Security: Politics, Humanity, and the Philology of Care

John T. Hamilton
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    From national security and social security to homeland and cyber-security, "security" has become one of the most overused words in culture and politics today. Yet it also remains one of the most undefined. What exactlyarewe talking about when we talk about security? In this original and timely book, John Hamilton examines the discursive versatility and semantic vagueness of security both in current and historical usage. Adopting a philological approach, he explores the fundamental ambiguity of this word, which denotes the removal of "concern" or "care" and therefore implies a condition that is either carefree or careless. Spanning texts from ancient Greek poetry to Roman Stoicism, from Augustine and Luther to Machiavelli and Hobbes, from Kant and Nietzsche to Heidegger and Carl Schmitt, Hamilton analyzes formulations of security that involve both safety and negligence, confidence and complacency, certitude and ignorance. Does security instill more fear than it assuages? Is a security purchased with freedom or human rights morally viable? How do security projects inform our expectations, desires, and anxieties? And how does the will to security relate to human finitude? Although the book makes clear that security has always been a major preoccupation of humanity, it also suggests that contemporary panics about security and the related desire to achieve perfect safety carry their own very significant risks.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4647-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Part One: Preliminary Concerns

    • 1 Homo Curans
      (pp. 3-6)

      Among the hundreds of fables collected and revised by the Roman grammarian Hyginus (d. AD 17), one has proved to be particularly relevant among later poets and philosophers. The brief tale relates how Cura—a personification of “care,” “concern,” “anxiety,” or “trouble”—formed the first human being. Although many of the narrative’s details may be found in other mythic anthropogonies from a variety of cultures and traditions, Hyginus’s account is the only extant version that ascribes the creative role to an allegory of Care. When crossing a shallow river, Cura spotted the bank’s muddy clay, gathered it up, and molded...

    • 2 Security Studies and Philology
      (pp. 7-24)

      There are few terms in today’s political and cultural lexicon as severely overworked, as multifunctional or potentially ambiguous assecurity. The word is vertiginously ubiquitous, serving a vast array of discourses from practically every area of human society. Articles, advertisements, and public announcements tirelessly feature this key term, which more and more appears to define our day-to-day lives, imposing itself wherever we turn, confronting or informing us, reassuring, upsetting, or intimidating us, influencing our decisions or governing our behavior. More indirectly, security alerts and concerns in the forms of cautionary notices, warning labels, and televised legal disclaimers reflect a general...

    • 3 Handle with Care
      (pp. 25-48)

      There can be no security without care. The desire to protect oneself and others, the need, according to the instinct of self-preservation, to foresee dangers and preempt their deleterious effects, the commitment required to locate and identify threats, to discover and then remedy vulnerabilities, all ostensibly demand caution, alertness, and ingenuity, usually by implementing our capacity to calculate risk and anticipate contingencies. Without care we would leave ourselves offguard, exposed to fortune, adrift upon the high seas of a perilous existence, on the verge of falling into any number of horrific, even lethal situations. There can be no security without...

  5. Part Two: Etymologies and Figures

    • 4 A Brief Semantic History of Securitas
      (pp. 51-67)

      What does the term “security” express? What are or have been its semantic functions: its shifting cultural connotations and its divergent discursive values? Before examining the figures and metaphors that have been deployed to think about security across the ages, it would be useful to outline the main stations along the word’s complex itinerary through historical usage. The cursory overview in this chapter simply intends to mark the major turning points of this history, beginning with ancient Rome and concluding with seventeenth-century Europe, so as to help organize the more in-depth analyses that follow.

      The wordsecuritasemerges in the...

    • 5 The Pasture and the Garden
      (pp. 68-82)

      In order to specify further the semantic ramifications of Latincura, and hencesecuritas, it is fruitful to take an even closer look at the Hyginus fable with which this study began.

      Cura cum quendam fluvium transiret, vidit cretosum lutum, sustulit cogitabunda et coepit fingere hominem. Dum deliberat secum quidnam fecisset, intervenit Iovis; rogat eum Cura, ut ei daret spiritum, quod facile ab Iove impetravit. Cui cum vellet Cura nomen suum imponere, Iovis prohibuit suumque nomen ei dandum esse dixit. Dum de nomine Cura et Iovis disceptarent, surrexit et Tellus suumque nomen ei imponi debere dicebat, quandoquidem corpus suum praebuisset....

    • 6 Security on the Beach
      (pp. 83-113)

      The infinite varieties of care and the ways to deal with them coalesce into master metaphors that organize and motivate thinking about security. Reference has already been made to some examples: the solicitous mother, the garden, the pasture, and so forth. Without question, one of the most enduring paradigms for expressing different attitudes toward security is the dichotomy between the land and the sea.

      Throughout Greco-Roman culture, the sea constituted a persistent source of concern. Any desire to quit the firmness of the land, where nature provided all that was needed for the sustenance of human life, would invariably be...

    • 7 Tranquillity, Anger, and Caution
      (pp. 114-134)

      In the spring of 59 BC, as the First Triumvirate made a mockery of the constitution, Cicero was compelled to abandon politics and retreat to his sheltered villa at Antium. There were plans to write a geographical treatise, to chart the measure of land and sea, but inspiration was thin. As he explained to Atticus, here, in this quiet coastal town, he would simply indulge in idleness, either enjoying his books or “just counting the waves” (Att. 2.6). The distance from Rome afforded him the peace of mind that he would eventually callsecuritas, an inner sense of emotional stability...

  6. Part Three: Occupying Security

    • 8 Fortitude and Maternal Care
      (pp. 137-167)

      The termsecuritasis not explicitly employed as a political or philosophical concept in any sustained manner before the fourteenth century. Instead, other words served the semantic functions that today we would associate with “security,” for example, terms for “safety” or “salvation,” “certitude,” and “peace”—salus, certitudo, andpax. Different arguments may be proffered to explain this phenomenon. Particularly compelling and provocative is the narrative postulated by Franz-Xaver Kaufmann: given the predominantly psychological sense ofsecuritasas an internal stabilization—as a calming of inner, emotional disturbances—Kaufmann claims that security reenters European thought only when institutions offering external stabilization,...

    • 9 Embarkations
      (pp. 168-181)

      In 1425, for the thirtieth of his daily Lenten sermons offered to the people of Siena, the celebrated Franciscan priest and future saint Bernardino vividly conjured scenes from Lorenzetti’s allegorical frescoes painted nearly a century before. Bernardino could rely on the citizenry’s firsthand knowledge of and civic pride in these images that adorn the walls of the Sala della Pace. Of the three murals, he chose to open with an account of the eastern wall:

      Turning to peace, I see commerce all about; I see dances, I see houses being repaired; I see vineyards and fields being cultivated and sown....

    • 10 Lingua Homini Lupus
      (pp. 182-200)

      Claude Favre de Vaugelas, the seventeenth-century grammarian and one of the founding members of the Académie Française, was long reputed for his slowness. It was his colleague Vincent Voiture, who, broaching the topic of language change, likened Vaugelas to the exceedingly careful barber described in one of Martial’s epigrams:

      Eutrapelus tonsor dum circuit ora Luperci,

      Expungitque genas, altera barba subit.


      As the barber Eutrapelus goes round Lupercus’ face,

      And smooths the cheeks, another beard springs up.

      To explain the allusion, Voiture concisely and despairingly addsaltera lingua subit—“Thus, another language springs up.” Martial’s hyperbole forcefully communicates Voiture’s...

    • 11 Repercussions
      (pp. 201-223)

      Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz never shied away from complexities or difficulties. Born just two years before the signing of the Westphalian Peace, he would devote his philosophic and scientific career to harmonizing discordances and unifying disparities, calculating the otherwise incalculable and reconciling the seemingly unreconciliable. In brief, this exemplary optimist was determined to secure what had heretofore been deemed essentially insecurable. As the motto he suggested for Berlin’s Society of Sciences demonstrates—Theoria cum Praxi—his indefatigable ambition to grapple with every problem, to deal with every enigma, and to reflect on every conundrum was consistently undertaken toward the improvement of...

    • 12 Revolution’s Chances
      (pp. 224-237)

      Much could be made of Kant’s claustrophilia. As Heinrich Heine reminds us, the philosopher led an “almost abstract life of a confirmed bachelor [Hagestolzenleben] in a quiet, remote little street in Königsberg,” the old, East Prussian border town in which Kant was born and where he would contentedly spend his long career, seldom venturing beyond the city walls.¹ The image of the solitary professor has persisted: a creature of habit, neurotically punctual, holding a physical distance from the world-historical events that defined his times—in Heine’s characterization, a perpetualHagestolz, a “confirmed bachelor” or “male spinster” who preferred to keep...

    • 13 Vital Instabilities
      (pp. 238-261)

      Throughout the 1830s, under the July Monarchy, France’s own grand historian Jules Michelet could rest more or less secure in the comfort zone of the political center. The publication of his teleologically drivenIntroduction à l’histoire universellein 1831 established his reputation as a proponent of liberal policies—of the steady progress of freedom—policies that were essentially in line with the vision of Louis-Philippe’s government. That is not to say that Michelet fully represented the royalist position. On the contrary, his anticlerical disposition and staunch republicanism eventually led him to become quite critical of the government, championing the integrity...

    • 14 The Sorrow of Thinking
      (pp. 262-283)

      For Martin Heidegger, the resilient thinker of Being that reveals itself in withdrawal, notions of security should be treated with utmost caution. If human being is a manifestation of Being—Being as Time, self-disclosing and self-concealing—then any project designed to contain Being or evade its destabilizing call would be a failure in thinking. Hence, Heidegger’s impatience with anthropological explanations:

      Anthropology is that interpretation of mankind that fundamentally already knows what man is and thus can never ask who he should be. For with this question it must admit itself to be shaken and overcome. How should this be expected...

    • 15 Surveillance, Conspiracy, and the Nanny State
      (pp. 284-298)

      Without care no one can be secure. This is true for security as well as for safety. Yet, the requirement of care does not mean that the concern must fall solely to the one to be secured. Because threats—particlarly those that jeopardize life itself—can often overwhelm the wherewithal of a single subject, it is common to appeal to institutions and agencies that are better equipped and therefore in a more advantageous position to take care of individuals. The secured subject relinquishes the responsibility of care by submitting to a higher authority, by obeying the will of a collective,...

  7. On the Main
    (pp. 299-300)

    The power of hope persists, even or especially for those who have abandoned themselves to life’s contingencies. Unmoored, adrift, at prey to the elements, even the solitary voyager is not alone. Face to face with the precariousness of the illimitable void, some relation is established. Yet this relationship, thus installed, can neither be fixed nor come to rest. Any tranquilizingoppositionbetween internal subject and external object—a distinction that might have been valid upon the firmness of the shore and may yet be accomplished upon return—is lost at sea, flooded over, yielding instead to the dynamicdifferencethat...

  8. Works Cited
    (pp. 301-316)
  9. Index
    (pp. 317-322)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 323-324)