Security Communication in Democracies

The unpredictability of global security dynamics confronts contemporary political systems with fundamental challenges. They are required to answer questions such as “Who or what should be perceived as a security threat and how can this threat be handled?” The concept of security communication enables us to study theses answers as legitimizing and ordering phenomena. The core question is how different forms of legitimization affect the stability of (post)modern security orders and how they can be shaped in (more) participatory ways. In a first approach, the project analyzed the justification of humanitarian interventions in terms of particular images of human beings. Gradually, however, questions concerning the reflexivity of security communication began to move into the center of attention: How can and should security policies be communicated in a democracy?

Through empirical analyses of specific types of legitimization, the project contributes insights into the narrative structure of contemporary security orders. The (in)stability of normative security orders is bound up with how they are communicated, their reception in the public arena and their perceived horizon of possibility. The ways in which security orders are normatively justified influence the range of security policy options and the basis of their legitimacy. The project contributes to the research area by describing the forms of normative legitimizations of state actors in their core domain.

During its initial phase in 2013, the project charted the field of research by conducting a workshop and drawing up a framework paper, which was presented at a major international conference in the area of International Relations. In addition, authors were recruited for an edited volume. At that time, the research into security communication was focused mainly on how it is disseminated in the media. In the course of the investigation, however, the center of focus shifted to the objects of reference of security communication. The results of this project will be published in an English-language volume which is due to be submitted for review by Cambridge University Press in late 2017 at the request of the responsible editor. Findings on the reflexivity of security communication have already been presented at a number of conferences and project collaborator Daniel Jacobi is completing work on a monograph on the projects findings.

The project initially examined the representation of security politics in the media as well as the objects of reference that were invoked to justify security politics. With regard to the research area, it could be shown how communicative forms are used to evoke specific images of human beings in order to “decomplexify” the justifications of the means and issues of security policy. Against the background of the discrepancy between the complexity of the global political security setting and the rather simplistic vocabulary, the question of the reflexivity of security communication subsequently became the main focus of the project – that is, the question of how security policy decision-makers reflect on the forms in which they present their agendas. The ensuing debate on German foreign and security policy, in line with the “Review 2014” process in the German Foreign Ministry, enabled a productive study of this question. Ultimately, it showed that the “structural reflexivity,” i.e. the rather simplistic underlying logical forms of thinking, are no longer commensurate with the complex security policy challenges we are facing. Viewed in this light, the fact decision-makers have not yet acquired the capacities to criticize and transform existing conceptual frameworks, categorical schemes and decision-making formulas seems to be particularly problematic.

The most important events of this project:

Presentations at all annual conferences of the International Studies Association, by Gunther Hellmann and Daniel Jacobi.

Workshop: Communicating Security, SAIS John's Hopkins University Europe, Bologna (Italy), October 26–29, 2016.

Workshop: Security Communication in Democracies: Security, Order, and Legitimacy in World Politics, Bad Homburg, November 5–7, 2015.

Lecture: “Shaping Powers and Leadership Challenges in Contemporary Europe: Germany and its Partners in a World out of Joint”, by Gunther Hellmann, in the context of the symposium Germany as Model. Germany as Partner. Global Germany, Georgetown University, BMW Center for German and European Studies, Washington D.C., December 13–14, 2015.

Keynote: Normative Powers and European Foreign Policy in a Minilateralist World, by Gunther Hellmann, 36th Annual Conference of the European Union Studies Association-Japan, Kansai University, Osaka, November 21, 2015.

The most important publications of this project:

*Hellmann, Gunther and Morten Valbjørn: “The Forum: Problematizing Global Challenges: Recalibrating the ‘Inter’ in IR-Theory”, in: International Studies Review ‘The Forum‘, therein: “Introduction“ (co-authored with Morten Valbjørn) as well as the essay “Interpreting International Relations“, 2017.

*Jacobi, Daniel: “Über die Beobachtung von Souveränität und Sicherheit“, in: Volk, Christian and Friederike Kuntz (eds.): Der Begriff der Souveränität in der transnationalen Konstellation, Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2015.

*Hellmann, Gunther/Daniel Jacobi/Ursula Stark Urrestarazu (eds.): Früher, entschiedener und substantieller? Die neue Debatte über Deutschlands Außenpolitik, Wiesbaden: Springer-VS, 2015.

*Jacobi, Daniel and Annette Freyberg-Inan (eds.): Human Beings in International Relations, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

*Jacobi, Daniel: Sicherheitskommunikation in Demokratien, monograph, forthcoming.


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