What is the value of security? Contextualising the negative/positive debate
journal contributionposted on 06.04.2016, 09:30 by Jonna Nyman
Review of International Studies has seen a debate over the value of security. At its heart this is a debate over ethics: about the extent to which security is a ‘good’ and whether or not security politics produces the kind of world we want. More recent contributions focus on the extent to which security is ‘positive’ or ‘negative’. However, this paper argues that the existing debate is limited and confused: key authors use the terms ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ in different and at times contradictory ways. The paper clarifies the roots of the existing debate, and then moves on to clear up the confusion by drawing out two different uses of the terms positive and negative: an analytic frame and a normative frame. In response, it proposes a pragmatist frame that synthesises the existing uses, drawing on pragmatism and practice-centred approaches to analyse the value of security in context. The contribution of the paper is thus twofold: it both clarifies the existing debate and suggests a solution. This is key because the debate over the value of security is crucial to thinking about how we want to live.