Critical Theory and Security Studies
Security studies has been among the last bastions of neorealist orthodoxy in International Relations to accept critical, or even theoretically-sophisticated, challenges to its problematic. Recent polemical exchanges in the security studies literature have, however, at least linked the term "critical theory" with security studies, and although they do not necessarily advance the debate, they at least raise the question: what is a critical approach to security studies? My goal in this paper is not to invoke a new orthodoxy of "critical security studies" or to participate in polemical recriminations, but to illustrate what a critical engagement with issues and questions that have been taken as the subject matter of security studies involves. I do this in several steps: (a) a review of the (brief) debate in security studies concerning the contributions of "critical" scholarship; (b) a presentation of the intellectual "foundations" of critical approaches to International Relations; (c) an overview of current research within "critical security studies" that illustrates its ability to generate a challenging and productive research agenda; and (d) a discussion of the intellectual and disciplining power of mainstream security scholarship, and the difficulties this poses for critical challenges. What I will not do is present a critique of traditional research and theory in security studies, except to highlight some of the conclusions of this critique. Since one of the main accusations levelled against critical theory (at least in International Relations) is that it cannot get "beyond critique," I intend to demonstrate that one can find lurking in the interstices of the discipline a wide range of critical scholarship and research that is "about" security (and its core subject matter), but which its authors, or the discipline, refuses to label as such. Simply bringing together these perspectives makes the challenges to orthodoxy more clear, and signals that critical approaches to security studies are more than a passing fad or the idiosyncratic obsession of a few scholars.