Securing the human in critical security studies: the insecurity of a secure ethics

Dan Bulley, Michael Bourne

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    11 Citations (Scopus)


    This article argues that Critical Security Studies (CSS), exemplified by Ken Booth’s Theory of World Security, has outlined an ethics of security as emancipation of the ‘human’, but also a highly problematic security of ethics. After drawing out how the ethics of CSS operates, we examine the security of this ethics by examining it against a hard case, that of the 199899 Kosovo crisis. Confronting this concrete situation, we draw out three possibilities for action used at the time to secure the human: ‘humanitarian containment’, military intervention and hospitality. Assessing each against Booth’s requirements for ethical security action, we counter that, in fact, no option was without risks, pitfalls and ambiguities. Ultimately, if any action to promote the security and the emancipation of the human is possible, it must embrace and prioritise the fundamental insecurity of ethics, or else find itself paralysed through a fear of making situations worse.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)453-471
    Number of pages19
    JournalEuropean Security
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2011

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