Handbook of Critical International Relations
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Handbook of Critical International Relations

Edited by Steven C. Roach

Comprising a plurality of perspectives, this timely Handbook is an essential resource for understanding past and current challenges to democracy, justice, social and gender equality, identity and freedom. It shows how critical international relations (IR) theory functions as a broad-based and diverse critique of society.
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Chapter 4: Emancipation, power, insecurity: Critical Theory and immanent critique of human security

Columba Peoples


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 with 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.

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