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Security - A Contested Commodity

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This paper argues that security belongs to a specific category of commodities: “contested commodities” around which there is an ongoing and unsettled symbolic struggle over whether or not they can and should be though of as commodities (section 1). The contested nature of commodification has implications for how markets function; market practices tend to be defined and organized in ways that minimize their contentiousness and obfuscate their expansion. The paper looks at the implications of this argument for the conceptualization of the security. It focuses on the three central articulations of contestation: the discussion about whether the use of force can be left to the market, whether it can be so in the international realm and the discussion about whether or not markets trigger increased insecurity. It shows how this specific articulation of contestation has produced markets where the practice/definition of security is as public rather than private (section 2), as inside rather than outside (section 3) and as a responsible reaction to a threat rather than as something contributing to the constitution of threats (section 4). Conceptualizations of private security consequently have to be devised to capture these practical consequences of contested commodification; they need to capture the private in the public, the inside in the outside and the securitizing in the response to threats.

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Anna Leander

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