Risk, (in)security and international politics

Authored by: Claudia Aradau

Routledge Handbook of Risk Studies

Print publication date:  April  2016
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138022867
eBook ISBN: 9781315776835
Adobe ISBN: 9781317691662


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In international politics and security studies, discussions about risk have emerged in close connection with the discipline’s focus on war and security. As practices of risk management have infused the conduct of war and responses to a wide range of insecurities, from human trafficking and crime to climate change, critical security scholars have explored the political implications of these transformations. In so doing, they have contributed to the understanding of ‘the diversity of ways in which risk becomes central to governmental assemblages at specific historical junctures, and to what effect’ (Zeiderman, 2012: 1572). The expanding concept of security – from human security to security of the environment – meant that a security-risk nexus was extended across social and political fields. In order to explore this nexus, critical scholars have drawn inspiration from the sociological analyses of Ulrich Beck, Anthony Giddens or Niklas Luhmann, Mary Douglas’ anthropological work, or Michel Foucault’s lectures on biopolitics. 1 Although these debates about various approaches to risk have been well rehearsed across social science disciplines (for example, Zinn, 2008; Lupton, 1999; Adam et al., 2000), this chapter focuses on the contributions that analyses of risk practices in security studies and international politics can bring to a broadly understood ‘risk studies’. I argue that there are three in particular: first, the relation between risk and (in)security and the role of transnational practices in shaping this nexus; second, the analysis of practices of governance ‘beyond risk’, and third, the political implications of the deployment and proliferation of rationalities and technologies of risk management. In outlining these three areas, I aim to draw attention to the particular contributions that the critical work in International Relations (IR) has made to the debates about risk.

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