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Securitization of the Past in a Risk Society: a socio-philosophical analysis

Anikin Daniil Aleksandrovich

PhD in Philosophy

Associate professor, Department of History and Theory of Policy, Moscow State University

410012, Russia, Saratov region, Saratov, Volskaya str., 10a, office 206

Other publications by this author

Konakov Dmitrii Nikolaevich

Postgraduate, Department of Philosophy of Culture and Cultural Studies, Saratov State University

410012, Russia, Saratov region, Saratov, Astrakhan str., 83






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Abstract: The article examines the concept of securitization from the point of view of social philosophy, determines the need to abandon objectivism or extreme constructivism in the analysis of this concept. The prerequisites for the formation of the security value are analyzed, as well as the main forms of securitization common in modern risk society, in particular, military, political, social, economic and environmental securitization. Special emphasis is placed on the study of the social conditions for the implementation of the securitization strategy. The object of the study is the phenomenon of securitization as a socio-philosophical phenomenon, and the subject of the study is mnemonic securitization as a new form of addressing the problem of security in a modern risk society. The author introduces the concept of securitization as a social practice based on the willingness of the community to perceive a certain natural or social phenomenon as an objectively existing threat. Mnemonic securitization is considered as a fundamentally new type of securitization, which presupposes the desire to present symbolically significant images of the past as an object of influence from ideological opponents. A special contribution to the problems of research is determined by the identification of links between the processes of transformation of collective communities and the emergence of risks of collective identity, which is expressed in the formation of ideas about the need for ontological security and the delegation of powers to protect this form of security by political actors, primarily the state.


securitization, risk society, security, collective memory, image of the past, mnemonic securitization, practice, dynamics, risk, threat

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In the humanities, the concept of "securitization" (from the English security security) has penetrated from the economy, where it is understood as a form of innovative financing aimed at reducing risks [2, pp. 12-13]. But the development of the concept of "risk society" in the 90s of the XX century brought to the fore the study of security not only from the point of view of certain exchange transactions, that is, as a quantifiable quantity, but also as a specific social practice.

W. Beck in his work "Risk Society: On the way to another Modernity" drew attention to the fact that the very dynamics of the development of Modern society leads to the fact that the process of producing goods is replaced by the production of risks [4, p. 17]. From a formal point of view, this is the same production process, but the problem is that at a certain point in time, each action performed begins to create more negative consequences than positive ones.

A characteristic feature of the "risk society" is the "boomerang effect", in which each collective subject is forced to realize that every action he performs will have its downside, and the negative consequences cannot be redirected towards other subjects, since in a globalized world individual interactions turn into a constantly functioning network.

V.B. Ustyantsev believes that an important dimension of risk society is the anthropological dimension associated with a change in human value orientations in a society that is becoming more complex and becoming increasingly risky [8, p. 8]. For such a person, the neutralization of threats and dangers becomes an important issue of everyday existence, minimizing those factors that he considers risky for himself and his loved ones. At the same time, the choice of a behavior strategy is not an individual decision, but is related to the general value foundations of the society or community to which this individual belongs. In other words, choosing the way of behavior that is considered the safest of possible options, each person relies, first of all, on existing ideas about security, a certain gradation of degrees of security developed by society in the course of its functioning and assuming a high degree of solidarity in understanding potential risks and strategies to respond to them.

E. Giddens believed that it was possible to talk about a specific form of security, which he called ontological security [12]. Ontological security consists in the fact that the feeling of risk is removed by achieving a sense of confidence in the preservation of one's own identity, stability of the conditions of existence, but the means of achieving such a psychological state is the routine of social practices. At the everyday level, this lies in the fact that individuals who are trying to cope with the feeling of an external threat develop their own sequence of actions that, in their opinion, guarantee the prevention of danger. For example, before leaving the house, he checks whether the lights are turned off everywhere, which, from an objective point of view, does not in any way protect against the possibility of ignition of the wiring, but gives the individual confidence that he has taken all necessary measures to avoid danger [13, p. 358-359].

Giddens separately notes that the similarity of such methods of achieving ontological security allows us to study this phenomenon not as a psychological, but as a social phenomenon. The choice and routine of a particular social practice are determined by the individual's belonging to a certain community, which develops not only a classification of ideas about possible threats, but also ways to combat these threats. A.V. Khudaikulova and N.Ya. Neklyudov note: "A necessary condition for ensuring and maintaining ontological security is trust, the absence of which provokes a sense of uncertainty, which in turn, it exacerbates crisis situations. Any unusual and destructive events affect the essence of routine, thereby forming a sense of unreliability and lead to ontological insecurity. In this case, the actor again finds himself in a situation where he is forced to return to routine interactions in order to restore his sense of "himself" and, as a result, ontological security" [9, p. 131].

It follows from this that security is not an inherently inherent state of society, but acts as a kind of consolidation process, during which representatives of a certain community come to understand the importance of the challenges they face and agree on the need to spend material or non-material resources to prevent such threats. It is this process that has been called securitization in the modern theory of international relations, and subsequently this concept began to be actively used in other areas of humanitarian research, for example, when analyzing the problem of environmental safety. The development of this concept, however, has led to a number of methodological problems, for the solution of which it is necessary to fit securitization into the categorical series of social philosophy, conceptualization and methodological clarification of this concept.

First of all, it is worth paying attention to the status of the subject of securitization, in the role of which the state was initially considered. Despite some criticism of the state as a subject of political relations in the context of increasing globalization trends, ideas about the loss of its potential (especially in the sphere of forming strategic development goals) are exaggerated. Despite the functioning of a number of international organizations and supranational structures that take over certain political functions, the State remains the most important institution with the resources to create and promote its own agenda. Even U. Beck, in his later work "Cosmopolitan Worldview", recognized that the spread of new trends in social development associated with the formation of supranational forms of collective identity is encountering resistance from state structures [3, p. 56]. And this resistance turns out to be a sufficiently weighty factor for slowing down the factors of the development of a cosmopolitan worldview that overcomes the limitations of nationally oriented behaviors. A certain optimism of W. Beck regarding the process of forming such a worldview, more precisely, overcoming forms of national-state identity, should be considered in the context of the long-term development of mankind, whereas at the present stage of development it makes sense to talk about a system of interaction of various actors in which the state retains a fairly significant position.

But, being deprived of its exclusive influence in the sphere of public opinion formation, the state is also forced to respond to impulses emanating from civil society, formal or informal social movements that not only participate in the formation of the daily agenda, but also demonstrate certain expectations regarding the vectors and risks of social development.

Within the framework of socio-philosophical analysis, an essential factor in understanding the problem of securitization is the emphasis on the nonlinearity of the process of forming a public consensus around a particular threat. The probability of identifying a phenomenon as a threat factor for social development is only indirectly related to objective characteristics. To a large extent, this is determined by the internal gradation of risks, which is associated with the degree of internal consolidation, information openness and the distribution of political forces in the structure of society. As practice shows, a significant part of the population is not ready to recognize the likelihood of danger if information about it comes from a political force that is in opposition to their own views. In this sense, the concept of an "information bubble" allows us to reveal the distribution and some autonomy of points of view about potential dangers and threats existing in a modern heterogeneous society, which opens up prospects for sociological research in this area.

Another significant problem is the methodological definition of the concept of securitization between the poles of objectivism and constructivism.

The objectivist position insists that the very elevation of a phenomenon to the rank of potentially dangerous, as well as the launch of procedures to prevent the negative consequences of this phenomenon should be considered as an objective consequence of the threat existing for a certain community. From such a point of view, the allocation of resources by the State to combat an environmental problem can only indicate that the environment can no longer be considered as favorable for the existence of this community. As it is easy to see, the downside of such a position is ignoring the question of the possibility of exaggerating or downplaying the danger that has arisen solely for political purposes.

The constructivist position, which has become widespread in the Kopengangan school (B. Buzan), insists that the very act of determining danger is, first of all, a political action, therefore, it is worth raising the question not about the objective background of the threat, but about the goals pursued by the political actor. For example, within the framework of a political struggle, the definition of the key threat facing society may be caused not so much by the desire to cope with this threat, as to achieve the legitimization of the existing order as a guarantor of security. From this point of view, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011, or, more precisely, the significant restriction of civil rights and freedoms in the United States that followed them, indicates the dominance of the political interests of supporters of an active foreign policy, for whom the securitization of international terrorism has become a tool for achieving public consensus on the need to use additional means to combat terrorist organizations. The extreme of this position lies in its dangerous convergence with conspiracy theories, which force us to see in every action the result of certain political efforts on the part of the community struggling to preserve or acquire power.

Thus, avoiding two extremes in the understanding of securitization allows us to give the following definition to this concept. Securitization should be considered as a social practice based on the willingness of the community to perceive a certain natural or social phenomenon as an objectively existing threat. Despite the fact that the main initiator of securitization, as a rule, is the state, but the key to the success of the procedure for determining and declaring a threat is the willingness of a certain community (which does not always coincide in its borders with the citizens of the state) to recognize this threat as plausible and probable.

B. Buzan believes that it makes sense to talk about five different areas in which securitization can be implemented, although in fact the distinction between these areas is rather conditional, since all potential risks are inextricably linked with each other [11, p. 433].

1. Military securitization is considered as the main and most widespread type, since it is military threats that can call into question the existence of the state itself. The risk of a military invasion will be considered by the overwhelming majority of the population of the state as an immediate threat to normal functioning, which determines the high degree of use of military threats as a justification for the need to take certain measures. Of particular importance to this risk is the understanding that military actions are associated not only with relative deprivation, but also with an immediate threat to human existence itself, which, in conditions of the dominance of vital values, becomes an essential factor of consensus on the need to achieve security.

2. Political securitization . Unlike military risks, political risks are a more complex object for securitization, since they have a certain ambivalence and ambiguity. For example, the risk of a particular political force coming to power will not necessarily serve as a prerequisite for society's readiness to perceive this event itself as a threat requiring immediate intervention and emergency measures (the situation is extremely important in the interpretation of D. Agamben) [1, p. 5-7]. In addition, the state itself is considered as a political institution created to neutralize and prevent political risks, so a significant part of the population will seek to shift responsibility for resolving a potential political threat to the state. But, since B. Buzan considers competition between ideologies to be the main manifestation of the political threat, the probability of securitization increases sharply if one of the ideologies is marked as unacceptable for a democratic society, which forms a situational consensus between other political and social forces in order to prevent its implementation. For example, an emphatic comparison of "right-wing" parties with Nazi or fascist ones in elections in Western Europe (France, Germany) becomes the basis for the emergence of political blocs positioning themselves as a means of preventing revisionism and precisely on the basis of such self-determination and articulating the threat of society returning to the state preceding World War II, achieving political success. In this case, political securitization succeeds by emphasizing the potential risks of implementing a specific political ideology, which is superimposed on the existing political culture and the dominant values of the overwhelming majority of the population.

3. Economic securitization. The difficulty of identifying this type of danger is related to the specifics of the very economic sphere of human existence, in which risks and uncertainty appear as normal phenomena. Because of this, it becomes extremely difficult to determine where the boundary between an acceptable risk and the threat of a potential crisis that must be prevented by any efforts. After all, any entrepreneurial activity is impossible without taking risky decisions, the responsibility for which is assumed by the subject of the entrepreneurial initiative himself, choosing the strategy of behavior that seems to him the most correct.

We can observe a similar complexity in relation to the national economy, for example, in a situation of economic crisis, when the government bears the burden of making a decision on the rescue of certain sectors of the economy. The choice of the sector to be saved turns out to be a logical consequence of determining exactly what kind of danger threatens the economic system, and, consequently, how exactly it is necessary to redistribute the available limited resources. It is equally important that economic security is closely linked to military security, since the logic of creating weapons is often dictated not only by operational expediency, but also by the economic costs of production. There is a situation in which the military threat and the danger of an economic crisis are sides of the same dichotomy, the resolution of which becomes not so much the result of mathematical calculation of risks, as a consequence of the distribution of various socio-cultural values in the structure of civil society.

4. Environmental securitization. The emergence of the environmental agenda as one of the problems requiring efforts to ensure safety is the product of relatively recent transformations in the structure of public consciousness. Although still U . Beck directly linked the awareness of the existence of a risk society with the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster, securitization in the environmental sphere comes to the fore in the 90s of the XX century. The driver for the formation of the environmental agenda is the topic of global warming and anthropogenic factors of climate change, which is reflected in the Kyoto Protocol and a number of similar international decisions.

Environmental securitization is also related to economic, since the reduction of environmental damage irreversibly entails a decrease in the economic potential of developing countries, therefore, one can observe a certain disproportion in promoting the idea of environmental security: the countries of the "golden billion" advocate the priority of ecology over the economic interests of industrial production, and developing countries are sharp opponents and opponents of the idea of environmental threat itself.

5. Social securitization. The peculiarity of this type of security construction is the fact that social securitization is directly related to the awareness of the threat to collective identity. The danger in this case is represented as the invasion of another culture into the familiar cultural environment, which leads to irreversible consequences for the preservation and reproduction of the "cultural code". It is worth noting that, since contacts and exchange between different communities are characteristic of the entire history of human civilization, awareness of such a threat (an outsider in a sociophenomenological interpretation) is one of the most ancient forms of securitization. At the same time, it is in modern society, characterized by the emergence of transcultural ties and the interweaving of local identities, that the risk of deprivation of one's own cultural roots begins to be felt most acutely, and the blame for this feeling is transferred to representatives of other communities, acting as a kind of resentment.

In our opinion, mnemonic securitization is a separate type of securitization, which is aimed at forming ideas about the danger of revising the established assessments of a certain historical event that has important symbolic significance for a particular community. The formation of a separate type of social conflicts, known as "memorial wars", indicates that it is the past in modern society that is increasingly beginning to be considered as such an important resource for building collective identity that criticism of the past becomes the basis for launching procedures to ensure collective security [14, p. 222-224].

Of course, researchers began to say that images of the past are the basis of collective identity already in the XIX century. It is enough to recall at least E. Renan, who in his article "What is a nation?" emphasizes that the national community is based not so much on military might or economic well-being, as on the division of common ideas about their own past [6, xi 87-101]. From which the reverse pattern also follows publicly expressed doubts about the existence of this past (or in its correct interpretation) become a threat to the symbolic order, since they debunk the very foundations of the existence of the nation.

What are the conditions inherent in the modern risk society that allow us to say that the need to protect the past becomes the basis for the formation of specific social practices?

In accordance with the concept of ontological security by E. Giddens, a crisis of trust, accompanied by the destruction of a sense of security, occurs when the algorithm of action of routine social practices is violated, more precisely, there is doubt that these practices allow for the continuity of reproduction of collective identity. Such a phenomenon is called a mnemonic security dilemma by D.V. Efremenko and Ya.V. Sevastyanova. "The mnemonic security dilemma arises when, for example, a historical narrative that serves as a "foundation myth" for State A or plays a major role in rallying the community behind this state is systematically challenged by influential forces acting on behalf of the community behind State B" [7, p. 77].

Debunking the "foundation myth" becomes a significant threat to collective identity, since it allows one to question the very legitimacy of the existence of a certain community, first of all, a nation-state, therefore, the natural reaction for a community exposed to such a threat is the desire to protect the existing historical narrative, to develop a system of counter-arguments and counter-arguments. An important element of mnemonic securitization will be the praxiological orientation of the measures taken, that is, the creation of new social practices and rituals designed not only to consolidate the community in a situation of external threat, but also to demonstrate the preservation of the "foundation myth". Therefore, it is not surprising that an essential requirement for newly emerging and entrenched practices will be their rooting in historical reality, that is, emphasizing not the creation, but the re-creation of rituals that have already taken place in the past [10, p. 32].

At the state level, the consequence of securitization will be the desire to consolidate the elements of the historical past that are basic to collective identity, more precisely, their interpretation at the legislative level. "Securitization of memory often turns into the development of a series of restrictive and prohibitive measures concerning, in particular, the use of "undesirable" symbols, the actual and even legal censorship of printed and electronic publications that provide access to the "hostile" narrative" [7, p. 79]. In fact, it is mnemonic securitization that makes it possible to explain the emergence of so-called "memorial laws", which are a way of countering external threats to collective identity. It is important to understand, however, that the adoption of legislative measures, from the point of view of the concept of ontological security, becomes only a surrogate for the formation of collective practices that form confidence in the preservation of identity. The law only covers up a "praxiological lacuna", which is revealed in the unwillingness of communities to promptly develop those routine ways of countering external or internal risks that call into question the preservation and inviolability of collective identity [5, pp. 88-90].

Summing up, it is worth noting that the concept of securitization allows us to reveal new aspects of the study of risks, questioning the objective nature of the proclaimed threats and making it possible to analyze the impact of internal social ties on the process of creating a security effect. Security in this interpretation ceases to be perceived as a static state, turning into a dynamic social phenomenon, dependent both on the psychological sensation of the individual and on his collective attitudes and behaviors. The concept of mnemonic security, in this aspect, allows us to present in a new way the social and political mechanisms of forming ideas about the past, as well as their changes in the context of ideas about threats and risks of collective identity.