Book Review: European Security Culture: Language, Theory and Policy

Monica Gariup

European Security Culture: Language, Theory and Policy

Farnham: Ashgate, 2009, ISBN 9780754675556, 350 pp., £ 60.00 (hb.)

Journal of Global Analysis | Vol. 1 | No. 1 | 2010

Monica Gariup’s European Security Culture: Language, Theory and Policy is one of the few in-depth and systematic studies on European security culture. This book focuses on the emergence of a European security culture since the foundation of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). The author aims to develop an analytical framework to analyze the role of language and discourse in the construction of security culture and eventually security policy of the European Union (EU). The author’s purpose is operationalizing culture through the empirical analysis of texts so that cultural and discursive sources of security in European security policy can be revealed.

The book is divided into two main parts. After the introductory chapter, in which Gariup poses research questions and discusses her theoretical approach, central concepts and main assumptions alongside the methodology applied in empirical analysis, the author devotes the first part of the book to building a model by combining structuration theory and cultural explanations in security studies. Chapter 2, 3 and 4 lay the theoretical base for the empirical analysis. In chapter 2, the author sheds light on the different conceptualizations of security and argues for the impact of ideas and values on policy preferences and action.

Chapter 3 is the most innovative chapter in the book. In this chapter, the author takes up the challenge of developing a language model of security. She explores the concept of security by “taking language seriously” (p.47). The author considers security as a linguistic and discursive practice. Her approach is similar to the securitization model of the Copenhagen school in many ways. Gariup is interested in the questions of how the security is defined in the minds of policymakers and how it is uttered by national and international elites. The author also assumes that language and discourse are “the physical residues of beliefs and culture” (p.51). She strongly argues that reasons for action are engendered by culture and traits of culture are found in discourses. Drawing on these assumptions, Gariup makes an argument that convergence in discourses will eventually result in convergence in culture and behaviour of states in Europe.

The next chapter puts forward a typology of security discourses and practices in contemporary world politics in order to clarify the author’s conceptualization of European security culture. Her typology consists of three types of security discourses: i) traditional security discourse, ii) traditional plus, iii) human security. The traditional security discourse originates from the Westphalian understanding of security, which is mainly dominated by military power and state-centred approach, whereas traditional plus discourse has a broader view of security even though it still puts emphasis on the leading role of states and notion of survival. The last one, on the other hand, points out the human and societal dimensions of security and argues strongly for the promotion of ethical-normative aspects of security. The author associates EU security culture with the traditional plus type rather than a full-fledged human security approach.

The second part provides the empirical analysis for the arguments put forward in the first part. Chapter 5 not only deals with the situational, cognitive and cultural contexts in which European security discourse has developed, but also expands on the co-texts which are linked to the major text i.e. European Security Strategy (ESS). In addition, the characteristics of speakers who promulgate the new security discourse and the audience who either discredit or support the new discourse are examined. Against this ‘macro-level contextual’ background, the next chapter, with a ‘micro-level syntactical’ perspective, thoroughly analyzes pivotal texts that constitutes European security culture i.e. the ESS, debates at the European convention for the future of Europe, and the speeches and other documents presented by the president of the European Commission and the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) on many occasions. In chapter 7, the author discusses the institutional development of ESDP and the improvement of material capabilities at the disposal of the European Union since the inception of ESDP. Moreover, this chapter highlights the policy outcomes of European security culture as military operations in several theatres around the world. The remainder of the chapter discusses discourse-action coherence and implications of European security culture for further development of the EU’s role in world politics.

The book is not beyond criticism. Arguably the weakness of the analysis in theoretical terms stems from the lack of emphasis on how individual discourses of member states shape the dominant European discourse. While most realists and neorealists downplay the socialization process, many constructivists and discursive analysts ignore the influence of power politics on the formation of a culture or a discourse. The book fails to acknowledge the influence of different opinions held by national elites on the development of ESDP. Furthermore, Gariup claims that there is a unitary approach at the EU elite level, which yields a monolithic understanding of European security culture. She adds that “whether this image is true in terms of behaviour is a totally different question.” (p.177). However, how this unique EU security culture is interpreted by the national policymakers is a totally appropriate question within the author’s theoretical stance.

Overall, this book contributes to the burgeoning social constructivist literature on European integration in the realm of security and defence. It also represents an important step towards operationalizing discourse and culture. The strongest part of the book is the extensive analysis of speeches and articles presented by the president of the European Commission and high representative for CFSP in addition to the theory-driven comprehensive discursive examination of ESS. Gariup treats with a great deal of sophistication the emergence and evolution of EU security discourse. She neatly draws a theoretical model based on cultural and linguistic premises and defends her arguments within the ontological and epistemological constraints of her theoretical approach.  Therefore, it seems to me that the book satisfyingly provides a cultural-linguistic understanding of the motives behind the development of European security policy. This volume is well-suited to students and academics alike who seek a discursive and linguistic account of European security policy.


Kadri Kaan RENDA
European Studies,
King’s College London, UK

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