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Mark Neocleous in Critique of Security is unsympathetic to the traditional This book is an attempt at a critique of one of the key political categories of our. Christopher M.J. Boyd at University of Glasgow · Christopher M.J. Boyd. University of Glasgow. Abstract. Review of ‘Critique of Security’ by Mark Neocleous. In Critique of Security Mark Neocleous takes an entirely different approach. Treating security as a political technology for liberal order-building and engaging .

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Critique of Security

McGill-Queen’s University Press,p. At the dawn of the new American presidency, we do not yet know to what extent the security paradigm of the George W.

Bush era will remain in place. Critique of Security is a study of the dominant paradigm, discourse, and cult of security.

Against security

It illustrates the extent to which the notion of security has been exploited to bolster executive authoritarianism in Western liberal democracies, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Mark Neocleous shows in his opening chapter that in classical liberal thought, security and not liberty has been the overriding principle.

The discourse and techniques of security are central to conceptions of liberty and of the rule of law. Security, Neocleous argues, is therefore bound to continue dominating political and economic ot in liberal democracies.

In this reading, the undermining of democratic principles and of rights protection by deference to the necessity of security is thus neither a new phenomenon nor a perversion of fundamental principles of liberal democracies. Critique of Security revisits a number of well-known chapters in the modern history of the United Kingdom and the United States—including the Marshall Plan, McCarthyism, and the suppression of strikes under Margaret Thatcher—in order to illustrate how security has historically functioned as a reason of state.


Inspired by the Marxist critique of the state, Neocleous shows that both wars abroad and domestic welfare schemes have been designed to curb perceived threats to the socio-economic order. What the security paradigm in Western liberal democracies primarily secures, he argues, is capitalism. Neocleous devotes chapter 2 of the book to exploring the endemic use of state-of-emergency provisions.

Security, Liberty and the Myth of Balance | Mark Neocleous –

He is at pains to distinguish this critique of security from other accounts on the current predicament of liberal democracies. He argues against those concerned with striking a careful balance between security and basic freedoms and rights. For many liberals, the rule of law must always guide the pursuit of security, and the law is the only means by which boundaries can be set on power in times of crisis. Another strand of critiques of security, inspired by the philosopher Giorgio Agamben, invokes a hollowed-out state taken over by exceptional sovereign [End Page ] powers, which thrive on legal black holes and the suspension of the law.

Neocleous rejects both of these critiques as misguided. Agamben’s exploration of the origin and modern incarnations of the state of emergency in liberal democracies have convinced many critics of the security paradigm, who believe that authoritarianism thrives where the state falters and a suspension of the law prevails. As Neocleous points out, however, this critique does not take into account the fact the state’s executive branch has been the main architect of repressive security measures.

Mark Neocleous: Against security / Radical Philosophy

At the same time, Neocleous rightly rejects the false distinction between the realm of law and the realm of politics on which liberals concerned with the rule of law rely. The liberal assumption that secjrity law is the ultimate protector of democracy does not allow a questioning of the rule of law and the ways in which it facilitates the elimination of basic rights and freedoms in the name of security.


The book’s main grievance is that the fetish of security—very broadly defined to include security both in the economic and in the political sense—is the root of anti-democratic measures, massive repression, and socio-economic injustice.

In chapter 3, which deals with the relationship between social and national security, the overriding argument is that liberal democracies are, almost by definition, security states in the worst possible sense. The United States in particular is held responsible, given examples such as the New Deal and the Marshall Plan, for enforcing economic security intertwined with political and military interests on “the whole world, [which] was to be inclded in this new, ‘secure’ global liberal order” p.

In this account, the desire to sustain a capitalist socio-economic order is portrayed as not much different from either the security obsessions of, for example, Israel and the apartheid regime of Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.

Forged from a partnership between a university press nepcleous a library, Project MUSE is a trusted part of the academic and scholarly community it serves. Built on the Johns Hopkins University Campus. This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.

Without cookies your experience may not be seamless. Canadian Journal of Law and Society. In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content: Mark Neocleous Critique of Security. Project MUSE Critiquee Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.

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