Security: Security and the Governance of Life

In a world is shaped by revolutions, from that in biological knowledge and capabilities to political regimes, our lives are shaped by the way that these changes, both dramatic and subtle, enter and configure the everyday. Scientific understanding and the capacity to manipulate and control technologies have increased steadily and rapidly over the 20th century through today. In such unsettled and emergent domains, previous expertise and prior conceptualizations will need to be adapted and reinvented.

Security, we note, cannot be reduced to safety. Technical efforts involving disciplinary mechanisms such as surveillance and supervision form only a subsection, although an important one, of types of governance, and can address only a subsection of threats. Nor can security be reduced to the exercise of sovereignty. State power shares its stage with multiple other entities, perhaps to an unprecedented, degree. At the same time, we are not presented with a simple decline in the power of the nation-state, in that the state has also intensified its ability to reach into and affect daily life. The legal formalism within which state security measures are conceived ­– a division between permitted and forbidden, with punishment for transgressing the boundary – is inadequate in the face of threats not amenable to such restrictions.

Further, security has no internal principle of limitation: we are never too secure. In this light, research within this project area examines those sites where life is being governed in relation to security i.e. where security has come to be understood as a problem. We aim to offer a characterization of both the situation and its blockages, thus, those places where security has become problematic. We take up security as it operates through diverse techniques and strategies for governing lives and the sciences, in order to both chart its elements and develop more adequate equipment.

Key Research Questions

  • What are the vectors (political, legal, economic, scientific) through which security is brought into being, circulated, and naturalized?
  • For such approaches to governance as codes of conduct, training for specialists and legislation, what is the desired goal and is it attained? What is not secured? What possibilities and freedoms are given up? In relation to both blind spots and the price that is paid, what alternatives are foreclosed?
  • How are increases in biological knowledge and capabilities ramifying throughout the world, and what can be done so that this both shapes a better world and does not increase the chances of harm?