Few concepts encapsulate the depth and breadth of human experience like security. This brave concept, noble in its aims and solemn in its aspirations, strives simultaneously to embody what we most cherish and to mobilize the means and modes of thwarting its threatened loss. Both ethos and episteme, it purports to both feel and to know, to identify the thing we cherish, to look ahead toward the danger that threatens it and to mobilize a campaign of stalwart normativity, setting out in the most scientific terms what action should be taken, what must be suffered in order to prevail and what can be sacrificed in the name of averting the threat. Security reflects our knowledge of the past and our aspirations for the
future, draws upon our experience and the experience of others. It reflects what we know while simultaneously authorizing us to delve into the unknown, legitimating action based on a certain understanding of future life. It mediates, structures and regulates forms of uncertainty that we consider increasingly inescapable, unavoidable, or inevitable in our lives. The discourse of security makes uncertainty an incessant certainty. When called upon, in the right setting, with the right reserves and humility, with the right measure of consideration for the sublime dangers on our Earth, it aspires to touch the very frontier between faith and reason. Security is called to cast itself into the metaphysics of the unknown, into implicit, and sometimes awkwardly explicit, concerns for the other-worldly. Security as a concept is historically determined and, as such, a very young
concept. Moreover, since its first widespread circulation in the mid-20th century the concept has evolved considerably. Yet even from its earliest traces, security was inseparable from religion, starting in ancient Greece and running to the superstition of the Middle Ages, to the Enlightenment philosophers and onwards (cf. Wæver, 2008). The sciences of security, from the frivolousness of the pre-modern scholarship to the challenge of probability and statistical uncertainty, to the new sciences of security management, all conceptualize insecurity as something to overcome, an experience whose time can and should be put to an end, as though security, in an anti-Hobbesian way, were itself some kind of natural state of things, the beginning and and end of humanity. Like other social-scientific
frameworks the evolution of security studies has closely followed the profound changes in our physical understanding of the world. Yet the need for security insistently recurs, approaches and withdraws, the science of security, hysterically repeating the fantasy of its own end, then transforming and nearly re-tooling itself through a breakneck logic of disciplinarity, into the operations, protocols and etiquettes of social science (cf. Buzan and Hansen, 2009; Burgess, 2010b). From pragmatic to theological, the short history of security has taught us as much about ourselves, about our relation to our self-knowledge, to our values and indeed to our own being, as it has taught us about our relation to the dangers of the world. Yet if the efforts to eliminate insecurity have varied, the need to take a human, and thus ethical, attitude toward it has been unchanging. Through its brief but rapid evolution, the concept of security has sought to legitimate its scientific status, attaching itself to the social sciences and the long-standing, stalwart discipline of International Relations, latching onto the scientific traditions that provide the political sciences with their own disciplinary import and institutional anchoring.