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Critique of Security

Mark Neocleous

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This book brings together a range of diverse discussions about security in order to sustain a genuine critique of the subject. It is unique in its examination of the historical and political links between social security and national security and in its assessment of the way that emergency powers (as the most intense realisation of the rhetoric of 'national security') have been synthesised with 'normal' law.

Among other ideas and concepts, Mark Neocleous discusses the place of security in the liberal tradition of political theory. Building on insights from Foucault and Marx, he argues that liberalism's central category is not liberty, but security. He also deals with the role of security in justifying the introduction and continuation of emergency powers through a historical excavation of the state of emergency, a political reading of the way emergency powers are only tangentially concerned with warfare, and a theoretical reading of the debate between Schmitt and Benjamin.

Key Features

  • Makes original use of diverse historical materials concerning the question of security
  • Provides a distinctive account of theoretical debates about security within the tradition of social and political theory
  • Gives a genuinely interdisciplinary account of security, moving between political thought, history, sociology, and law
  • Presents the first fully-fledged critique of security


1. 'The supreme concept of bourgeois society': liberalism and the technique of security
(i) Security, sovereignty, prerogative
(ii) Liberty in security and liberal insecurity
(iii) Prerogative and necessity: towards emergency
2. Emergency? What emergency?
(i) From martial law to emergency powers
(ii) Walter Benjamin goes to Senate
(iii) Against normality
3. From social to national security: on the fabrication of economic order
(i) The garden of security, or 'Security - this is more like it'
(ii) Containment I: national security, international order and six million corpses
4. Security, identity, loyalty
(i) Containment II: national security, domestic order and the fear of disintegration
(ii) The garden of pansies, or 'no communists or cocksuckers in the library'
5. The Company and the Campus
(i) Security fetishism
(ii) Security intellectuals
(iii) Closing gambit: return the gift.

About the Author

Mark Neocleous is Professor of the Critique of Political Economy, Brunel University, UK. He is the author of several books, most recently Critique of Security (2008). He is also a member of the Editorial Collective of Radical Philosophy.


Engagingly written and historically expansive.
- Political Studies Review

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