work by the late Derek Parfit (Reference Parfit2011), I hold that objective is to be understood in the evidence-relative sense, never the fact-relative sense. This means that judgements about the real existence of threats cannot result from the requirement to know all ‘the relevant, reason-giving facts’, but instead on knowing all the relevant, reason-giving available evidence, which must suggest decisive reasons that the beliefs we hold about the threat are true (Parfit, Reference Parfit2011: 163). To be sure, this does not allow for sloppiness or individual limitations on the part of the securitizing actor, or the scholar examining the justice of securitization; instead, evidence must approximate the facts (I elaborate on this below).

Moving on, how exactly securitization plays out is hugely contested in the relevant literature. The upside of these disagreements is that any scholar working with securitization is at liberty to develop her own nuanced approach of what securitization means, which can be vexing, but also advantageous and productive (cf. Wæver, Reference Wæver2003). In this book – and in JST more generally – securitization refers not to the construction in language of issues into security threats, but to the adoption of exceptional, often issue-specific security measures following rhetorical threat articulation.Footnote 22

My interpretation of securitization as the exception also partially explains why I have chosen to work with the just war tradition. Thus, securitization and war are both forms of exceptional politics and consequently display some of the same characteristics (i.e., they harm people, including beyond threateners also beneficiaries and innocent bystanders), but also that they can be used and abused by policymakers to further their own ends. The similarities between war and securitization also mean that if one develops a theory on the morality of securitization it is impossible to ignore a theory that has done the same for war for centuries (cf. Floyd, Reference Floyd2019a).

In recent years, there has been a surge of interest in the just war tradition. Changes in the practice of war (including the proliferation of civil wars and the decrease of inter-state wars) but also, according to the leading just war scholar Jeff McMahan, changes in philosophy (a move away from a focus on language towards practical moral issues) have ushered along a new type of just war theory (McMahan, 2018: x–xi). The revisionist school led by McMahan questions long-held assumptions by the legalist school, who likens the morality of war to the legality of war, as codified in, for example, the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Despite these internal disagreements, I consider the just war tradition authoritative on the issue of the ethics of war, and by extension emergency politics. Following Cian O’Driscoll and Anthony Lang (2013), this is down to two factors: (1) its legacy (not merely that it has been around for hundreds of years, but also the sheer number of people who have intersubjectively agreed the baseline principles that are relevant when discussing the justice of war) and (2) its usage in practice (notably, the fact that the principles of the just war are well known and that they shape public discourse about the permissibility of war) (O’Driscoll and Lang, Reference O’Driscoll, Lang, O’Driscoll, Lang and Williams2013: 1–16). Of course, its usage in practice is not always benign. The theory has been used and abused by policymakers to justify their unjust wars. While this is problematic, including for just and morally mandatory securitization, it is also the case that just war theory offers guidance enabling understanding why some wars are unjust (see, e.g., Morkevicius, Reference Morkevicius2022, on the injustice of Russia’s war in Ukraine). While the abuse of moral theories of war and securitization cannot easily be stopped, extensive dissemination of the principles of just and mandatory securitization can enable the public to recognize disinformation for what it is.

Revisionism or legalism, the just war tradition is about curtailing the reasons for which it is permissible to fight (Orend, Reference Orend2006). Moral philosophers interested in constraining the occurrence and bloody/destructive nature of war have for centuries advanced criteria or principles specifying when wars may be fought and how wars ought to be fought. They have homed in on a small number of criteria. Ad bellum (the just resort to war) requirements usually include just cause, macro-proportionality, right intention, last resort, reasonable chance of success, and legitimate authority, while in bello (just conduct in war) criteria focus on proportionality, necessity, and discrimination. Overall, in bello criteria suggest that if wars are fought then moral codes and rules of conduct obtain. Just war scholars do not advocate that just wars should be fought; indeed, as we shall see in Chapter 1, Section 1.2, many theorists of the just war stay away from the issue of obligation altogether. A notable exception is scholars working on armed humanitarian intervention.

Informed by critical security studies which holds a negative view of securitization, I am all too aware of the adverse consequences securitization may have, and thus share just war scholar’s view that an ethical theory of emergency measures (be they war or securitization) must ultimately be about curtailing the use and destructiveness of such measures (cf. Orend, Reference Orend2006). However, like just war scholars, and unlike pacifists, I also think that wars are sometimes justified. We can see this clearly when we consider that political regimes differ in terms of their justness; surely a just regime cannot be required – in all cases – to succumb, without a fight, to the aggression posed to it by an unjust regime? I also think that an ethical strategy that ceteris paribus recommends desecuritization – as do Wæver and many others – is not feasible, as this only works when real threats are ignored. Thus, when faced with a real threat a would-be securitizing actor will not be convinced of the wisdom and necessity to desecuritize; the actor would, however, benefit from guidance regarding whether they may securitize and how to do this in an ethically informed way.

I also believe that there is a need for an ethical theory of securitization because there will always be securitizations. Even if the occurrence of war and securitization are curtailable by sound ethical theories, they are recurring features in world politics, not merely because aggression and tribalism are – in my view – a part of human nature, but also because threats can be driven by indirect agential variables (resource shortages, etc.). To my mind, an ethical strategy regarding securitization must rest with the provision of universal moral principles that designate when securitization may be initiated, how actors ought to behave, and when and how securitization must be unmade. My allegiance with universalism is a direct rejection of the critical project in security studies, and one that pushes JST deeply into analytical political and moral philosophy. Informed by the just war tradition, JST develops the following principles designating just securitization:

I.4.1 Just Initiation of Securitization

  1. 1. There must be an objective existential threat to a referent object, that is to say a danger that – with a sufficiently high probability – threatens the survival or the essential character/properties of either a political or social order, an ecosystem, a non-human species, or individuals.

  2. 2. Referent objects are entitled to defend themselves or are eligible for defensive assistance if they are morally justifiable. Referent objects are morally justifiable if they meet basic human needs, defined here as necessary components of human well-being. Political and social orders need to satisfy a minimum level of basic human needsFootnote 23 of people part of or contained within that order, and they must respect the human needs of outsiders. Ecosystems and non-human species, in turn, need to make a contribution to the human needs of a sufficiently large group of people. Human beings are justifiable referent objects by virtue of being intrinsically valuable; all other referent objects therefore have instrumental value derived from the need of human beings.

  3. 3. The right intention for securitization is the just cause. Securitizing actors must be sincere in their intention to protect the referent object they themselves identified and declared.

  4. 4. The expected good gained from securitization must be greater than the expected harm from securitization; where the only relevant good is the good specified in the just cause.

  5. 5. Securitization must have a reasonable chance of success, whereby the chances of achieving the just cause must be judged greater than those of less harmful alternatives to securitizing.

I.4.2 Just Conduct in Securitization

  1. 6. The security measures used must be appropriate and should aim to only address the objective existential threat that occasions securitization.

  2. 7. The security measures used must be judged effective in dealing with the threat. They should aim to cause, or risk, the least amount of overall harm possible and do less harm to the referent object than would otherwise be caused if securitization was abandoned.

  3. 8. Executors of securitization must respect a limited number of relevant human rights in the execution of securitization.

Just Securitization Theory also develops criteria specifying just desecuritization. These are as follows:

I.4.3 Just Termination of Securitization

  1. 9. Desecuritization of just securitization must occur when the initial and related new objective existential threats have been neutralized, whereas desecuritization of unjust securitization must occur immediately.

  2. 10. Desecuritization should ideally be publicly declared, and corresponding security language and security measures should be terminated with immediate effect.

  3. 11. In order to avoid renewed and/or reactionary securitization, desecuritizing actors should undertake context-specific restorative measures.

For mandatory securitization, just initiation of securitization is the most important aspect of JST. Together, principles 1 (the just reason) and 2 (the just referent) are jointly and sufficiently necessary as the just cause for securitization. I will expand on just reason below and also in some detail in Chapter 1, Section 1.3. To be sure, crucial – especially for the many critical security scholars sceptical of our ability to know that threats are real – is that I understand objective in the evidence – not the fact-relative sense (Parfit, Reference Parfit2011), meaning that threats are real when all the available relevant evidence suggests decisive reasons that they are.

The just referent is not always explicitly identified in just war theory. Some scholars assert that only just states have a right to self-defence. Justice here is usually bound to a state’s record on human rights (see, e.g., Orend, Reference Orend2006: 36). Conversely, I hold that the value of referents rests with their ability to satisfy basic human needs (except for human beings themselves when our concern ought to be with their human needs). One reason for this is that while some referents (e.g., ecosystems) can usefully contribute to the satisfaction of basic human needs they cannot easily be squared with human rights. Thus, while we may say that there is a human right to the environment, the environment is not a duty-bearer.

Anyone with good knowledge of the just war tradition will notice that while JST mirrors standard just war theories closely, some important principles are missing. While it is not surprising that just conduct in securitization does not specify that international agreements are sacrosanct (there are none explicitly about securitization), an explanation is needed regarding the absence of legitimate authority and last resort from the just initiation of securitization. Legitimate authority is absent from JST for three reasons. First, much of what legitimate authority does in the just war theory (i.e., guarantee that in a war of two sides, only the legitimate actor has a moral right to defend themselves) is ensured by JST’s principle of the just referent object (principle 2), which ensures that only just entities can be secured by means of securitization. Second, in the original Copenhagen School theory securitization is not the prerogative of state actors; hence, just securitization must not be restricted to legitimate authorities (i.e., fully democratic and just states). Third, I reject reformulations of legitimate authority into a principle specifying representative authority (e.g., Finlay, Reference Finlay2015: 182–183), which would emphasize consent by referent objects to securitization, as superfluous because the substantive criteria of just securitization (notably right intentionFootnote 24) guard against what I have called elsewhere agent-benefiting securitization (Floyd, Reference Floyd2010). Bearing in mind here that the need to prevent securitizing actor’s acting in their own as opposed to the interest of the just referent object is the greatest rationale for representative legitimacy (Floyd, Reference Floyd2019a).

Last resort is, if in a modified and much weakened form, present in JST’s principle 5. This criterion specifies that securitization is permissible when it has a reasonable chance of success, whereby reasonable chance is judged comparatively against the consequences of less harmful alternatives to securitizing. Securitization is permissible when it emerges ex ante as the best option. As I shall argue in Chapter 1, Section 1.2, a stricter interpretation of last resort – as the last thing to be tried after other viable less harmful options have failed to satisfy just cause (i.e., ameliorated moderate last resort) – is pivotal for the obligation to securitize. Indeed, I hold that just cause + right intention + proportionality + ameliorated moderate last resort together constitute not the permissibility to initiate securitization but equate to a ‘must cause’ for securitization.

Although my list of principles includes criteria determining just termination of securitization, just securitization and just desecuritization each has a separate outcome (i.e., securitization leads to a securitized state of affairs, whereas desecuritization leads to a desecuritized state of affairs), and consequently the justice of one process must be judged independently of the outcome of the other process. In short, a just desecuritization does not render a prior unjust securitization just, and vice versa.

Just Securitization Theory is aimed at three distinct audiences, scholars, practitioners of security, and the public. In more detail, JST enables scholars of security to examine the justness of any past or present securitizations, it equips security practitioners with tools helping them decide what they ought to do in relevant situations, and it empowers the public to hold securitizing actors and practitioners accountable for how they practise security. While empowering people is an important part of JST, actual empowerment is limited because while the theory allows the public, etc., to critique past or present security practice, as it stands, it cannot easily be used to demand securitization (Floyd, Reference Floyd2018). This is because the theory as developed in The Morality of Security (2019a) is concerned exclusively with the permissibility to securitize, it does not theorize when securitization is morally obligatory. Likewise, JST does not offer guidance to decision-makers and security practitioners on when they must act to secure, let alone securitize against a threat. The present book aims to fill these gaps in the theory and – because JST is the only theory of its kind – in the wider literature.

I.5 Summary: Morally Mandatory Securitization

The theory of morally mandatory securitization shares some common ground with the RtoP norm.Footnote 25 In Chapter 5, I argue that mandatory securitization can address some of the problems with RtoP, and above all it can refocus the norm away from armed humanitarian intervention towards other types of action, on a much broader range of issues. Furthermore, I borrow from the RtoP literature the idea of a pillar structure invoking the duties to secure of actors placed at different levels of analysis. The pillar structure enables a summary of the argument developed over the course of this book as follows:

Pillar 1: Just statesFootnote 26 that have satisfied must causeFootnote 27 have an overriding duty of self-securitization. In the same situation, unjust states have an overriding duty to secure morally valuable referent objects within their territory, but they are not permitted to defend – by means of securitization – their unjust regime. When states fail to act on objective existential threats or when they pose an unjust threat to a just referent object, relevant non-state actors have a pro tanto obligation to act to secure people within the state, including when they have satisfied must cause, via securitization. These obligations extend to group insiders and outsiders.

States are the primary duty-bearers for mandatory other-politicization and – when they have satisfied must cause – mandatory other-securitization, in cases where they are morally or outcome responsible for the threat that gives rise to the need for politicization/securitization. And they can be primary duty-bearers when they have relevant ties of security friendship with the entity in danger. Powerful or especially skilled states can also be designated primary duty-bearers for other-politicization and other-securitization based on capacity.

Pillar 2: When just sub-systemic collective security actors have satisfied must cause, they are morally obligated to self-securitize. In just collective defence organizations – provided member states seek assistance – this duty is overriding. Unjust collective security actors have a duty to secure morally valuable referent objects within their territory, including – when they have satisfied must cause – with securitization.

On the grounds of friendship and ties of community collectives also bear foremost responsibility for dealing with an unjust threat emanating from a rogue member state to the collective, or – if requested by the member state – to one of its members. Collectives are the primary duty-bearers for mandatory other-politicization and other-securitization when they are morally or outcome responsible for the insecurity. They can also be primary duty-bearers when they have relevant ties of friendship with another state or actor. In cases where individual states and collectives have comparable ties of friendship, the capacity to help trumps, rendering the collective – often – the primary duty-bearer for mandatory other-securitization.

Sub-systemic- and systemic-level non-state actors are likely to have a duty to politicize and – when they have satisfied must cause – securitize, only when they are morally or outcome responsible for the threat. The exception would be cases where they are the most capable actor.

Pillar 3: When just referent objects have no other protector (e.g., a weak or ‘friendless’ persecuted just non-state actor), then the UNSC is the designated primary duty-bearer for mandatory politicization and – if they have satisfied must cause – securitization. Moreover, the UNSC is the secondary, or even tertiary duty-bearer for mandatory politicization and securitization where other duty-bearers have failed to act (including because their obligation to securitize is overridden for legitimate reasons, notably by the risk of death, disease, and disability; the risk of instability and insecurity as well as by prohibitive financial costs). The UNSC’s duty to secure and/or securitize is overriding, based on the contractual relation, the UN charter creates between the people and the UN/UNSC.

I.6 Method and Methodology

While inspired by critical security studies, especially securitization theory, JST is ultimately steeped in analytical political theory and moral philosophy. This is evident not only from the fact that relativism is rejected in favour of universalism,Footnote 28 but also from how principles of just securitization are derived. In line with analytical and moral philosophy, I derive these principles by employing the Rawlsian method of wide reflective equilibrium. As a method (opposed to a state of affairs), wide reflective equilibrium involves ‘testing theories against judgements about particular cases, but also testing judgements about particular cases against theories, until equilibrium is achieved’ (Blackburn, Reference Blackburn2005: 312). As a state of affairs or perhaps better, as a state of mind, reflective equilibrium designates ‘[a] state in which all one’s thoughts about a topic fit together; in which there are no loose ends or recalcitrant elements that do not cohere with an overall position’ (ibid: 312).

Scholars developing principles or a theory of just war usually test their own theory against specific cases as well as competing just war theories. Many scholars proceed by grouping likeminded scholars on one or other principle together and test the prevailing view against cases and new judgements against theories. Although many different theories of just securitization are possible, JST currently is the only theory of its kind. This means that I cannot achieve reflective equilibrium by testing judgements about specific cases against competing accounts of just securitization. Moreover, there are no theories of justified securitization concerned with obligation. Given the likeness of securitization and war as forms of extraordinary emergency politics, however, what I can do is utilize theories that make similar points with regard to war. Relevant in particular are scholars that theorize armed humanitarian interventionFootnote 29 (i.e., ‘military intervention into the jurisdiction of a state by outside forces for humanitarian purposes’ (Scheid, Reference Scheid and Scheid2014: 3)), because unlike national self-defence, humanitarian intervention is – once designated principles are met – not simply optional, but generally considered obligatory (cf. Dobos and Coady, Reference Dobos, Coady and Scheid2014: 78). This means that we can test our judgements about particular issues regarding the obligation to securitize (e.g., regarding when the pro tanto obligation to securitize third parties is overridden) against theories of armed humanitarian intervention that stress the moral costs and risks to interveners.

In addition, my account of the obligation to securitize must achieve reflective equilibrium with JST. This is crucial, because a theory of the duty to securitize flows from a corresponding theory of the permissibility to securitize. A disconnect between these ‘two’Footnote 30 theories would suggest problems with either logic. This book’s theoretical grounding in JST has consequences for how the theory of mandatory securitization shapes up. Just Securitization Theory adheres to a form of ‘weak cosmopolitanism’ (Miller, Reference Miller2007: 28) or else a ‘moral cosmopolitanism’ (ibid: 43) only; thus – like practically all moral theories – it subscribes to the principle of the equal moral worth of people (cf. Floyd, Reference Floyd2019a). The moral equal worth approach in turn includes the view that there is a general, unassigned duty to alleviate human suffering (Pattison, Reference Pattison2010: 19). Consequently, the theory developed in this book starts from the premise that – in certain circumstances – those able owe those unable and objectively threatened (i.e., insecure), protection and assistance in the form of other-politicization and – when the criteria of just initiation of securitization + (ameliorated moderate) last resort are satisfied – other-securitization. In other words, there is a general unassigned duty to secure outsiders that can morph into a duty to securitize outsiders.

Who precisely has such duties, how much is owed, and when securitization is obligatory as opposed to ‘merely’ permissible are the subjects of Chapters 25. The point here is that a moral theory on the obligation to securitize that builds on a prior moral theory on the permissibility to securitize that is committed to the equal worth of people cannot logically abandon the idea of duties to outsiders.

Given the theory’s focus on obligations to third parties, the theory of mandatory securitization is also part of the literature on global justice. According to Gillian Brock: ‘[a] problem is often considered to constitute a global justice problem when one (or more) of the following conditions obtain:

  1. 1. Actions stemming from an agent, institution, practice, activity (and so on) that can be traced to one (or more) states negatively affects residents in another state.

  2. 2. Institutions, practices, policies, activities (and so on) in one (or more) states could bring about a benefit or reduction in harm to those resident in another state.

  3. 3. There are normative considerations that require agents in one state to take certain actions with respect to agents or entities in another. Such actions might be mediated through institutions, policies, or norms.

  4. 4. We cannot solve a problem that affects residents of one or more states without co-operation from other states’ (Brock, Reference Brock and Zalta2017).

As will become clear in the Chapters 25 that follow, all four of these points are obtained with regards to the theory of mandatory securitization.

Any theory concerned with a global justice problem must be based on sound normative foundations that ground solutions, obligations, and responsibilities (ibid). To do this, I utilize existing theories of global justice that address what we owe to people living outside of our own state’s borders. In reflective equilibrium with JST, which not only is needs-based,Footnote 31 but also understands human rights as grounded in basic human needs, my approach to global justice shares much in common with scholars that recognize a relatively small number of human rights. The logic of security (including the possibility of the security dilemma) as well as the fact that states are the custodians of the monopoly of violence organically reinforces my positing with ‘weak cosmopolitans’, otherwise known as a form of communitarianism (Miller, Reference Miller2016: 161). In line with that position, I set the threshold for unreasonable costs that override pro tanto obligations of mandatory other-securitization lower than many global justice scholars (almost all of whom are strong or even ‘radical’ cosmopolitans) would. Moreover, I defend the view that special duties and not merely general duties exist.

In addition to reflective equilibrium, I utilize another method employed by philosophers: hypothetical examples. For instance, in Chapter 1 where I consider alternatives to securitizing, I advance an array of hypothetical examples belonging to different threat types (notably I differentiate between agent-intended threats and intent-lacking threats, with the later subdivided into agent-caused but intent-lacking threats and agent-lacking threats),Footnote 32 and to make my case, however, I utilize solely hypothetical examples. Several reasons inform this decision. First, as Helen Frowe explains, ‘Stripping away the detail can enable us to identify general principles that can be obscured by the intricacies of historical cases’ (Frowe, Reference Frowe2014a: 5).

Second, and again invoking Frowe, the use of hypotheticals does not mean that a theory generated in this way cannot be helpful with ‘real-life examples’ (ibid: 4). Third, as I go on to explain, this method serves the general ambit of JST. Unlike other normative theories of security, JST is built on the observation that there is a functional distinction between securitizing actors and scholars (Buzan et al., Reference Buzan, Wæver and de Wilde1998: 33–35). While securitizing actors are the ones doing the securitization, scholars can – if listened to by relevant practitioners – influence securitization processes. In other words, while JST recognizes that securitization is a political choice by securitizing actors (Wæver, Reference Wæver2015), one of the aims of the theory in my 2019 book was to inform such actors when securitization is permissible, and what they need to consider in securitizing. An extension of JST into the terrain of obligation runs the risk of upsetting that balance, because – if such circumstances can be identified – securitization is no longer a choice (i.e., optional), but mandatory. Moreover, once the scholar declares a referent object objectively existentially threatened and in need of being saved or defended by securitization, it would seem that the scholar reduces the gap between the securitizing actor and the analyst. Many in securitization studies would hold that scholars who call for the securitization of or against specific empirical referents or threats are themselves securitizing actors. Whether or not this is true depends on one’s understanding of securitization. If securitization equates to rhetorical securitization only as it does for many, then scholars can double up as securitizing actors. If, however, securitization necessarily involves the use of exceptional measures to address a threat, as it does for me here, then scholars are not, simply in virtue of their written text (or spoken word in, e.g., a public lecture), architects of successful securitization. Just as anyone else, however, academics can – by voicing insecurity concerns – request securitization, while as epistemic communities they can veto/endorse securitization already underway (Floyd, Reference Floyd2018, Reference Floyd2021).Footnote 33

Given the different conflicting interpretations of securitization in existence, it is helpful to work with hypothetical examples because it allows me to advance generic observations concerning the obligation to securitize without calling for securitization of/against specific real-life cases – and thus seemingly (though not actually) obliterating the functional differentiation between securitizing actors and scholars. Use of hypothetical examples carries on in Chapters 2 and 3, but in Chapters 4 and 5 I focus with NATO, the EU, and the UNSC, respectively, on real actors, albeit sometimes in hypothetical situations. This is the case because at the sub-systemic and systemic level of analysis the number of securitizing actors that can have a duty to secure via securitization is so limited that it makes little sense to work with hypothetical actors; moreover, not focusing on real actors here would stand in the way of this book’s ability to suggest constructive and relevant improvements to current practice.

Some scholars are likely to criticize my choice of two western sub-systemic actors (NATO and the EU) as too narrow and non-inclusive.Footnote 34 Even though I repeatedly stress in relevant Chapter 4, that mandatory securitization applies equally to, for example, the African Union (AU), Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Southern Common Market, I expect that some scholars will take my choice of NATO and the EU as evidence of mandatory securitization’s inapplicability to the non-western context. Such an argument will likely be supported by my choice of western analytical/moral philosophy and its – in the cultural relativist’s mind – harmful aspiration to universalism (e.g., Lyotard, Reference Lyotard1984). Notably, the Copenhagen School’s securitization theory has repeatedly, and in my view wrongly, been criticized as applicable only in liberal democratic contexts and latterly (and even more mistakenly) as racist for inter alia tying normal politics to western democratic politics (Howell and Richter-Monpetit, Reference Howell and Richter-Montpetit2020). While these claims have been soundly refuted (on limited applicability, see, e.g., Vuori, Reference Vuori2008, or Côté, Reference Côté2016, and on racism, see Wæver and Buzan, Reference Wæver and Buzan2020, or Hansen, Reference Hansen2020), cultural relativism’s deep-seeded idea that concepts apply only where they originate reigns large. While the argument that origin informs applicability is often meant to ensure that non-western voices on questions of morality are heard, cultural relativists ought to be aware that such claims regarding, for example, human rights ‘are politically dangerous and have been regularly used by dictators to justify their depredations’ (Donnelly, Reference Donnelly2003: 64, FN 8). Moreover, it is, as Simon Caney points out, a ‘non-sequitur’ to hold that ‘[t]he geographical location of the invention of an idea [determines] its later applicability’ (Caney, Reference Caney2005: 87). If an invention (for instance, human rights or just securitization) seems more applicable in the geographical location where it was invented than another, it is simply because the practice of human rights, etc., is most developed in that geographical context (Donnelly, Reference Donnelly2003: 63; Mulgan, Reference Mulgan2001). If a scholar choses NATO and the EU over say the AU, it is – as in my case – perhaps simply because this is where their expertise lies or because the institutions are among the most advanced in relevant ways.

Moving on, at key junctures of the argument I invoke the reasonable person and sometimes also common law’s reasonable person standard. The reasonable person or citizen is frequently invoked in political and moral philosophy, most notably perhaps in John Rawls’ political philosophy where public reason is indicative of democracy (see Rawls, Reference Rawls1997). Throughout the book, I follow Rawls, for whom ‘Citizens are reasonable when […] they are prepared to offer one another fair terms of cooperation according to what they consider the most reasonable conception of political justice; and when they agree to act on those terms, even at the cost of their own interests in particular situations …’ (Rawls, Reference Rawls1997: 770).Footnote 35

Objective existential threats, reasonable persons, and the – for mandatory securitization pivotal – last resort are concepts that will not sit easily with critical security studies scholars and many other constructivists. These scholars will point out that last resort, referent objects, and threats are themselves sites of contestation with no objective content, and on that basis critique the notion that we can have a theory of just, let alone mandatory securitization reliant on these concepts.

I agree that many referent objects (especially identities and orders) are socially and politically constructed. It is also the case that identities manifest or become stronger because of securitization (Ukrainian national identity, for instance, is bolstered by the ongoing war with Russia). However, the fact that something is socially/politically constructed does not mean that we cannot evaluate it.Footnote 36 Neither does it mean that all referents are equal,Footnote 37 after all, even things that are socially constructed have real consequences for real people (notably: the law). In philosophy, value (goodness and badness) is often assessed in terms of what Joseph Raz calls the ‘humanistic principle’, which is to say, ‘from its contribution, actual or possible, to human life and its quality’ (1986: 194). Human well-being can be charted in different ways. JST follows Len Doyal and Ian Gough’s hugely influential Theory of Human Needs (1991) by charting well-being, and hence the value of referent objects, in terms of their ability to satisfy basic needs. For JST, needs are more appropriate than rights because some referents cannot be assessed in terms of their human rights record (ecosystems for example), while all can be assessed in terms of their contribution to basic human needs. Notably where individuals or groups thereof are the referent object, our concern is with their human needs. While just cause (meaning the presence of an objective existential threat to an entity that satisfies basic human needs) is pivotal, it alone does not satisfy just initiation of securitization. Amongst other things, just cause can be too trivial for securitization to be proportionate (cf. McMahan, Reference McMahan2005: 4). For example, in cases where a referent object (an order or an identity) is but one of a range of actors or things that provides objective well-being to the same group of people, the demise of the referent would not significantly compromise well-being.

I now turn to the issue of whether inter alia last resort and the reasonable person can be used for determining moral obligation. In defence of my approach, consider first that what I propose is not particularly contested in analytical or moral philosophy (cf. Caney, Reference Caney2005: Chapters 1 and 2), suggesting that my epistemological outlook is not wrong, but simply different to that of most critical security studies scholars/constructivists many of whom align with continental political philosophy. I have explained already that, following the late Derek Parfit the objectivity of threats in JST is rendered in the evidence-relative not the fact-relative sense. This means that I acknowledge that we lack infallible access to the facts. However, this does not mean that everything is relative. Instead, it means that we must recalibrate our idea of what objectivity means. For Parfit, there is a perfectly intelligible sense of rightness and goodness that is evidence-relative. And that is the sense that is relevant to practical decision-making.

I said above that I sometimes make use of the reasonable person standard, most notably when settling disagreement on the satisfaction of last resort (see Chapter 1, Section 1.5). The reasonable person standard is a ‘standard-setting’ service frequently used in common law (Gardner, Reference Gardner2015: 1). The reasonable person is not a real person, but instead a heuristic. The same is used to settle ‘whose moral views determine which statements are defamatory […] which losses are too remote to be recoverable […] he helps to set standards for both the formation and interpretation of contracts […] he is the arbiter of dishonesty among those assisting a breach of trust, and in criminal law ([…] he has played a central role in the shaping of various defences)’ (2015: 3). Reasonable persons do not set standards by invoking what is socially acceptable; instead, it is their ‘job’ to count the reasons towards justification (ibid: 9). She does so from an impersonal standpoint, which is to say, ‘they do not bend to the varying personal characteristics of those who are judged by them’ (ibid: 28). We might say then that the reasonable person is able to render an impartial decision or judgement based on the evidence available.

We can see that in legal practice the reasonable person is not overly theorized. For most lawyers and law scholars, the reasonable person is simply and unproblematically the justified person (Gardner, Reference Gardner2001). However, some law scholars have sought to give the reasonable person standard greater philosophical rigour. After all, ‘tort and criminal law raise issues of justice, because both set the limits of acceptable behaviour in contexts in which some balance needs to be struck between one person’s liberty and another’s security’ (Ripstein, Reference Ripstein1998: 6). To do this, Arthur Ripstein utilizes Rawlsian ideas of reasonableness to inform the reasonable person standard. He argues, ‘the reasonable person needs to be understood as the expression of an idea of fair terms of cooperation’ (ibid: 7). To be reasonable is to ‘take appropriate regard for the interests of others’. In more detail: ‘The concept of the reasonable person makes it possible to take account of competing interests without aggregating them across persons. Rather than balancing one person’s liberty against another’s security, the reasonable person standard supposes that all have the same interest in both liberty and security’ (p. 7). Ripstein’s intervention is helpful because it allows us to use the reasonable person standard as a heuristic for settling normative questions, in this book most notably in cases when the satisfaction of last resort is disputed (see Chapter 1, Section 1.5).

I.7 Overview of Chapters

This book consists of five chapters, plus this introduction and an overall conclusion. Chapter 1 is about the conditions when securitization is not merely optional – which is the case when the substantive criteria of just initiation of securitization have been met – but about what must be the case for securitization to be morally obligatory. I suggest that relevant actors are obligated to securitize only when, in addition to just cause, right intention, and macro-proportionality, the – what I call – ‘must cause’ is satisfied. I argue that this is the case when would-be securitizing actors have tried relevant less harmful alternatives and when these have failed to satisfy just cause.Footnote 38 This view is in line with what the philosopher David Heyd calls ‘unqualified supererogationism’ (2019: 2). A philosophical position that sees value in keeping morality – where possible – free from prescriptive behaviour, whereby every good and right generates a moral obligation. I argue that the value of autonomy that allows relevant actors (limited) freedom to choose on how to respond to a just cause for securitization diminishes as certainty that securitization is the bestFootnote 39 response increases. Certainty increases subject to evidence that less harmful options than securitization do not work.

By using six hypothetical illustrative examples relating to different threat sources (i.e., agent-lacking, agent-caused, and agent-intended threats) as well as different impacts of these threats (e.g., directly lethal, indirectly lethal, and non-lethal), the Chapter 1 contemplates what less harmful alternatives and securitization would look like in each case. The analysis shows that both securitization and politicizationFootnote 40 are shape-shifters that are always attuned to the specific context.

From here, I move on to the most challenging parts of Chapter 1; the issue of how long politicization may be tried before must cause is satisfied. I explain that – what I choose to call – the ‘sufficient time gap’ differs depending on the nature of the threat. For instance, whether politicization of climate change is effective takes much longer to establish than it takes to ascertain whether political solutions to an infectious disease are effective. I also consider – and ultimately dismiss – whether lethality of threats influences the length of the sufficient time gap. That is, do lethal threats require a quicker security response than non-lethal threats? Overall, I argue that there is no formula which allows us to reliably determine the length of the sufficient time gap for each case up-front. What matters is that politicization is tried for so long that it is allowed to fail. I suggest that – in practice – in cases where there is no agreement on the satisfaction of must cause between, for example, the public and the government executive (for instance, when the population requests immediate securitization, but the government remains reluctant), the reasonable person standard can help arbitrate the situation.

Chapter 2 is the first of four chapters that considers who has a duty to securitize and for what reasons. This chapter is concerned with states. Given that – in line with JST – unjust states are permitted to securitize just referent objects, the logic of mandatory securitization also applies to these actors. However, given that the leaders of unjust states are not permitted to secure their own unjust regime from threat I proceed by considering the obligation states have to insiders invoking just states only. I begin by briefly recounting the well-known arguments of social contract theorists that any state’s raison d’être is the provision of security. I argue that the norm of the RtoP (i.e., pillar 1) and the concept of state failure show that this still holds true today, and I suggest that just states have an overriding duty to secure and, when necessary, securitize insiders, because the failure to act could result in the withering away of the state. Notably, if the social contract is broken, then just non-state actors are justified in resorting to self-securitization (Floyd, Reference Floyd2019a, chapter 5).

I go on to discuss individual and sufficiently capable states’ obligations to securitize outsiders (just referents in other states) where there is no other protector. By drawing on the global justice literature, I argue that a pro tanto obligation of other-securitization is based on the moral equality of people.Footnote 41 Following on from Chapter 1, I suggest that this pro tanto obligation rests on a prior obligation to other-politicize an objective existential threat. After all, relevant actors have a pro tanto duty to securitize only when less harmful (i.e., political) options have failed. To put this another way, the duty of self- and other-securitization is a derivative duty of a wider duty to secure. The prior duty to do something about the threat, in turn, results – depending on the relationship the would-be securitizing actor and referent object have – variously from contractual obligations (e.g., at state level domestically) or from the moral equality of people.

I go on to discuss three factors that can override the pro tanto obligation to securitize. These are (1) the risk of death, disease, and disability; (2) the risk of instability and insecurity; and (3) financial costs.

Given that mandatory other-securitization can be provided by a range of actors (e.g., individual states, sub-systemic collectives of states (including NATO, the AU), or the international community), it is necessary to discuss what triggers specific actors’ remedial responsibility, including – once must cause is satisfied – to securitize. By drawing on David Miller’s (Reference Miller2007) connection theory, I argue that remedial responsibility can be triggered by outcome responsibility (including moral responsibility, causal responsibility, and benefit from the insecurity), ties of community and friendship, and finally capacity. By combining Miller’s triggers with common-sense morality, I argue for a ranking of triggers that correspond to the above order. For capable individual states (notably hegemonic powers), this means that they are likely to be the primary duty-bearer for other-securitization only in a limited number of cases.

Chapter 3 considers non-state actors (including individuals) and whether these can have a moral duty to securitize. I argue that while securitization by individuals is both possible and can be morally permissible, only organized, not simply aggregate, groups can have a moral duty to securitize. I go on to examine relevant sub-state actors’ duties to securitize insiders and outsiders. I argue that sub-state actors are permitted to securitize only when the state they reside in fails in its duty to deliver security. In such cases, relevant actors have a pro tanto obligation to securitize insiders. I further argue that in situations where a quasi-social contract is established this duty evolves into an overriding duty. Regarding outsiders, I argue that outsiders are not – unlike in all the other chapters of this book – people in other states, but rather people not represented by the sub-state actor. I argue that a pro tanto obligation to securitize outsiders here is largely based on capacity.

Regarding non-state actors at the sub-systemic and systemic level, things are a little different. While such actors are morally permitted to securitize, few would be able to do so effectively, as they lack the necessary enforcement mechanisms. In many cases, this voids the duty to securitize. Moreover, I suggest that non-state actors are not morally permitted to employ Private Military and Security Companies that would enable them to have a duty of mandatory securitization because of the adverse consequences for international order, stability, and security. I argue that one exception to this rule is formed by cases where non-state actors are outcome responsible for the insecurity that gives rise to the need for securitization and provided that the relevant affected parties have requested securitization, thus signalling overt consent.

Chapter 4 considers mandatory securitization and state-based sub-systemic actors, specifically collective defence organization and collective security organizations. The two types of organization differ in so far as the former is a formal alliance contractually obligated to perform collective action on external threats to insiders (here member states), while the latter serves to provide peace and security among the members of the collective, including by promising to act on internal threats (including a member state posing a threat to other members). For illustrative purposes, I take NATO as indicative of a collective defence organization and the EU before the Lisbon treaty that contains two collective defence clauses, as indicative of a collective security organization. I argue that NATO has, if requested to help by a member country, a contractual (Article 5) – and thus overriding – duty to protect that member state, where necessary (when must cause is satisfied) with securitization. I also suggest and defend the argument that Article 5 is now somewhat outdated and that – going forward – just reason (i.e., the existence of an objective existential threat + macro-proportionality, and not armed attack) should be the threshold for collective political action. The obligation to use securitizing measures, however, rests with the satisfaction of must cause.

By contrast, the EU as a collective security organization has, mostly based on ties of community and friendship, ‘merely’ a pro tanto obligation to securitize insiders. In short, the obligation to securitize can be overridden. Moreover, the treaties governing the EU and NATO do not foresee a contractual obligation on member states to save either organization if the same is existentially threatened. Indeed, if this was the case Brexit would not have been possible.

Both NATO and the EU and by extension similar organizations have a pro tanto obligation of mandatory other-securitization based on the moral equality of people. I argue that the duty to securitize can be overridden by the same considerations that override it in the context of the state, namely: the risk of dying, disease, and disability; the risk of instability and insecurity as well as by prohibitive financial costs. Given that especially NATO is likely to have more voluntary executors of securitization than individual states, it is less likely that the obligation will be overridden. While this might render NATO the world policeman, I argue that the different triggers of remedial responsibility to rescue alleviate the burden on NATO to act, after all NATO is not morally responsible for all insecurities, neither does it have the most developed ties of security friendship/community with all states, regions, and peoples.

Finally, I examine collectives and burden sharing. I hold that the triggers of remedial responsibility also feature in considerations regarding burden sharing for the costs of securitization in ‘collective securitization’ (Sperling and Webber, Reference Sperling and Webber2017). I argue that moral responsibility for threat creation places a greater share of the burden (notably regarding the financial cost) of securitization on relevant member states.

Chapter 5 considers the impact of the discovery of mandatory securitization on global security institutions. While ties of community and friendship, specifically at the sub-systemic level, ensure that the burden of mandatory securitization on the international community is relatively small, I argue that the international community – in the form of the UNSC – is obligated to act (1) when states or sub-systemic actors fail (note, in other-securitization they may fail for legitimate reasons), or (2) where there is no other designated protector. Given that the notion of needing to act when others have failed to act is not new, after all this tiered structure is central to the RtoP norm, I go on to examine the nature of the duty of the UN/UNSC towards the unprotected. I suggest that the UN charter amounts to a contract between the people of the world and the UN, rendering its duty to securitize – when conditions are met and there is no other protector – overriding. I go on to examine the nature of these duties as they already exist by examining RtoP provisions. I show that even if RtoP was in perfect working order and always acted on, it does not cover the moral duties of the UNSC regarding securitization; notably, it does not cover intent-lacking threats. Much like in Chapter 4 where mandatory securitization is used to update NATO’s Article 5, I show how mandatory securitization can refocus and thus help RtoP. Thus, mandatory securitization usefully straddles RtoP’s responsibility to prevent and the responsibility to react, while full-scale military intervention/war, which some policymakers, albeit erroneously, see as tantamount to the responsibility to react (Pattison, Reference Pattison2018: 225), is outside of securitization.

The book’s overall conclusion summarizes the argument advanced in the book. Despite advancing a theory that utilizes security practice to achieve security as a state of being, I end on a cautionary note. To wit, although we have established the existence of mandatory securitization, the same should not be considered a ready-made solution to the world ills but rather a necessary evil in an insecure world. I argue that decision-makers concerned with improving the world should ultimately concern themselves with eradicating the sources of insecurity and not with fighting fires.


1 The term is Herington’s Reference Herington and Bourbeau2015: 29–32.

2 I use the word mandatory not in a legal sense, but rather in the way Cécile Fabre does in her work on mandatory rescue killings, where she considers the existence of ‘a moral duty to kill in defence of another’ (Fabre, Reference Fabre2007: 363).

3 I am not suggesting that these crimes require that the international community takes military intervention; instead – in accordance with paragraph 139 of the 2005 World Summit outcome document – they require the UNSC to act using means at its disposal, some of these are exceptional in the relevant sense. The wording of ¶139 is as follows: ‘The international community, through the United Nations, also has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, in accordance with Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter, to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity’. To be sure the duty entailed in RtoP is not a legal duty, but a moral duty. Jennifer Welsh explains: ‘The text agreed to in 2005 does not, in itself, establish any new legal obligations, but rather authoritatively interprets states’ existing obligations to prevent and respond to atrocity crimes and adds a political injunction for them to implement what they have already agreed to (Welsh, Reference Welsh2019: 56, emphasis added; see also Glanville, Reference Glanville2021: 7).

4 This is the moral minimum; cosmopolitan scholars believe that more is owed (see below).

5 In contrast to an overriding obligation, a pro tanto duty is a duty that can be overridden by other moral considerations.

6 Some might object that JST does not have emancipatory potential. Ian Loader, for example, has argued that JST offers ‘a politics of radical limitation, not a politics of transformation’ (2022: 172). Indeed, many consider securitization and emancipation incompatible. Claudia Aradau (Reference Aradau2004), for example, seeks emancipation away from security, and Ken Booth seeks emancipation away from securitization. By contrast, I hold that whether the two or compatible depends on what one means by emancipation. ‘If Emancipation means freedom from legal, political, or social controls it is quite possibly incompatible with securitisation, however, if emancipation means freeing people from poor security practice towards a more just and enlightened security practice it is compatible. Clearly, I mean emancipation, not Emancipation’ (Floyd, Reference Floyd2022: 279).

7 I have rebutted this interpretation elsewhere (Floyd, Reference Floyd2022: 279). For our purposes here it is enough to note that a world in which unjust securitization is reduced or avoided altogether is more secure than one where no such regulation exists.

8 Although tribalism does not necessarily lead to violent conflict (it can be expressed through sport for example), it relies on ‘us-versus-them thinking’ and thus has the potential to spill into violence as in the case of rampant identity politics on US campuses (Lukianoff and Haidt, Reference Lukianoff and Haidt2019, Fukuyama, Reference Fukuyama2018).

9 Pattison’s book on the alternatives to war is ultimately concerned with justifiably of war (2018: 214).

10 Jessica Wolfendale (Reference Wolfendale, Gross and Meisels2017) provides an illuminating definition of the meaning of war that can account for soft wars. Given that there may be no casualties in soft war (note a standard definition of war is 1,000 battle deaths during one calendar year), a key feature of this account must rest with the intensity of the conflict. Wolfendale focuses on what she calls the intensity of hostilities. She argues: ‘[…] a conflict meets the criterion of intensity [of war] when it becomes so disruptive that the ability of civilians to meet their basic needs is seriously threatened, and the local authorities are unable to effectively control the conflict and protect civilians and civilian infrastructure from harm’ (Wolfendale, Reference Wolfendale, Gross and Meisels2017: 21). Although Wolfendale does not quantify how many civilians must be affected her phrasing suggests that she means only those kinds of conflicts that – like kinetic – war has serious effects on the civilian population at large.

11 Henceforth, I use morally mandatory securitization and simply mandatory securitization interchangeably, as I have made it clear how mandatory is understood in this book.

12 RtoP, for instance, is inapplicable to many of the most pressing security threats (including climate change, infectious disease, or cyberattack), diminishing its ability to deliver greater overall security.

13 Interesting about all this for the purposes of this book is that promises – at least between those who share the ordinary meaning of promise – entail obligations (see, Pritchard, 2002: 257–265). Even so, my point is that a promise for protection does not obligate a would-be securitizing actor to securitize; it merely obligates them to act on the insecurity. But this need not be through securitization, unless – as I argue in Chapter 1 – securitization is a last resort.

14 Elsewhere (Floyd, Reference Floyd2016a) I have argued that if securitization is a social and political construction decided by practitioners, it follows that securitization succeeds when practitioners consider their response a security response. In other words, I have allowed for emergency measures that are not exceptional but rather routine procedure. While such an approach is valuable in so far as it allows a comprehensive picture of security practice in the world, in my work on ethics and security I work with the exception only. After all, the fact that the measures are exceptional raises concrete ethical questions most acutely (see also Floyd, Reference Floyd2021).

15 This follows Daniel Brunstetter (Reference Brunstetter2021) who sets out the jus ad vim in considerable detail. He recognizes that the use of kinetic force constitutes war, but also that to count as a war enough force must be used. Limited strikes are not war; they are used for the purpose of deterrence or with a view to destroying military capabilities (2021: 10). He argues: ‘The decision to go to war has often been seen as akin to “crossing the Rubicon” – that is, accepting the responsibility, the costs, and the risks of going all in, but also with an eye to the potential benefits to be gained. The turn to limited force expresses a preference not to cross the Rubicon, as it were – to eschew the responsibility, the costs, and risks of going all in […]’ (2021: 6).

16 For more on the reasonable person standard, see below. Note that invoking this standard enables one to avoid the issue whether unacceptability is culturally specific.

17 Much has been written about the process how exceptional powers are awarded. In liberal democracies, the old Schmittian idea that securitizing actors can break rules simply in virtue of the threat alone has been modified. Many scholars hold that in liberal democracies securitizing actors (e.g., the state’s executive and other branches of the wider executive (i.e., police)) are awarded special powers by parliament (i.e., legislators) often through new emergency legislation (a process that is often checked by the judiciary) (see, e.g., Sarat, Reference Sarat and Sarat2010: 7; Dyzenhaus, Reference Dyzenhaus and Sarat2010; Zedner, Reference Zedner2009, Neal, Reference Neal, Salter and Mutlu2013). In other words, in liberal democracies, the other branches of government are not necessarily excluded from securitization, even though when an issue is securitized the executive is often left abnormally empowered.

18 The reference to rule-breaking can be misleading. Thus, for some emergencies specific rules exist, meaning that in times of emergency rules are to be followed not broken (e.g., International Health Regulations). However, emergency rules are different from normal rules and justified only by the presence of the emergency.

19 I use this example purely to showcase that action to compel others to do something locally is not necessarily one of other-securitization. In other words, I am aware that much deforestation is driven by rich states’ demand for palm oil, soya, and beef.

20 To be clear when I use the term levels of analysis, I do not use it to suggest that just or mandatory securitization positions itself on one or more of the levels; I use it merely to locate different actors. In the words of Buzan et al.: ‘Levels [of analysis] are simply ontological referents for where things happen rather than sources of explanation themselves’ (Buzan et al., Reference Buzan, Wæver and de Wilde1998: 5).

21 My thanks to Cian O’Driscoll for this formulation.

22 Rhetorical threat articulation is also called the securitizing move. It refers to the identification of an existential threat; in JST, relevant securitizing moves are those by securitizing actors which amount to either a warning to threateners and/or promises for protection to referent objects. Threateners and referent objects in turn are the audiences of securitizing moves. They can influence securitizing actors, but because they do not categorically do, they do not play a decisive role in securitization and consequently JST. In any case, JST is concerned with the ethics of securitization not with right procedure (i.e., with who ought to ideally be involved).

23 In fact, only democratic states can be just referent objects because only such states protect the basic human need of autonomy (cf. Floyd, Reference Floyd2019a: 107).

24 Which can be ascertained by comparing putative securitizing actors’ securitizing speech acts with what they propose to do/end up doing.

25 There are also very significant differences. Notably, mandatory securitization does not include war, and mandatory securitization applies to a much broader range of issues, whereas RtoP is restricted to atrocity crimes.

26 Just states are states which satisfy a minimum floor of basic human needs (cf. Chapter 2, Section 2.2).

27 Must cause = just cause, right intention, macro-proportionality and last resort (see Chapter 1 for a detailed explanation and justification).

28 As Caney (Reference Caney2005) explains, moral universalism takes two forms, universalism of scope and universalism of justification. Universalism of scope holds that ‘there are some moral values that are valid across the world’ (p. 26). The philosopher James Rachels highlights this well. He explains that complex societies can only exist based on communication between members. Since communication is futile unless there is a presumption against lying, a commitment to truthfulness is a universal value. Other universal values necessary for the existence of society are the outlawing of murder (Rachels, Reference Rachels1986). Universalism of justification, in turn, ‘claims that there are values that can be justified to everyone in a sense that everyone would accept the justification’ (Caney, Reference Caney2005: 27). Just Securitization Theory and mandatory securitization also affirm this type of universalism. Key here, as in much of moral and analytical philosophy, is the human capacity ‘for genuine toleration and mutual respect’, or in Rawlsian terms reasonableness (Wenar, Reference Wenar and Zalta2021); see below.

29 Hereafter simply humanitarian intervention.

30 In brackets because it is just one theory (JST) developed across two different books.

31 Following Doyal and Gough’s (Reference Doyal and Gough1991) JST holds that all human beings are fundamentally social creatures who cannot live meaningful lives as humans if they are unable to participate in social life. To participate in social life, two basic human needs must be satisfied: physical health and autonomy. These two basic needs are thus transculturally valuable. In JST, a referent object’s satisfaction of basic human needs is decisive of its justness and hence its eligibility for self- and other-defence via securitization (Floyd, Reference Floyd2019a: chapter 4).

32 See Chapter 1, Section 1.3, for an explanation.

33 Elsewhere (Floyd, Reference Floyd2021), I argue that functional actors object to or endorse securitization on behalf of others. By contrast, referent objects, who by being promised protection via the speech act double up as audiences, veto or endorse securitization on behalf of themselves. One category of functional actor is epistemic communities, which often include academics.

34 I would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for pressing me hard to further developing my arguments on the issues that follow in the remainder of this subsection.

35 In Rawls’s political philosophy (since the 1980s and especially with Political Liberalism), reasonableness ‘serves as the fundamental criterion for judging the acceptability and legitimacy of the public conception of justice and all associated “political” claims and decisions – those that place demands upon all citizens of the polity’ (Young, Reference Young2006: 159). For Rawls, reasonableness refers to citizens ability to ‘cooperate with others on terms all can accept’ (Rawls Reference Rawls1996, 5, cited in Young, Reference Young2006: 160–161). Reasonableness in turn allows decision-making and judgements by overlapping consensus. In other words, Rawls recognizes the fundamentally political nature of, for example, justice (Martin, Reference Martin, Mandle and Reidy2014: 589).

Reasonable citizens are ‘characterized by their willingness to listen to doctrines, arguments and reasons opposed to their own, even if they do not agree with them’ (Audard, Reference Audard2007: 198). Of course, not all humans behave reasonably all the time, but the claim is merely that on the whole human beings’ value reasonableness. The empirical evidence in support of this is overwhelming. Thus, in many parts of the world, we organize political society accordingly, after all reasonableness (and the idea of an overlapping consensus) is ‘the very foundation of a well-ordered liberal democracy’ (Young, Reference Young2006: 162). Moreover, democracy is transculturally valued. We know this because ‘liberal democracies produce less insurrection than any other political system attempted in human history. […] liberal democracies are “the people’s choice”, given that every other type of political regime produces enough people with enough motivation to overthrow the system’ (J. Floyd, Reference Floyd2017b: 189). Moreover, Rawls does not tell us what justice or truth entails (in Political Liberalism, he speaks of a political theory of justice) but what makes for justice and ‘truth’; in short, what makes for a fair procedure that as best as possible approaches the truth (J. Floyd, Reference Floyd2017b). Note here that in Rawls’ an overlapping consensus is not achieved by people blindly pushing ‘their truth’, but by people weighing up their considered judgements against the available evidence (cf. J. Floyd, Reference Floyd2017b). Another way of putting this is that moral truth generated by an overlapping consensus is evidence-relative not fact-relative. In short, not only is universalism of justification possible, but also judgements and political claims rendered intersubjectively can approximate the facts; that is, they are or can be right/true in the evidence-relative sense.

36 In the 1990s, postmodernist scholars questioned the Copenhagen School’s aim to study identities as referent objects seeing that identities are fluid and thus always in flux (McSweeney, Reference McSweeney1996). Was the school not guilty of objectifying identity after all? The school’s response came in the 1998 book: ‘We do take identities as socially constituted but not radically moreso than other social structures. Identities as other social constructions can petrify and become relatively constant elements to be reckoned with. At specific points, this “inert constructivism” enables modes of analysis very close to objectivist […]’ (Buzan et al., Reference Buzan, Wæver and de Wilde1998: 205, emphasis in original).

37 Note here that the cultural relativists point that ‘conceptions of right and wrong differ from culture to culture’ is dangerous. It does not allow condemnation of societies that are anti-Semitic, colonialist, or racist (Rachels, Reference Rachels1986: 617).

38 The corollary of this is that the duty to securitize rests on a prior duty to politicize; that is a duty to act on an insecurity (in short, a duty to secure or rescue).

39 As will become clear in Chapter 1, best here does not mean absolute best; instead, it is the best response relative to other less harmful responses. In short, it must emerge as a better, but not strictly the absolute best option.

40 As I will argue usually multiple less harmful measures are tried simultaneously, I also refer to them as politicization.

41 I use ‘moral equality of people’ and ‘moral equality of persons’ interchangeably throughout this book.

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  • Introduction
  • Rita Floyd, University of Birmingham
  • Book: The Duty to Secure
  • Online publication: 15 February 2024
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  • Introduction
  • Rita Floyd, University of Birmingham
  • Book: The Duty to Secure
  • Online publication: 15 February 2024
  • Chapter DOI:
Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

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  • Introduction
  • Rita Floyd, University of Birmingham
  • Book: The Duty to Secure
  • Online publication: 15 February 2024
  • Chapter DOI:
Available formats