Sei sulla pagina 1di 24

Review of International Studies (2011), 37, 1113–1135 2010 British International Studies Association


First published online 26 Aug 2010

Security after emancipation? Critical Theory, violence and resistance


Abstract. Within the current configuration of Critical Security Studies (CSS) the concept of ‘emancipation’ is upheld as the keystone of a commitment to transformative change in world politics, but comparatively little is said on the status of violence and resistance within that commitment. As a means of highlighting this relative silence, this article examines the nature of the connection between CSS and the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School. In particular it disinters the reflections of Herbert Marcuse on the connections between emancipatory change, violence and resistance as a means of interrogating and challenging the definition of ‘security as emancipation’. Doing so, it is argued, points towards some of the potential limitations of equating security and emancipation, and provides a provocation of contemporary CSS from within its own cited intellectual and normative foundations.

Columba Peoples is Lecturer in International Relations in the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, University of Bristol. His primary research interests are in Critical Security Studies, Critical Theory, and technology and international relations. These are drawn together and discussed at length in his recent book publication, Justifying Ballistic Missile Defence: Technology, Security and Culture (Cambridge University Press 2010).


The concept of ‘emancipation’ has, as Jan Nederveen Pieterse notes, evolved over time from an association with relationships between individuals (the freeing of a son or wife from the legal authority of the pater familias) to a ‘political flagword’ during the French Revolution and, concurrently, from a description of a formal legal process to an identifier of ‘the self-liberation of the non-privileged’. 1 In tandem with this evolution the scope of the application of the concept has also expanded, with understandings of the term having now become central to debates in international theory, in particular the branch that is now often referred to variously as ‘critical international theory’ or ‘critical international relations

* The author would like to thank the following for their conversations and comments in relation to earlier versions of this article: Claudia Aradau, Thomas Diez, Beate Jahn, George Lawson, Andrew Neal, Mark Neocleous, Nicholas J. Rengger, and Rens van Munster; and to Richard Wyn Jones for a detailed response to an early draft. Particular thanks are also due to the two anonymous reviewers of the article for their extensive and constructive comments. Any errors that remain are of course my own. 1 Jan Nederveen Pieterse, ‘Emancipations, Modern and Postmodern’, Development and Change, 23:3 (1992), pp. 5–41, 7–8; on the etymology of emancipation see also: { index.php?term=emancipate} accessed on 15 July 2009.


1114 Columba Peoples

theory’. 2 Whilst some have questioned the merits of such a move, 3 various IR scholars have sought to develop a brand of international theory that has an explicitly ‘emancipatory intent’. For Andrew Linklater, the concept oers a potential normative grounding for a ‘sociology of global morals’, 4 whilst others, conscious of the particular Western/Enlightenment origins of the term, have

nevertheless sought to oset this with a call for the ‘fuller inclusion of multiple Western and non-Western perspectives on the meanings of freedom, without giving up the distinctive and attractive appeal to human improvement and emancipatory

development that is so central to

Arguably the most prominent use of the concept of emancipation within international studies is associated with the branch of security studies known variously as Critical Security Studies, the ‘Welsh School’, or the ‘Aberystwyth School’. 6 Critical Security Studies (or CSS – the denotation used hereafter) has consciously sought to place emancipation at the heart of its critique of ‘traditional’ security studies – most notably in the assertion that security and emancipation are ‘two sides of the same coin’ 7 – which, simultaneously, also eectively constitutes an approach to world politics more generally. 8 Here the vision of ‘emancipation’ that is employed is self-consciously claimed to build upon the ‘emancipatory intent’ of the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory as the basis of a progressive theory of security. 9 Taking this as its object of inquiry, this article makes three interrelated arguments: first, that the approach to the study of security adopted by CSS – in spite of its claims to take its lead from the critical social theory of the Frankfurt School – has thus far only interpreted this tradition in a circumscribed manner. This is most evident in the narrow association of CSS with the concept of ‘emancipation’ and ensuing debates over its definition, almost to the point of

.] ethical/global concerns’. 5

2 See the special issue on ‘Critical International Theory after 25 years’, Review of International Studies, 33:S1; Richard Devetak, ‘The Project of Modernity in International Relations Theory’, in Steven C. Roach (ed.), Critical Theory and International Relations: A Reader (London: Routledge, 2008), and ch. 7 of the same volume, pp. 227–65.

3 Most notably Nicholas J. Rengger, who suggests that ‘critical theory has a profound ambiguity about the question of emancipation, an ambiguity which weakens, possibly fatally, the sense of “emancipation” as the possible route out of the problem of order’, and, by implication, that emancipation is thus potentially a ‘worm’ at the core of critical international theory that ‘constantly threatens to pollute the whole project’ – International Relations, Political Theory and the Problem of Order: Beyond International Relations Theory? (London: Routledge, 2000), pp. 159, 151.

4 Andrew Linklater, ‘Toward a sociology of global morals with an “emancipatory intent”’, Review of International Studies, 33 (2007), pp. 135–50.

5 Hayward Alker, ‘Emancipation in the Critical Security Studies Project’, in Ken Booth (ed.), Critical Security Studies and World Politics (Boulder, CO.: Lynne Rienner, 2005), p. 200. Emphasis in original.

6 Usually this ‘School’ is taken to be comprised primarily by Ken Booth and Richard Wyn Jones and their respective works on security; see the C. A. S. E. Collective, ‘Critical Approaches to Security in Europe: A Networked Manifesto’, Security Dialogue, 37:4 (2006), pp. 443–87, 448. For the purposes of this article, though, the term ‘Welsh School’ is generally eschewed (the notion of ‘Schools’, as noted below in relation to the Frankfurt School, is itself inherently problematic) in favour of a specific use of the term ‘Critical Security Studies’ (CSS), used as shorthand here to refer primarily to the work of Booth and Wyn Jones.

7 Ken Booth, ‘Security and Emancipation’, Review of International Studies, 17:4 (1991), pp. 313–26; 316. The article was drawn from the plenary address to the British International Studies Association (BISA) annual conference in 1990.

8 Booth, Critical Security Studies and World Politics; Theory of World Security.

9 Ken Booth, Theory of World Security (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 45.

Security after emancipation?


exclusion of consideration of other related concepts and issues. The second strand of the article’s argument questions whether the equation of ‘emancipation’ and ‘security’ is sustainable in relation to understandings of emancipation within Critical Theory. With regard to the latter, discussions of emancipation often engage issues such as violence and resistance to a much greater degree, some even to the point of valorising the violent potentialities associated with emancipatory struggles. This contrasts markedly with the conceptual merging of security and emancipation within CSS, where the equal priority given to security seems to preclude a priori any notion of ‘emancipatory violence’. In part, it is argued here, the failure to flesh out the full implications of linking the study of security to the Frankfurt School tradition (and the notion of emancipation) is due to the way in which that tradition has been interpreted and revived within CSS. A lacuna in this reconstruction of the Frankfurt School tradition within CSS is a lack of substantive consideration of work of Herbert Marcuse, a thinker who, is in many ways potentially closest in spirit to the version of critical theory embodied within contemporary CSS. This third component of the argument is drawn out through the examination of Marcuse’s thinking on the subjects of violence and resistance in comparison with CSS. In short, Marcuse displays a readiness to grasp conceptual nettles that is currently largely absent from CSS, a readiness which is perhaps instructive for both Critical Security Studies and critical international theory even if we do not ultimately buy into Marcuse’s own assessments. Marcuse, it is argued, wrestles with many similar questions of concern to proponents of CSS and, indeed, goes much further in fleshing out the content of the concepts of violence and resistance in his reflections on the prospects for emancipatory change. The analogy is of course imperfect, and the point is not that Marcuse in any way necessarily oers ‘solutions’ to the current constitution of CSS or an unproblematic supplement on the issues of violence and/or resistance. Indeed, it may well be that Marcuse’s definitions of violence and resistance are inherently problematic and troubling (as many of his critics were to point out). But if it is accepted that many of Marcuse’s concerns resonate with those of contemporary CSS, then perhaps its contemporary exponents would do well to reflect upon the radical implications of Marcuse’s reflections on violence and resistance for thinking through the connections between emancipation and security. At the very least, Marcuse’s configuration of the relationship between emancipation/liberation and violent resistance calls any equivalence of security and emancipation into question, implying as it does an understanding of ‘repressive security’ as is explored later in the article. Recognising this might in turn potentially put CSS into conversation with alternative ways of rendering emancipation within post-Marxist thought that question this equivalence, and in turn with work in security studies that is already beginning to draw on this wider tradition of thinking through emancipation. 10

10 See in particular Claudia Aradau, ‘Security and the democratic scene: descuritization and emancipation’, Journal of International Relations and Development, 7 (2004), pp. 388–413; also Jef Huysmans, ‘Minding Exceptions: The Politics of Insecurity and Liberal Democracy’, Contemporary Political Theory, 3:3 (2004), pp. 321–41.

1116 Columba Peoples

CSS, ‘emancipation’ and Critical Theory

As noted previously, CSS has, as an approach to the study of security, become virtually synonymous with the concept of ‘emancipation’. This idea that emanci- pation and security are in fact coeval has been promoted as the central defining feature of CSS by its main proponents, 11 interpreters 12 and critics 13 alike. For the most part this identification has been encouraged (by Ken Booth in particular) and defended by the main proponents of CSS, Booth and Richard Wyn Jones. 14 As Booth declares, ‘Emancipation is at the controversial heart of critical security studies’, 15 and he has recently restated this nexus at the heart of CSS in terms of:

.] a virtuous circle of security and emancipation. This occurs when the pursuit of security (reducing the threats that impose life-determining conditions of insecurity on individuals and groups) promotes emancipation (freeing people from oppression and so giving them some opportunity to explore being more fully human), while pursuit of emancipation (reducing structural oppression) promotes security (opening up space in which people can feel safer). 16

Commitment to this idea of a ‘virtuous circle’ is, in turn, frequently presumed to entail commitment to a Marxian tradition, specifically the Frankfurt School tradition of critical social theory. In this regard Booth tips his hat to the method of ‘immanent critique’ and proposes ‘a definition of a distinct theory of security from a Frankfurt School critical theory perspective’ constructed, once again, around the security-emancipation nexus. 17 It would, however, be slightly misleading to presume that the Frankfurt School tradition has always played a major part in the introduction of the concept of emancipation into security studies. Booth’s touchstone definition of the relation- ship between ‘Security and Emancipation’, 18 which has subsequently become a referent point for discussion of the concept of emancipation in both international relations and security studies, came in the early 1990s. This was substantially before the term ‘Critical/critical’ was appended to security studies (generally dated to the late 1990s), 19 and Booth’s original definition of emancipation as security

11 See, for example Ken Booth, ‘Introduction to Part 3’, in Ken Booth (ed.), Critical Security Studies and World Politics (Boulder, CO.: Lynne Rienner, 2005), pp. 181–2 and Booth, Theory of World Security, p. 278. Richard Wyn Jones likewise argues that CSS reconceptualises security by virtue of being ‘Focused, crucially, on emancipation as the prism through which both the theory and practice

of security should be viewed’, Security, Strategy and Critical Theory (Boulder, CO.: Lynne Rienner, 1999), p. 166. Emphasis added.

12 See, for example, Michael Sheehan, Security: An Analytical Survey (Boulder, CO.: Lynne Rienner, 2005), pp. 164–8.

13 Some of which are discussed in more detail below.

14 See references in n. 11 above and, for example, Richard Wyn Jones, ‘On Emancipation: Necessity, Capacity, and Concrete Utopias’, in Booth (ed.), Critical Security Studies and World Politics.

15 Booth, ‘Introduction to Part 3’, p. 181.

16 Booth, ‘Introduction to Part 3’, p. 183. See also Ken Booth, Theory of World Security; for example

pp. 110–1.

17 Booth, ‘Critical Explorations’, in Booth (ed.), Critical Security Studies and World Politics.

18 ‘Emancipation is the freeing of people (as individuals and groups) from those physical and human constraints which stop them carrying out what they would freely choose to do. War and the threat

of war is one of those constraints, together with poverty, poor education, political oppression and so on. Security and emancipation are two sides of the same coin. Emancipation, not power or order, produces true security. Emancipation, theoretically is security.’ – Booth, ‘Security and

Emancipation’, p. 316.

19 With the conference at York University in Toronto that eventually led to Keith Krause and Michael

C. Williams (eds), Critical Security Studies: Concepts and Cases (Minneapolis: University of

Minnesota Press, 1997).

Security after emancipation?


makes no explicit reference to any of the key figures generally associated with the Frankfurt School or to the Frankfurt School tradition (insofar as we might speak of one) as a whole. This fact alone sets Booth’s more recent direct invocations of the Frankfurt School in more stark relief. In these recent allusions to the Frankfurt School, Booth adopts what we might term as a ‘leaning’ strategy; that is, his own allusions refer not to the Frankfurt School but to the work of others who do. 20 This results, by consequence, in the incorporation and adaptation of terminology seen to be associated with Critical Theory – most prominently the concept of emancipation itself, but also the term ‘immanent critique’ and the distinction between ‘tradi- tional’ and ‘critical’ theory – without much sustained reference to the origins of that terminology. 21 In his recent Theory of World Security Booth gives his greatest degree of attention to the Frankfurt School, but admits that the approach he adopts to it is ‘as pragmatic as towards theory in general’, and the Frankfurt School is but one of many intellectual traditions to be ‘plundered to assist the development of a theory of world security.’ 22 Booth is, for the most part, simply happy to acknowledge ‘the special helpfulness of the Frankfurt School’ in orienting an emancipatory approach to security and to ‘endorse’ the interpretation of the Frankfurt School in CSS terms oered by the work of Richard Wyn Jones. 23 Whereas Booth alludes to the Frankfurt School primarily to establish an orientation, Richard Wyn Jones explicitly takes his task to be ‘to develop the conceptual foundations of a critical theory approach to the study of security –

what I call critical security studies’; and, moreover, ‘to take seriously the origins of the pronominal “critical” in critical security studies by outlining an understanding based firmly on the assumptions of critical theory.’ 24 In part this is motivated by Wyn Jones’ own sense that, and this is a charge we might equally lay at the door of Booth’s own work, ‘one of the striking features of critical international theory is its rather curious, at times even tenuous, connection with what is usually regarded (in social theory circles at least) as critical theory, namely, the work of the Frankfurt School.’ 25 In contrast to Booth’s stated readiness to mix-and-match concepts drawn from Frankfurt School theorists with a multiplicity of other ideas – justified as an Arendtian strategy of Perlenfischerei 26 – Wyn Jones argues that since the Frankfurt School does not constitute a unified body of thought but at best a body of thinkers connected by shared theoretical concerns, institutional

a liations and personal relations (and is frequently fractured and diverse even

then), then ‘This means that concepts cannot be simply appropriated from the critical theory literature and applied to issues in the security realm without reference to their origins.’ 27 This results in a sustained attempt by Wyn Jones to give reference to the Critical Theory origins of the concept of emancipation following the introduction of the concept into security studies, an attempt most clearly formulated in his 1999

20 Most notably Richard Wyn Jones, Security, Strategy and Critical Theory.

21 Booth, ‘Beyond Critical Security Studies’, pp. 261–3.

22 Theory of World Security, p. 41.

23 Booth, ‘Beyond Critical Security Studies’, p. 261; see also Theory of World Security, p. xv.

24 Richard Wyn Jones, Security, Strategy and Critical Theory, p. 2.

25 Ibid.

26 Booth, Theory of World Security, pp. 39–41.

27 Ibid.

1118 Columba Peoples

text Security, Strategy and Critical Theory. Here Wyn Jones takes his cue from the early work of Max Horkheimer, and in particular his 1937 essay on ‘Traditional and Critical Theory’. 28 Horkheimer’s early work, Wyn Jones notes, is distinguished by its relatively optimistic perception of the prospects for social change which might result, ultimately, in a more ‘emancipated’ political order. Emancipation, for the early Horkheimer, entails the ‘liberation of individual human beings from suering and the promotion of their happiness’ 29 and Wyn Jones notes Horkheimer’s contempt for those who would ‘concern themselves with “man as such” [rather] than human beings in particular.’ 30 The lesson that Wyn Jones takes from Horkheimer’s early arguments (adumbrated here for the purposes of brevity)

is that emancipation does not refer to an idealised end-state that has yet to be

reached, but to unfulfilled potentialities extant within the current order. In this Horkheimer remains true to the broad orientations of Marxian theory, without necessarily committing to a ‘blue-print’ for emancipation or to an end-point or

telos. Thus Horkheimer’s initial vision of Critical Theory, as Wyn Jones reads it, ‘understands emancipation as the more rational and purposeful utilization of already existing forces of production in order to bring nature under rational human control’, and this as an ongoing and open-ended process. 31

In Wyn Jones’ view contemporary adherents to critical theory should ‘also

restate their understanding of emancipation as a process rather than an end point,

a direction rather than a destination

brought into existence, the process of emancipation remains incomplete. There is always room for improvement; there is always unfinished business in the task of emancipation.’ 32 In terms of security studies, the implication which Wyn Jones takes from the early Horkheimer is that CSS, if anchored in a broader concern with human emancipation, should similarly be concerned with the liberation of individual human beings from suering and oppression not only from the military threats that have tended to be the ‘traditional’ focus of security studies, but also non-military threats such as environmental threats, poverty and state-based

oppression which, since the individual is the referent object of a concept of security anchored in emancipation, are equally deserving of consideration. This does not necessarily, Wyn Jones argues, encourage a form of methodological individualism; he recognises that individual identity is a central aspect of what it means to be human, and that by consequence the constitutive relationship between ‘identity, security and community’ requires CSS to engage with the nature of specific political groupings. 33

A key problem addressed by Wyn Jones, though, is that this conception of

emancipation, intended to be foundational for CSS, was itself eectively rejected latterly by Horkheimer himself: first in Horkheimer’s Eclipse of Reason; 34 and then more fundamentally in his collaboration with Theodor Adorno in Dialectic of

.] Even if a more emancipated order is

28 Max Horkheimer, ‘Traditional and Critical Theory’, in Critical Theory: Selected Essays, trans. Matthew J. O’Connell and others (New York: Seabury Press, 1972).

29 Wyn Jones, Security, Strategy and Critical Theory, p. 23.

30 Horkheimer, cited in ibid., p. 23.

31 Wyn Jones, Security, Strategy and Critical Theory, p. 23.

32 Ibid., p. 77.

33 See Sheehan, Security: An Analytical Survey, p. 167.

34 Max Horkheimer, Eclipse of Reason (New York: Continuum, 1974).

Security after emancipation?


Enlightenment (hereafter abbreviated as DoE). 35 The latter work, Wyn Jones argues, eectively truncated the project of Critical Theory as Horkheimer had earlier described it. 36 Written in exile from Germany post-WWII and post- Auschwitz, DoE is suused with a pessimism so thoroughgoing that emancipation, understood in Horkheimer’s prior sense, is eectively inconceivable. 37 According to Adorno and Horkheimer’s assessment in DoE, barbarism, not emancipation, was latent in technological progress, the eort master nature, and, ultimately, reason itself; hence Adorno and Horkhiemer’s pronouncement that ‘enlightenment is totalitarian’. 38

From emancipation to liberation: between Marcuse and CSS

Wyn Jones’ task then, if emancipation is to function as the anchorage of CSS is, in e ect, to save Critical Theory from itself. In this Wyn Jones is in good company and draws on similar endeavours to redeem the initial promise of Critical Theory as found in the work of Jürgen Habermas and Axel Honneth in particular. Without suggesting that either of these thinkers are entirely unproblematic in their own right, Wyn Jones argues that they do nonetheless provide sustained and valid critiques of the account oered by DoE and the impasse it creates with respect to emancipation. He consequently uses these eorts at redeeming the promise of Critical Theory in order to make the case that it is worthwhile retaining emancipation as an anchoring concept for the study of security. 39 Based on these grounds, Wyn Jones does not challenge the appropriation of the concept of emancipation for the study of security, but rather seeks to raise awareness of its conceptual history, its roots in Critical Theory, and what this might entail in application of the concept to international and security studies. In short, proponents of CSS have sought to defend and uphold their use and maintenance of the concept of emancipation within the study of security and international relations more broadly, even if there are subtle distinctions to be made between the key proponents of CSS on this issue. Booth has argued that ‘the test of theory is

emancipation’, 40 aiming to rule out ‘Vulgar relativistic thinking

replicate only a dismal and impoverished world. What matters is whether ideas are true or false, with the grain of humanity or against it, emancipatory or

.] calculated to

35 Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans. John Cumming (London: Verso, 1979).

36 Wyn Jones, Security, Strategy and Critical Theory, p. 35.

37 ‘Emancipation’, Nicholas J. Rengger argues, ‘was not one of Adorno’s major concerns’, and his collaboration with Horkheimer is conventionally seen to curtail the thematic of emancipation – Rengger, International Relations, Political Theory and the Problem of Order, p. 162. In another sense, though, Adorno’s later work might be read as an attempt to re-conceive emancipation in a manner that is not identitarian/totalitarian and avoids some of the potential pitfalls of subjectivism and violence that are discussed later in this article – see especially Theodor Adorno, Negative Dialectics (London: Routledge & Keegan Paul, 1973). More recently Andrew Linklater has sought to ground a sociology of global morals in a reading of Adorno – see Andrew Linklater, ‘Toward a sociology of global morals with an “emancipatory intent”’, Review of International Studies, 33 (2007), pp. 135–50, 143, and ‘Distant Suering and Cosmopolitan Obligations’, International Relations, 44 (2007), pp. 19–36, 23.

38 Adorno and Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment, p. 134.

39 A position subsequently reiterated in Wyn Jones’ ‘On Emancipation’.

40 Booth, ‘Beyond Critical Security Studies’, p. 263.

1120 Columba Peoples

oppressive’. 41 Wyn Jones has, by contrast sought to rule ‘in’ many post- structuralist accounts of security on the basis of ‘a more circumscribed notion of emancipation’. 42 As discussed previously, if Emancipation with a capital ‘E’ were to be taken as ‘the measure of all theory’, then this is a measure that a number of the original critical theorists would themselves fail to meet, and Wyn Jones’ claims here can be read, contra both Booth and post-structuralist-oriented critics of CSS, as an attempt to resist the ghettoisation of security studies, with a ‘Welsh School’ fenced oby its commitment to ‘emancipation’. This eort at intellectual grounding has not, however, been sucient to insulate CSS from criticism regarding its use of emancipation in relation to security – far from it. Some have accused CSS of encouraging an unhelpful distinction between individual and society (or social grouping), which, they maintain, still potentially encourages methodological individualism. 43 With varying degrees of intensity, others have argued that the assumed universal applicability of emancipation belies its origins in a particular (Western) tradition of political philosophy, 44 and that the prioritisation of security (as emancipation and vice versa) as a positive condition

leads to a failure to perceive the ‘political eects of security’. 45 The latter line of criticism, particularly that oered by Claudia Aradau, has more recently made the argument that it is not the concept of emancipation per se that is problematic, but rather the manner in which it has been defined and used within CSS. As Aradau notes, the invocation of security is frequently accompanied by repressive and exclusionary practices associated with militarisation and ‘securitisation’; hence, ‘When equated with security, emancipation becomes problematic as it can no

longer envisage social transformations outside of the logic of security

struggle for security is re-styled as a struggle for emancipation, without any qualms about the relationship between emancipation and security.’ 46 In so doing, Aradau argues, this ‘circular definition of emancipation as security deprives the former of its truly transformative potential,’ a theme which is returned to later. 47 Mark Neocleous takes a similar logic even further: ‘What if at the heart of the logic of security lies not a vision of freedom or emancipation, but a means of modelling the whole of human society around a particular vision of order?’ Against Ken Booth’s famous identification of security and emancipation as ‘two sides of the same coin’, Neocleous argues that it is ‘security and oppression [that] are two sides of the same coin.’ 48

.] The

41 Booth, ‘Introduction to Part 3’, p. 181.

42 As argued at length in Wyn Jones, ‘On Emancipation’, p. 219.

43 Martin Shaw, ‘There is No Such Thing as Society: Beyond Individualism and Statism in International Security Studies’, Review of International Studies, 19 (1993), pp. 159–75, and Barry Buzan, Ole Wæver and Jaap De Wilde, Security: A New Framework for Analysis (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1998). See Sheehan, International Security: An Analytical Survey, pp. 165–6 for an overview.

44 See Hayward Alker, ‘Emancipation in the Critical Security Studies Project’ and Nicholas J. Rengger ‘Negative Dialectic? The Two Modes of Critical Theory in World Politics’, in Richard Wyn Jones (ed.), Critical Theory and World Politics (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2001), p. 98.

45 C. A. S. E, ‘Critical Approaches to Security in Europe’, p. 456; Claudia Aradau, ‘Security and the democratic scene: desecuritization and emancipation’, Journal of International Relations and Development, 7 (2004) pp. 388–413, 398.

46 Aradau, ‘Security and the democratic scene’, p. 398.

47 Ibid., p. 390.

48 Mark Neocleous, Critique of Security (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008), pp. 4, 5. Emphasis in original.

Security after emancipation?


Once we begin to focus on the relationship between emancipation and security, it is argued here, challenging questions arise about the potential forms of resistance can take including, even, the question of ‘emancipatory violence’. The case made in this article is that it is actually one of the thinkers associated with the Frankfurt School, though not one considered extensively by the proponents of CSS, that o ers a telling illustration of the perils of over-emphasising emancipation. Herbert Marcuse, it is argued here, shares several assumptions with CSS, even if he figures relatively little as an apparent influence. References to Marcuse in Wyn Jones’ interpretation of the Frankfurt School tradition are spartan; Marcuse’s support of student activism in 1960s Germany is mentioned to contextualise Adorno and Horkheimer’s relative disdain for the same events, as is Marcuse’s influence on latter day authors on Critical Theory such as Stephen Bronner and Douglas Kellner. 49 Wyn Jones’ main concentration in terms of post-DoE Critical Theory, however, focuses on the intellectual trajectories of Adorno and Horkheimer on their return to Germany post-World War II and the subsequent directions taken in Frankfurt School theory by Habermas and Honneth in particular. Likewise in his considerations of the relationship between technology and security, Wyn Jones does not draw on Marcuse’s own extensive reflections on the social implications of technology, 50 but instead on the more recent ‘Critical Theory of Technology’ o ered by one of Marcuse’s modern interpreters in this regard, Andrew Feenberg 51 (although Feenberg himself maintains an open indebtedness to Marcuse’s thinking on technology). 52 Further reasons for this relative lack of consideration of Marcuse are unclear, although the practice is in keeping with the general intellectual climate. As Douglas Kellner notes, Marcusian Critical Theory has, after its relative prominence and influence in social theory and New Left circles up to the 1980s, ‘fallen out of favour in an era that rejects revolutionary thought and grand visions of liberation and social reconstruction.’ 53 This however, one would have thought, would be less problematic for CSS, an approach that takes as its ultimate goal emancipatory change, even when understood as emancipation with a small ‘e’. True, Marcuse’s Marxian-Freudian synthesis is highly idiosyncratic, and the Freudian influence has little resonance with contemporary CSS. Furthermore, the question of whether or not Marcuse can or should be seen as necessary to any discussion of the Frankfurt School – itself, as we’ve noted already, an inherently porous term – is of course a matter of intellectual preference and debate. Given that the consideration of Frankfurt School Critical Theory within international relations was notably limited until the publication of Security, Strategy and Critical Theory (notwithstanding certain works of Andrew Linklater, Mark Homan and Richard K. Ashley prior to this, but even here the concentration being firmly on Jürgen Habermas), 54 the

49 Wyn Jones, Security, Strategy and Critical Theory, p. 55.

50 See ch. 5 of Security, Strategy and Critical Theory.

51 Andrew Feenberg, Critical Theory of Technology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991).

52 See, Andrew Feenberg, Heidegger and Marcuse: The Catastrophe and Redemption of History (New York: Routledge, 2004).

53 Douglas Kellner, preface to Herbert Marcuse, Technology, War and Fascism: Collected Papers of Herbert Marcuse, Vol. 1, edited by Douglas Kellner (New York: Routledge, 1998), p. xiv.

54 For an overview see Beate Jahn, ‘One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Critical Theory as the Latest Edition of Liberal Idealism’, Millennium, 27:3 (1998), pp. 613–41.

1122 Columba Peoples

attention given to Adorno, Horkheimer and Honneth by Wyn Jones should certainly be regarded as expansive rather than restrictive. Yet there is arguably much room to consider Marcuse in relation to CSS, particularly if we accept Kellner’s argument that Marcuse’s later work forms part of an ‘activist’ strand (in the sense of maintaining some belief in the virtues of activism, as a method of achieving social change) of Frankfurt School thinking which developed in the late 1940s, as distinct from Adorno and Horkheimer’s deep pessimism about the prospects for emancipatory change in Dialectic of Enlighten- ment. 55 Though Marcuse’s work in the 1950s and 1960s is not explicitly set against or defined in terms of the account given in DoE, 56 Marcuse’s concern with identifying potentially revolutionary elements of social change (be it in the Hippy movement, Black Militants, anti-Vietnam protests, the Women’s liberation move- ment, or anti-colonial struggles) 57 is at odds with Adorno and Horkheimer’s sensibilities, but arguably in keeping with Wyn Jones’ recommendation that ‘proponents of critical security studies should aim to provide support for those social movements that promote emancipatory social change.’ 58 Marcuse was still very clearly looking for unfulfilled potentialities extant within the existing order in a manner that is arguably closer to early critical project outlined by Horkheimer (which Wyn Jones wants to rejuvenate and uphold) than is the later Horkheimer himself. In this sense, it might be said that Marcuse wrestled with a very similar problem to that revisited by Wyn Jones: that is, what are the prospects for emancipatory change in a context in which the key original proponent of the critical project (Horkheimer) seems to have pronounced its own impossibility? Beyond this, there are also a number of other shared concerns that arguably amount to a certain ‘family resemblance’ between Marcuse’s project and that of CSS even though there is no directly acknowledged relation between them. The CSS emphasis on the individual as the ultimate referent of security, and a ‘people-centred’ 59 subject of security has certain echoes of Marcuse’s call for political action ‘in defence of life’. 60 Where CSS places emphasis on fulfilment of basic human needs as a predicate of broader fulfilment – what Booth has recently termed as ‘survival-plus’ – Marcuse attempts to develop a ‘biological foundation for socialism’, the conditions for the emergence of ‘concrete individuals’ and ‘an instinctual foundation for solidarity among human beings – a solidarity which has been eectively repressed in line with the requirements of class society but which now appears as a precondition for liberation.’ 61 Similarly, although Marcuse rarely uses the term ‘emancipation’ as liberally as proponents of CSS, instead focusing on ‘liberation’ – defined as that ‘which must precede the construction of a free society,

55 Kellner (ed.), Introduction to Technology, War and Fascism, pp. 12–5.

56 When Marcuse does refer to DoE it is usually in the form a positive endorsement; see, for example, Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society (Boston: Beacon Press, 1964), pp. 137, 157.

57 See Herbert Marcuse, Counterrevolution and Revolt (London: Allen Lane, 1972), esp. pp. 76–7.

58 Wyn Jones, Security, Strategy and Critical Theory, p. 161.

59 Booth, ‘Security and Emancipation’, p. 324.

60 Hebert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Enquiry into Freud (Boston: Beacon Press, 1966), p. 20.

61 Herbert Marcuse, An Essay on Liberation (London: Allen Lane, 1969), p. 10. Compare Booth:

‘Critical theory escapes the confines of privileged referents [of security] by embracing no static interest save that of the primordial human being and the species in nature’ – ‘Critical Explorations’, in Ken Booth (ed.), Critical Security Studies and World Politics, p. 12.

Security after emancipation?


one which necessitates an historical break with the past and the present’ 62 – in much of his later work, the ‘free society’ Marcuse hopes will emerge from the process of this liberation will result from:

the spectre of a revolution which subordinates the development of productive forces and higher standards of living to the requirements of creating solidarity for the human species, for abolishing poverty and misery beyond all national frontiers and spheres of interest for the attainment of peace. 63

Liberation, in other words, should have an emancipatory purpose in a recognisably Horkheimerian sense. 64 For all his undoubted failings Marcuse, as much as any other critical theorist writing in Adorno and Horkheimer’s wake, measures up to Wyn Jones’ recommendation that: ‘critical theorists must go beyond generalized exhortations concerning emancipation, empowerment, freedom, and happiness. If critical theory is to have practical relevance, it must reflect on what emancipation means in terms of actual institutions and relationships.’ 65

On activism and violence

Marcuse then, it might be said, aims to theorise the conditions for emancipation and it is here that there might be potentially instructive guides (and warnings) for the future development of CSS. Adhering broadly to the vision of emancipation comparable to that upheld in CSS, Marcuse attempts to broach thorny questions about possibilities and sites of social change to a much greater extent than has – arguably – yet been undertaken within contemporary CSS. Wyn Jones notes that ‘Apart from Marcuse, who was briefly active in the revolutionary Soldier’s Council established in Berlin after World War I, none [of the early Frankfurt School] had any direct experience of political practice.’ 66 In the case of Marcuse this is a somewhat restrictive definition of political practice given not only his activities in various US intelligence agencies during and immediately after World War II 67 but particularly his connection to various forms of social and political activism during the 1960s for which he is now more well known. The latter experience caused Marcuse to consider at length two questions which, though arguably implicit in the CSS project and referred to indirectly, have received comparatively little direct sustained reflection by its proponents to date: the question of violence; and the question of resistance. On the question of violence, CSS has placed great emphasis on emancipation from violence (defined both in terms of physical violence and structural violence), but has remained relatively quiet on or opposed to violence as a legitimate means of achieving emancipatory change. 68 As Booth argues, ‘one should eschew the

62 Herbert Marcuse, An Essay on Liberation, p. viii.

63 Ibid., pp. ix–x.

64 On the tendency towards interchangeable use of the concepts of ‘emancipation’ and ‘liberation’ more generally, see Pieterse, ‘Emancipations, Modern and Postmodern’, p. 11.

65 Wyn Jones, Security, Strategy and Critical Theory, p. 76.

66 Ibid., p. 13.

67 See Kellner, Introduction to Technology, War and Fascism for further historical background.

68 As an aside we might note a parallel lack within the ‘Copenhagen School’ approach with regard to the role of violent resistance in processes of ‘desecuritization’ (or ‘counter-securitizations’) – see Ole

1124 Columba Peoples

powerful tradition of believing that the ends justifies the means. To do otherwise

is to risk corrupting the good ends one seeks by violent or iniquitous means

The ideals of emancipation must be reflected in the emancipatory politics chosen to achieve those goals. There is no other way, if emancipation is to be true to itself.’ 69 Marcuse’s commitment to social change and the conditions for genuine security in human solidarity, by contrast, leads him to a very dierent perspective on violence. For Marcuse, it should be noted, violence is a contingent phenomenon to be overcome, and the measure of free society is the extent to which the use of physical violence is absent. Such a society would be based, and here Marcuse draws on his Freudian influence, on ‘a new sensibility – the demands of the life instincts’ and would be made up of human beings who ‘are physiologically and psychologi- cally able to experience things, and each other, outside of the context of violence and exploitation.’ 70 This assertion that the absence of violence is the measure of a free society is summed up in Marcuse’s comparison with the aesthetic dimension in which, quoting Nietzsche:

For the artist, the beautiful is the mastery of opposites ‘without tension, so that violence is

no longer

beneficial, enhancing life’ (Lebensteigernd). By virtue of these qualities, the aesthetic dimension can serve as a sort of gauge for a free society. 71

Hence we might say that, ostensibly, for Marcuse as for proponents of CSS only emancipation equals true ‘security’ – if defined as the ‘freeing of people (as individuals and groups) from those physical and human constraints which would stop them carrying out what they would freely choose to do’ 72 – in the sense that violence and exploitation are minimised as constraints on human beings. Seemingly in keeping with Booth’s contention that ‘Emancipation, empirically, is Security’, 73 Marcuse aspires to a liberated condition in which ‘No longer condemned to compulsive aggressiveness and repression in the struggle for existence, individuals would be able to create a technical and natural environment which would no longer perpetuate violence, ugliness, ignorance and brutality.’ 74 Marcuse’s understanding of emancipation as liberation is, however, in many ways at odds with the idea of emancipation as security. Although he shares the general sense of emancipation as freedom from constraints, Marcuse uses the term ‘security’ rarely and then only in reference to the state apparatuses that are often employed as tools of repression. Some of us in the developed world may already benefit from something vaguely approaching the kind of freedom associated with emancipation Marcuse argues, as opposed to the ‘wretched of the earth’ to whom Marcuse frequently refers with obvious allusions to Frantz Fanon. 75 However, he


.’ The beautiful has the ‘biological value’ of that which is ‘useful,

Wæver, ‘Securitisation and Desecuritisation’, in Ronnie D. Lipschutz (ed.), On Security (New York:

Columbia University Press), pp. 46–86; Aradau, ‘Security and the democratic scene: descuritization and emancipation’, p. 399; Thomas Diez, ‘The Paradoxes of Europe’s Borders’, Comparative European Politics, 4 (2006), pp. 235–52.

69 Booth, ‘Introduction to Part 3’, p. 183.

70 Marcuse, Essay on Liberation, pp. 19, 25.

71 Ibid., p. 27. See also pp. 40–3, and Marcuse, Counterrevolution and Revolt (London: Allen Lane, 1972), pp. 2–3.

72 Booth, ‘Security and Emancipation’, p. 316.

73 Ibid., p. 323.

74 Counterrevolution and Revolt, pp. 2–3.

75 Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (London: Penguin, 1965).

Security after emancipation?


sees this freedom as only partial and contrasts this growing freedom of (some) individuals with the unfreedom of the whole: 76 ‘the artificial and “private” liberation anticipates, in a distorted manner, an exigency of the social liberation:

the revolution must be at the same time a revolution in perception which will accompany the material and intellectual reconstruction of society, creating the new aesthetic environment.’ 77 Moreover, the nascent presence of this ‘new sensibility’ in society only heightens our awareness of the pervasive presence of violence as an aspect of social life: that is, the extent to which current conditions fail to measure up to the gauge of a free society, evident in the degree that violence is still regarded as a social necessity for the maintenance of social order. Hence Marcuse speaks (again in a manner not wholly anathema to CSS given the latter’s persistent wariness of the state as guarantor of security, 78 but with more radical implications) of dysfunctional states where ‘“functioning” seems defined rather negatively as absence of civil war, massive disorder, economic collapse.’ 79 Extrapolating from this analysis, it might be said that the Marcusian perspective – in contra-distinction to contemporary CSS – foregrounds the issue of ‘repressive security’: instances where ‘security’ is invoked to suppress emancipatory change, often by violent means. Here, as elsewhere, Marcuse reserves the term violence for actual physical violence. This is not to say that Marcuse is unconcerned with forms of exploitation that CSS would group under threats to individual security and for which it frequently uses the Galtungian concept of ‘structural violence’ to refer to. 80 Quite the opposite. But Marcuse groups such forms of exploitation under his broader concept of ‘domination’ which is dealt with at length in his One-Dimensional Man and throughout his work as a permanent feature of capitalist societies (in particular). 81 True, Marcuse does see an inherent linkage between this apparatus of domination and actual physical manifestations of violence:

For violence is built into the very structure of this society: as the accumulated aggressiveness which drives the business of life in all branches of corporate capitalism, as the legal aggression on the highways, and as the national aggression abroad which seems to become more brutal the more it takes as its victims the wretched of the earth – those who

76 Compare Wyn Jones’ argument that ‘the relative security of the inhabitants of the North is

purchased at the price of chronic insecurity for the vast majority of the world population

far from being a necessary condition for the good life, statism appears to be one of the main sources of insecurity – part of the problem rather than the solution’; prior to this he argues that ‘When a broader definition of security that includes non-military threats is applied, it is clear that many states are deeply implicated in the creation of other forms of insecurity for their own populations, for example in such issues as food and environmental security.’ – Security, Strategy and Critical Theory, p. 99.

77 Ibid., p. 37.

.] So,

78 ‘[T]o countless millions of people in the world it is their own state, and not the “Enemy” that is the primary security threat.’ – Booth, ‘Security and Emancipation’, p. 318.

79 Marcuse, Essay on Liberation, p. 67.

80 Johan Galtung, ‘Violence, Peace and Peace Research’, Journal of Peace Research, 3 (1969), pp. 167–91. On CSS’s identification with this understanding of violence see Steve Smith, ‘The Contested Concept of Security’, in Ken Booth (ed.), Critical Security Studies, p. 54.

81 For Marcuse, domination exists as something of a social fact and a ‘decisive tendency in current politics’; indeed, one of the major problems for Marcuse’s own analysis (given his own search for elements of resistance and liberation) is that his conception of domination is so all-encompassing – to the point that ‘society’ and ‘domination’ are essentially one and the same – see his Five Lectures:

Psychoanalysis, Politics, and Utopia, trans. Jeremy J. Shapiro and Shierry M. Weber (London: Allen Lane, 1970), p. 1, and, more generally, Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man.

1126 Columba Peoples

have not yet been civilized by the capital of the Free World. In the mobilization of this aggressiveness, ancient physical forces are activated to serve the economic-political needs of

the system

.] 82

Yet, in the last instance, Marcuse maintains a very narrow concept of violence. In response to a proposal to consider the concept of ‘extra-economic’ violence, Marcuse declares that:

We should not overlook the fact that manipulatory tendencies are not violence.

Violence remains violence

a club, or threatens to. It is not violence when I am presented with television programs that show the existing state of things transfigured in some way or other. 83

Indeed, Marcuse is more concerned with those forms of physical (state) violence not called by that name: ‘In the established vocabulary, “violence” is a term which does not apply to the action of the police, the National Guard, the Marshals, the Marines, the bombers.’ 84 In other words, the use of violence by the state – in the name of security – is actually portrayed as non-violence in ocial discourse: not as violence, but as something else (today Marcuse would no doubt point to torture as ‘standard operating procedure’, friendly fire, interdiction, precision-strikes, collateral damage as examples of such rhetorical substitution). The state’s legitimate monopoly ensures that its violence is not represented as such – ‘to the latter alone belongs the lawful right to abrogate peace and to organize the killing and beating’. 85 As Marcuse puts it, ‘one of the most eective rights of the Sovereign is the right to establish enforceable definitions of words’. 86 Where all this becomes potentially unsettling to CSS’s rejection of violent means is in the fact that Marcuse, as one commentator notes, potentially ends up ‘advocating violence against the system in order to quash the system’s inherent violence’. 87 At certain points – Marcuse argues with the social movements and protests of the 60s in mind – demands for social change will necessarily contravene the law, and in doing so will, on occasion, provoke a violent response from the state as is its wont. On such occasions, Marcuse argues, ‘In the face of the scope and intensity of this sanctioned aggression, the traditional distinction between legitimate and illegitimate violence becomes questionable.’ 88 This point is devel- oped in most detail in Marcuse’s (1965) critique of ‘Repressive Tolerance’. 89 Here Marcuse argues that though the concept of tolerance was initially used to preserve democratic freedoms, calls for democratic tolerance are increasingly used to constrain advocates of social change (such as forms of legal street demonstrations and other forms of protest sanctioned by the state) and uphold the status quo. In this sense tolerance has become ‘repressive’; as Kahn summarises this position, ‘the call for tolerance is [used] by the ruling classes to protect themselves from


.] Violence is when someone beats someone else’s head in with

82 Marcuse, Essay on Liberation, pp. 75–6.

83 Marcuse, ‘The End of Utopia Q&A’, in Five Lectures, p. 72–3.

84 Essay on Liberation, pp. 71–2.

85 Essay on Liberation, p. 72.

86 Ibid., p. 73.

87 Richard Kahn, ‘The Educative Potential of Ecological Militancy in an Age of Big Oil: towards a Marcusian ecopedagogy’, Policy Futures in Education, 4:1 (2006), pp. 31–44, 35.

88 Essay on Liberation, pp. 76–7.

89 Herbert Marcuse, ‘Repressive Tolerance’, in Robert Paul Wol, Barrington Moore Jnr. & Herbert Marcuse (ed.), A Critique of Pure Tolerance (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969).

Security after emancipation?


interventions that seek to limit global violence and suppression, fear, and misery .] it amounts to a perversion of tolerance that works to repress instead of liberate.’ 90 By consequence Marcuse argues that straightforward commitment to the principle of non-violence actually perpetuates a system in which violence is inherent. 91 Marcuse argues that this ‘was the experience of the civil rights movement: that the others practice the violence, and that against this violence legality is problematic from the very beginning.’ 92 The point, for Marcuse, is that not all violence is the same, and that forms of violence can be distinguished (by the ends they serve) between ‘violence of suppression’ and ‘violence of liberation’. 93 Movements aimed at liberation (for him anti-‘establishment’ forces in the developed world, anti-colonial forces in the developing world), when they employ violence, are ultimately practicing what Marcuse terms as ‘counter-violence’: that is, violence used to destabilise and change forms of institutionalised violence and exploitation. ‘Preaching non-violence on principle’, Marcuse argues, only ‘repro- duces the existing institutionalized violence’; 94 ‘Non-violence is normally not only preached to but extracted from the weak – it is a necessity rather than a virtue, and normally it does not seriously harm the case of the strong.’ 95 Marcuse acknowl- edges that the experience of the anti-colonial movement in India is an exception to his rule here, but goes on to compare passive resistance and its eect in India to a general strike on the basis of its scale. Ultimately, in Marcuse’s view, ‘the end of violence has still to be fought for.’ 96

Marcuse on the metaphysics of resistance

So how does all this relate to CSS? In short, the Marcusian perspective raises the troubling prospect not that commitment to emancipatory change (or the modes of liberation used to achieve it) necessitates violence, but that it does not necessarily preclude it and, in some instances, may justify it. In the context of emancipation as liberation, the implications for understanding violence and resistance are far di erent from that of understanding emancipation as security. This is not to say that Marcuse himself gives an entirely gung-ho carte blanche for the use of violence in the name of liberation from exploitation and the search for emancipation. Such violence, Marcuse concedes, is motivated by a ‘hatred’ of existing conditions of








Kahn, ‘The Educative Potential of Ecological Militancy’, p. 35.

‘No matter how non-violent our demonstrations are or will be, we must expect them to be met with new institutional violence’ – ‘The Problem of Violence and the Radical Opposition’, in Five Lectures,

p. 105.

Marcuse, ‘The Problem of Violence and the Radical Opposition’, in Five Lectures, p. 89.


‘Repressive Tolerance’, p. 90.

Ibid., p. 102. Cf. Étienne Balibar on ‘Violence, Ideality and Cruelty’, in Politics and the Other Scene (London: Verso, 2002) – ‘there are certainly degrees in the amount of violence which goes along with civilizing ideals; but nothing like a zerodegree. Therefore there is no such thing as non-violence’ –

p. 145.

Counterrevolution and Revolt, p. 78. Marcuse draws here on Delacroix’s painting of liberty leading

the people as illustrative of a potential female counter-force: ‘She wears no uniform; her breasts are


bare, and her beautiful face shows no trace of violence. But she still has a rifle in her hand

1128 Columba Peoples

domination and exploitation; in this sense, ‘No liberation is possible without hatred’. 97 But how precisely this hatred is to be contained is unclear, and this is, Marcuse admits, ‘a really frightening question’:

Naturally in the course of the revolutionary movement itself this hatred can turn into cruelty, brutality, and terror. The boundary between the two is horribly and extraordinarily in flux. The only thing I can at least say about this is that a part of our work consists in preventing this development as much as possible, that is to show that brutality and cruelty also belong necessarily to the system of repression and that a liberation struggle simply does not need this transmogrification of hatred into brutality and cruelty. One can hit an opponent, one can vanquish an opponent, without cutting ohis ears, without severing his limbs, without torturing him. 98

So why is Marcuse, himself in search of a society in which ‘compulsive aggressiveness’, prepared to allow for situations where the danger of hatred of exploitation tipping over into barbarity is always present? The reason lies in Marcuse’s elevation of another concept (or for him, a right) over that of violence: resistance. Like the question of violence, the question of resistance, in a broad sense, is embedded within the CSS perspective of security as emancipation. Aradau notes in this regard that CSS ‘relies on the intellectual tradition of the Frankfurt School’ and hence ‘a critical tradition of thinking social change and resistance.’. 99 Consequently CSS has stressed the primacy of ‘praxis’ and warns against the danger of either separating theory entirely from political practice, or simply collapsing one into the other. Here again the question of violence within practices of resistance remains somewhat implicit in the CSS position, although there is a definite leaning towards non-violent forms of protest and critique as the main tool of resistance for the proponent of CSS. 100 The main recommendation has been that ‘through their educational activities, proponents of critical security studies should aim to provide support for those social movements that promote emancipatory social change. By providing a critique of the prevailing order and legitimating alternative views, critical theorists can perform a valuable role in supporting the struggles of social movements.’ 101 In this there is a certain homology with Marcuse’s assertion that there is a ‘period of enlightenment prior to material change – a period of education’; but, for Marcuse, ‘education [then] turns into praxis: demonstration, confrontation, rebellion.’ 102 Since CSS takes its concern to be contingent threats to individual security, threats which are necessarily context-specific, there has been a general reluctance to specify exactly what ‘support’ of social movements might consist of beyond a critical/educative function. There has, however, in keeping with this concern, been less reticence in identifying the concrete social movements promoting ‘emancipa- tory change’ which should be supported. The goal of emancipatory change itself dictates that some alternative visions and social movements are more alternative – and preferable – than others. ‘Let us consider the ending of apartheid in South

97 Marcuse (ed.), ‘The End of Utopia Q&A’, in Five Lectures, p. 78.

98 Ibid., pp. 78–9. ‘Where in a revolution this sort of terror changes into acts of cruelty, brutality and torture, then we are already talking about a perversion of the revolution’ – Marcuse, ‘The Problem of Violence and the Radical Opposition’, p. 103.

99 Aradau, ‘Security and the democratic scene’, p. 397.

100 As advocated more explicitly in, for example, Booth, ‘Security and Emancipation’, p. 321.

101 Wyn Jones, Security, Strategy and Critical Theory, p. 161.

102 Essay on Liberation, p. 53.

Security after emancipation?


Africa’, Wyn Jones oers as an example; ‘Although the citizens of that country cannot be adjudged to be free after the overthrow of the apartheid system, surely

they are freer. Although the establishment of liberal democracy there oers no panacea, it is a better system than the totalitarian one it has replaced.’ 103 Booth has argued that ‘We can begin or continue pursuing emancipation in what we research, in how we teach, in what we put on conference agendas, in how much we support Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Oxfam and other groups identi- fying with a global community, and in how we deal with each other and with students. And in pursuing emancipation, the bases of real security are being established.’ 104 In this sense for Booth, emancipation is itself ‘a practice of

.] a framework for attempting to actualise both nearer-term and

longer-term emancipatory goals through strategic and tactical political action based on immanent critique.’ 105 This approach is captured in Booth’s concept of ‘Emancipatory Realism’, where the Marxian origins of the Frankfurt School notion of emancipation are ultimately filtered through Kantian idealism and a focus on ‘gradual reforms’ as ‘the only means of approaching the supreme political good.’ 106 There is an inherent and unashamed degree of selectivity about all of this; the collapsing together of emancipation and resistance loads additional weight onto the concept of emancipation, as surely not all practices of resistance are to be considered as equally ‘emancipatory’ within the CSS framework of security. 107 Yet the question that is left unanswered within CSS is ‘whether emancipation can be at nobody’s expense.’ 108 Similarly, in relation to Ken Booth’s notion of ‘Emanci- patory Realism’, Rens van Munster asserts that ‘Freedom, equality, the rule of law, cosmopolitanism and emancipation are all considered as central elements in Booth’s theory, but the connection between them is not always clear. History shows that emancipation has not always fitted very well with the liberal principle of the rule of law. Indeed, to what degree can violence be accepted as a means of furthering emancipation?’ 109 Booth avoids both issues, simply warning that ‘False emancipation comes in many guises, and as is the case with any political project there is the danger of mistakes, excesses, “dark sides”, and unpleasant things done in its name. The crucial test lies in concrete historical circumstances.’ 110 Conse- quently the process of distinguishing between ‘true’ and ‘false’ emancipatory movements seems to be left as something of a (retrospective) judgment call. In


103 Wyn Jones, Security, Strategy and Critical Theory, p. 43; cf. Ken Booth and Peter Vale, ‘Critical Security Studies and Regional Insecurity: The Case of Southern Africa’, in Keith Krause and

Michael C. Williams (eds), Critical Security Studies (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press,


104 Booth, ‘Security and Emancipation’, p. 326. Booth also considers peaceful anti-nuclear protests at length in the article.

105 Booth, Theory of World Security, p. 112.

106 Immanuel Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals as cited in Booth, Theory of World Security, p. 87.

107 As Pieterse notes, ‘The various definitions of emancipation, liberation, participation and empower- ment show a tendency towards circularity, one being defined in terms of the other. Emancipation is a form of liberation, liberation is a form of emancipation etc.’ – ‘Emancipations, Modern and Postmodern’, p. 11.

108 Aradau, ‘Security and the democratic scene’, p. 401. Similarly, Ernesto Laclau argues that

.] is required by the founding

emancipation has a necessarily ‘dichotomic dimension’: ‘otherness

act of emancipation’ – Emancipation(s) (London: Verso, 2007), p. 4.

109 Rens van Munster, ‘Review of Ken Booth, Theory of World Security’ in Cambridge Review of International Aairs, 21:3 (2008), pp. 437–9, 438.

110 Booth, Theory of World Security, p. 113.

1130 Columba Peoples

response to van Munster’s citation of protestors damaging state property – a British Hawk jet sold to Indonesia, used as an illustration in Booth’s Theory of World Security – as a possible indication of when the rule of law might be legitimately contravened to further emancipatory ends (preventing further repres- sion in East Timor), Booth was at pains in his response to point out that the protestors’ actions were ultimately condoned by a ‘progressively minded jury’ and hence ‘emancipation and the rule of law went hand-in-hand’. 111 In opting for ‘evolution’ over ‘revolution’, however, van Munster argues that Booth ultimately fails to fully unpack the relationship between emancipation and resistance, citing Booth’s views on capitalism as a case in point: ‘The world would certainly benefit from a more humane capitalism, but emancipation cannot happen through dialogue and the extension of rights alone. It also involves concrete struggles in the realm of work, production and property relations.’ 112 In a similar vein, Neocleous argues that security is, ultimately, ‘the supreme concept of bourgeois society’ (based on Marx’s declaration in ‘On the Jewish Question’ (1844)) as the ‘real driver’ behind security is the uncertainty of (private) property and protection against future losses. 113 Once again, Marcuse’s encouragement of movements for liberation/ emancipation is at odds with the vision of ‘Emancipatory Realism’ advocated by Booth. Indeed one of the main criticisms of his later work was that it was too closely identified with particular political and social movements several of which actively sought to challenge and contravene the rule of law. Marcuse has consequently been accused of romanticising their objectives and action. 114 True, Marcuse employs a vocabulary that would strike most readers today as somewhat dated (his use of the term ‘Establishment’, capital ‘E’, to describe the state in all its manifestations being only the most obvious example; his commitment to counter-cultural movements and intellectuals as a ‘new historical Subject of change’ another). 115 But this accusation of romanticism is only partially accurate. Marcuse did indeed come to be identified with radical student politics of the 1960s, and did also cite and refer to it heavily in his own work. As he declares in the opening to Essay on Liberation, ‘The opposition which escapes suppression by the police, the courts, the representatives of the people, and the people themselves, finds expression in the diused rebellion among the youth and the intelligentsia, and in the daily struggle of the persecuted minorities. The armed class struggle is waged outside: by the wretched of the earth who fight the auent monster.’ 116 Yet, the exact role played by the social and resistance movements Marcuse referred to so frequently within his thinking is arguably somewhat more complex than this impression. Marcuse was, at times, at pains to distance himself from specific causes. On the one hand he could assert that ‘a very real and very

111 Ken Booth, ‘Response to Rens van Munster’, Cambridge Review of International Aairs, 21:3 (2008), pp. 439–41, 440.

112 van Munster, ‘Review of Theory of World Security’, p. 439.

113 Neocleous, Critique of Security, pp. 7, 26–9; Karl Marx, ‘On the Jewish Question’, [1844] in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels (ed.), Collected Works, Vol. 3 (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1975), p. 163.

114 See, for example, Douglas Keller, Herbert Marcuse and the Crisis of Marxism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984).

115 See Essay on Liberation, pp. 50–2.

116 Essay on Liberation, p. 7.

Security after emancipation?


pragmatic opposition is required of us if we are to make ourselves and others conscious of these possibilities [for liberation/emancipatory change] and the forces that hinder and deny them.’ 117 At the same time he declares that ‘All forces of opposition today are working at preparation and only at preparation – but toward necessary preparation for a possible crisis of the system.’ 118 In other words, the goals of these forces are in some ways incidental to the fact that they are practicing opposition, which is for him the more important point. Marcuse seems to acknowl- edge as much when he adds that ‘we must not conceal from ourselves [that] the question [of] whether such radicalization will be to the left or to the right is an open one.’ 119 ‘Revolt’, Marcuse notes, is not the same as ‘revolution’. Acts of resistance help to illuminate the ‘false liberties’ of the existing order; hence, they do constitute a ‘liberation which must precede the construction of a free society.’ 120 But the emphasis here is on the process of illumination; the construction of a free society does not necessarily follow from practices of resistance. The very possibility of practicing opposition is for Marcuse a necessary precondition of emancipatory change. Marcuse thus shifts from what we might term as a phenomenology of resistance (that is, an identification of points of resistance and liberation movements within society) to what we might term as a metaphysics of resistance (that is, a valorisation of the principle of resistance itself). In part this shift links back into Marcuse’s discussion of Repressive Tolerance, his thinking on violence, and questions on the legality of violence. Against a perceived knee-jerk tendency to categorise all radical protest as illegal violence, Marcuse points towards ‘recogni- tion of the right of resistance, namely civil disobedience’ which:

belongs to the oldest and most sanctified elements of Western civilization. The idea that there is a right or law higher than positive law is as old as this civilization itself. Here is the conflict of rights before which every opposition that is more than private is placed. For the establishment has a legal monopoly of violence and the positive right, even the duty, to use this violence in its self-defence. In contrast, the recognition and exercise of a higher right and duty of resistance, of civil disobedience, is a motive force in the historical development of freedom, a potentially liberating violence. Without this right of resistance, without activation of a higher law against existing law, we would still be today at the level of the most primitive barbarism. 121

This ‘right of resistance’ (elsewhere described as a ‘natural right’ of resistance) 122 gives rise, in Marcuse’s view to a potentially positive and necessary form of ‘liberating violence’ that is a key harbinger of emancipatory social change. 123 This right applies particularly (and here there might be parallels with recent debates within security over ‘state of emergency’ versus ‘normality’) 124 in his view because

‘The whole post-fascist period is one of clear and present danger

suspension of the right to free speech and free assembly is indeed justified only if

.] Such extreme

117 Ibid., p. 69.

118 Ibid., p. 93.

119 Ibid.

120 Ibid., p. viii.

121 Marcuse, ‘The Problem of Violence and the Radical Opposition’, p. 89 Emphasis added.

122 Marcuse, ‘Repressive Tolerance’, p. 116.

123 Cf. Walter Benjamin, ‘Critique of Violence’, in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings (New York: Schocken Books, 1978). In a similar vein, Slavoj Žižek has urged a move ‘from the rejection of false anti-violence to the endorsement of emancipatory violence’ – Violence (London:

Profile, 2009), p. 174.

124 See C. A. S. E., ‘Critical Approaches to Security in Europe’, pp. 455–7.

1132 Columba Peoples

the whole of society is in extreme danger. I maintain that our society is in such an emergency situation, and that it has become the normal state of aairs.’ 125 Neocleous, in terms that again fit with his broader critique of contemporary Critical Security Studies, argues ‘That this possibility of an necessity for revolu- tionary violence is so often omitted when emergency powers are discussed is indicative of the extent to which the Left has given up any talk of political violence for the far more comfortable world of the rule of law, regardless of how little the latter has achieved in just the last few years.’ 126 Moreover, and perhaps tellingly when thinking about the normative goals of CSS, Marcuse argues that ‘If we appeal to humanity’s right to peace, to humanity’s right to abolish exploitation and oppression, we are not talking about self-defined, special, group interests, but rather and in fact interests demonstrable as universal rights. That is why we can and should lay claim today to the right of resistance as more than a relative right.’ 127 Whilst both contemporary CSS and Marcuse appeal to a form of security that is avowedly ‘human’, and therefore share some sense of the educative role of critical intellectuals in this regard, Marcuse ultimately also calls the role of the intellectual into question where he sees it might constrain resistance in the name of emancipation. Radical protestors, ‘If they use violence’, do not ‘start a new chain of violence but try to break an established one. Since they will be punished, they know the risk, and when they are willing to take it, no third person, and least of all the educator and intellectual, has the right to preach them abstention.’ 128 More recently, Slavoj Žižek has engaged similar themes, questioning whether ‘there [is] not something suspicious, indeed symptomatic, about [the] focus on subjective violence – that violence which is enacted by social agents, evil individuals, disciplined repressive apparatuses, fanatical crowds? Doesn’t it desperately try to distract our attention from the true locus of trouble, by obliterating from view other forms of violence and thus actively participating in them?’, and ultimately also endorses the notion of ‘emancipatory violence’. 129 This elevation of (poten- tially violent) resistance to a good or right in itself is one of the most problematic and heavily criticised aspects of Marcuse’s thought. Hannah Arendt, for example, criticised Marcuse and the student-leaders he inspired of conflating ‘behaviour’ (that is, the activity of protest) with true political action ‘through which human’s distinguished themselves from animals’. 130 As Beatrice Hanssen notes of Arendt’s critique in this regard, ‘Inasmuch as the German student leaders aimed to unmask the hypocritical practice of state violence, Arendt found them to be the heirs of Robespierre’s despotic “war on hypocrisy”, which led to the Reign of Terror as the revolution began to devour its own children.’ 131

125 ‘Repressive Tolerance’, pp. 109–10.

126 Neocleous, Critique of Security, p. 74.

127 Ibid., pp. 104–5.

128 Marcuse, ‘Repressive Tolerance’, p. 117.

129 Žižek, Violence, pp. 9, 147.

130 Beatrice Hanssen, Critique of Violence: Between Poststructuralism and Critical Theory (London:

Routledge, 2000), p. 27.

131 Ibid., See, Arendt’s On Revolution (London: Penguin, 2006); see also Douglas Keller, Herbert Marcuse and the Crisis of Marxism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), p. 283 and, more generally, Bhiku Parekh, ‘Marxism and the Problem of Violence’, Development and Change, 23:3 (1992), pp. 103–20. For a recent counter-reading, of ‘The Terror’ in particular, see Slavoj Žižek, In Defence of Lost Causes (London: Verso, 2007).

Security after emancipation?


Once again, the point here is not that CSS necessarily buys into or implies the kind of arguments advanced by Marcuse in relation to violence and resistance. However, in its current framing this could as easily be read into it, and CSS risks running into the same dead-ends that Marcuse did. More needs to be said than has been to date from within CSS on this subject if the elevation of emancipation as the anchoring concept of its approach to security is to continue. Within the current configuration of CSS there is a commitment to transformative change (as implied in concept of emancipation), but comparatively little is said on violence and resistance, even though these questions are easily conceivable (although not always obligatory) within that commitment. In CSS, the account of the forms of violence and/or resistance in fostering that transformative change needs to be spelt out in more detail. Otherwise emancipation risks becoming, as Ernesto Laclau puts it, ‘a mere rhetorical ornament of a substantive process which has to be understood in entirely dierent terms.’ 132 In this sense the disinterring of Marcuse acts as a provocation to contemporary CSS from within its own intellectual anchorage. What it may ultimately illustrate, furthermore, is that an over-concentration on

‘emancipation’ as security within CSS risks rendering it ‘one-dimensional’. 133 From

a Marcusian perspective processes of emancipation necessarily involve counter-

violence, and ‘toleration’ of security practices is to be rejected. Maintenance of ‘security’, along with the rule of law, is routinely invoked to maintain the status

quo – often violently – and the inequalities that go with it. Hence it is reasonable to suggest that for Marcuse, ‘security’ is more often repressive than it is emancipatory. Moreover, over-emphasis on emancipation as the defining commitment of CSS fosters a tendency to view this branch of security studies through a reductionist lens. It encourages a temptation to see emancipation as the be-all-and-end-all of CSS, which is itself contrary to Wyn Jones’ admonitions to view emancipation as

a ‘process’ rather than ‘endpoint’. By consequence the likelihood is that Booth’s

attempts to develop a ‘Theory of World Security’ around the ancillary concepts of community and identity will receive the same attention, 134 or that Wyn Jones’ encouragement to investigate the question of technology and the relationship between theory and practice in international security will generate the same amount of intellectual activity. 135 In this sense we might go so far as to say that CSS has itself become prisoner to emancipation, or at least to the equivalence of emancipation with security. 136


So where might CSS go from here? Should it abandon the concept of emancipation altogether, or would this simply deprive it of its distinctive normative core? One option, following Foucault, is to prioritise the concept of resistance over notions

132 Laclau, Emancipation(s), p. 11.

133 Cf. Jahn, ‘One Step Forward, Two Steps Back’.

134 Booth (ed.), Theory of World Security, pp. 134–48.

135 Wyn Jones, Security, Strategy and Critical Theory, pp. 125–60.

136 Cf. Aradau, ‘Security and the democratic scene’.

1134 Columba Peoples

of emancipation or liberation. As Pieterse notes, ‘For Foucault there is no transcendence, there is only an alteration of discourse: another truth, another power. Struggle produces a new domination. Hence resistance is the appropriate vocabulary, not liberation or emancipation for there is no emancipation from the nexus between truth and power itself: in this sense there is no future which is dierent in a radical way.’ 137 Yet it could also be that there are both ways of thinking through Critical Theory that resist focusing solely on emancipation, and

ways of thinking about emancipation that don’t necessarily equate it with security. As a future agenda for CSS, perhaps, a broader recognition of Critical Theory as

a tradition of philosophic, sociological and political analysis that includes, but is not limited to, a concern with emancipation might be one way to oset such risks

– a recognition already explicit, but often missed, in Richard Wyn Jones’s extended

consideration of Frankfurt School ideas in relation to the material and practices of security, 138 as opposed to Booth’s more limited ‘plundering’ of emancipation.

At the same time, CSS might also be expanded, as Claudia Aradau has suggested, to give greater recognition of the centrality of the concept of emancipation – de-coupled from security – as the foundation of critiques of post-liberal capitalism in post-Marxist thinking such as that of Jacques Rancière, Alain Badiou and Étienne Balibar. Against the Foucauldian impulse, the sugges- tion is that the radical implications of introducing the concept of ‘emancipation’ are yet to be fully realised in regard to equality and democratic participation, and that the equation of security and emancipation ultimately constrains this poten- tial. 139 Here, it is also assumed that the politics of emancipation needs to be thought through rather than assumed, including the ethical and political complexi-

ties of protest and resistance, violence and counter-violence. 140 Thus, for instance, Balibar argues that ‘Civility’ – the condition in which individuals ‘enjoy rights which have already been declared’ – ‘is certainly not a politics which suppresses all violence; but it excludes extremes of violence, so as to create a (public, private) space for politics (emancipation, transformation), and enable violence itself to be

historicized. What interests me

in conclusion, to outline some of its problems.’ 141 One of those problems, as was similarly noted with reticence by Marcuse, is the prevention of extremes of violence, which constantly strains the requirement that ‘revolutionaries must civilize the notion and practice of revolution’. 142 Yet by framing the politics of emancipation as a problematique, questions of violence and resistance are at least

.] is not to codify that civility, but to attempt,

137 ‘Emancipations, Modern and Postmodern’, p. 14.

138 See, Security, Strategy and Critical Theory.

139 Aradau, ‘Security and the democratic scene’.

140 Briefly, Badiou’s focus on emancipatory ‘events’, Rancière conception of emancipation as ‘listening to the unheard’ rather than treating the poor/dispossessed as ‘a cog in the philosopher’s explanatory machine’, Balibar on emancipation as ‘the battle against the denial of citizenship’ – see Nick Hewlett, Badiou, Balibar, Rancière: Rethinking Emancipation (London: Continuum, 2007) for an overview and discussion. For applications and more extensive evaluations of such perspectives in relation to international studies, see Claudia Aradau, ‘Security and the Democratic Scene’, op cit, and her Rethinking Tracking in Women: Politics out of Security (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008); and Rens van Munster, Immigration, Security and the Politics of Risk in the EU (London: Palgrave,


141 Étienne Balibar, Politics and the Other Scene (London: Verso, 2002), p. 6. Emphasis in original; p. 30.

142 Hewlett, Badiou, Balibar, Rancière: Rethinking Emancipation, p. 135. For a further critique of Balibar’s ambiguities on the role of violence see also p. 153.

Security after emancipation?


engaged directly whereas understanding of emancipation as security (and vice versa) eectively just suppresses these questions. In this sense ‘Critical Theory’, inclusive of both the Frankfurt School and a broader post-Marxist tradition, can, be seen as the intellectual other of CSS as currently configured rather than the sometimes cited ‘enemies’ of the ‘Copenhagen School’ or post-structuralist approaches. 143 What these traditions of thinking emancipation might ultimately illustrate for the future of CSS and Critical International Theory is that the point is not the introduction of the concept of emancipation into the study of security; the point is about what happens after we introduce it.

143 For a related argument in regard to the relationship between the Frankfurt School and Critical

International Theory more broadly see Nicholas J. Rengger, International Relations, Political Theory and the Problem of Order: Beyond International Relations Theory? (London: Routledge, 2000): ‘the

notion of ‘emancipation’ in this context theory per se .’ – p. 162.

.] creates the problem – rather than the project of critical

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.