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Publisher: Barry Buzan Lene Hansen

Volume: 400 pages, pdf


There is a long as well as a short story as to why we wrote this book. The short story begins in 2005 when Lucy Robinson at SAGE asked Barry Buzan whether he would be interested in editing a four-volume reader on International Security. Barry thought it a nice idea to add Lene Hansen to the project, thereby bringing in someone with both a different perspective and a closer eye on the Poststructuralist–Feminist– Critical scene. The discussions and readings that went into selecting the articles for that reader, spanning Wolfers and Kennan from the 1940s and 1950s to recent Post-colonial and Feminist analyses of the Global War on Terrorism, led us to believe there was a book to be done on the evolution of International Security Studies (ISS) as an academic field. In the process of re-reading, we were struck by Nye and Lynn-Jones’s (1988) observation that the intellectual history of ISS was yet to be written, and even more struck by another twenty years of silence on the subject. A sceptical reader might of course think that this indicates the futility, impossibility or lack of audience for such a project, but we beg to differ. We think that an intellectual history, and an account of how different perspectives play into each other, evolve and battle, is a useful thing to have. Historical context is always good, and allows ISS to enter the pantheon of related academic enterprises like Political Theory, Political Science and International Relations (IR) that do have such self-understanding. An intellectual and sociology of science history can provide those in ISS with a better sense of where they and others came from, why they might differ and about what, and which points of contestation do in fact tie the field together.

One difficulty with such a project, and a possible explanation of why ISS has not had an intellectual history, is that its sense of disciplinary identity is contested, making how to define what falls into ISS and what does not a political – and politicised – question. This issue of delineation takes us into the longer story to this book. Barry Buzan has worked for nearly forty years on security, from the heyday of traditionalist Strategic Studies over the burgeoning turns to the widening and deepening of security in the 1980s to contemporary securitisation debates. Lene Hansen came to ISS in the early 1990s, reading Walker before Waltz and Der Derian rather than Deutsch. Clearly, for someone who picked up our CVs an immediate difference in starting point and positioning in relation to traditionalist versus widening/deepening debates would spring to mind. What we had in common however was a long connection, starting at the Copenhagen Peace Research Institute (COPRI) in 1991, with the Copenhagen School – Barry as a founding figure, Lene as a boundary-testing critic. We shared intellectual links through Ole Wæver, also then at COPRI, and an interest in the concepts and ways in which different perspectives could come to understand and recognise each other. All this of course makes us part of the story that we tell, and places us more on the European side of what is mainly an Atlantic story. Although we have aimed for a full and balanced account, a version of this book written from within the US mainstream ISS community might well reflect somewhat different priorities and perspectives. And since we come from the middle and radical end of the ISS spectrum, a version written by a traditionalist or a rational-choicer would also reflect different priorities and perspectives. Self-involvement also opens up the embarrassing contradiction that what qualifies us to tell the story also threatens our detachment from it. Readers will have to judge for themselves how well (or not) we dealt with this.