Beyond statism in security studies? Human agency and security in the Middle East
The Review of International Affairs
100 - 118
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The omnipresence of statist assumptions in security studies renders the role played by human agency almost invisible. The aim of this article is to contest the statist commonsense still prevalent in security studies. The argument will be made in two parts. In the first part, I will look at three studies critical of Cold War approaches to security and argue that even these approaches (that otherwise serve as crucial correctives to Cold War fallacies) privilege the state as the primary referent or agent. As a result, they end up reinforcing statism by way of foreclosing alternative non-statist conceptions of security and the constitution of alternative futures that are not built around states as the primary focus of loyalty, decision-making power and practice. In the second half of the article it will be argued that in order to move away from statism in security studies, it is not enough to contest the primacy of the state as the referent for security; there is also the need to contest the dominant agency of the state by looking at human agency and thinking up alternative (non-statist, non-military, non-violent, non-zero-sum) practices - issues peace research has busied itself with since the 1960s. Towards this end, the article will look at the roles myriad non-state actors have played as agents of peace and security in the Middle East. Here, emphasis will be on the role of the intellectual and the theory/practice relationship in security studies.
Critical security studies