What do I mean by ‘critical’?

When I say I have a ‘critical’ perspective on security studies and world politics, I am referring to a number of related claims:
* Western states often engage in acts which serve elite and ruling class interests rather than those of ordinary people. My approach is grounded in historical materialist as opposed to liberal, classical realist or neo-realist theories of world politics.
* Security scholars and practitioners tend to exaggerate threats, rely too heavily on military means and frame things as security issues that should be treated as policing, political or social issues.
* Scholars should try to uncover the politics and ethics obscured by liberal, classical realist and neo-realist perspectives and to defend human welfare against the many things that undermine it, including policies that are supposedly for the benefit of populations.
* None of this involves denying that there can be security threats. Instead, the argument is that traditional appraches to security often make matters worse and are part of the problem.
* While threat analysis is important, it is also important to analyse securitisation (how things become framed as security issues) and explore the potential value, pitfalls and limits to the importance of desecuritisation (ceasing to frame things as security issues).
* On the one hand, there is a powerfully influential social reality that includes but is much more than our knowledge claims about it. On the other, we can know the social only indirectly through our interpretation of it.  As a result, knowledge claims can be tested against social reality, although always in an indirect, interpreted and fallible way. This approach is known as critical realism: it contrasts with post-structuralism, social constructivism and positivism.
* Overall, I work with historical materialism as my historically-specific substantive theory of world politics, while treating critical realism as a theoretical and methodological underlying set of assumptions. That said, other theories and methodologies have a great deal to contribute and a plurality of perspectives is desirable.


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