Emancipation, power, insecurity: Critical Theory and immanent critique of human security

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This chapter reflects on the implications and possibilities of approaching the study of security via ideas and concepts drawn from the Critical Theory tradition. It does so by engaging debates on the concept of emancipation within the study of security, outlining a way of approaching those debates via the mode of immanent critique as formulated by thinkers associated with the Frankfurt School. By way of illustration, the chapter considers critical work on the theory and practice of ‘human security’, particularly ‘emancipatory’ critiques of human security. What these suggest in outline, the chapter argues, is the contours of a ‘negativist’ approach to security that challenges us to think through the context-specific complexities of the relationships between emancipation, power and (in)security: in a way that does not treat any of these elements as self-evident, but rather as an interconnected constellation that should constantly be the subject of immanent critical analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Critical International Relations
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Critical Theory
  • immanent critique
  • human security


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