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It’s the ideology stupid! The securitisation of extremism by Prime Ministers in the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2016.

KRANZ, ANNA,KATHARINA (2021) It’s the ideology stupid! The securitisation of extremism by Prime Ministers in the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2016. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 12 December 2024.


This thesis identifies and examines the securitisation process of extremism, applying Securitisation Theory and Speech Act Theory to analyse parliamentary discourses (and where appropriate relevant other public speeches) by Prime Ministers in the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2016. It shows that extremism has been securitised in several ways, first as ‘Islamic extremism’, and then as ‘violent and non-violent extremism’. Although not always openly linked to Islam, an analysis of securitising speech acts shows a major emphasis on presenting ‘Islamic ideology’ as the root cause of ‘violent extremism’. Hereby it is the non-violent extremism which is framed as leading to acts of violence, thereby achieving a securitisation of extremism overall. The reason for this research was to investigate if and how extremism had been securitised in the United Kingdom and how Securitisation Theory by the Copenhagen School could be applied as a research framework for its analysis. In order to make the framework applicable to the case chosen, it was expanded with John R Searle’s Speech Act Theory, which formed the basis for a ‘Securitising Speech Act Classification’. This classification allowed for an explicit investigation of how extremism was presented as a security threat and which extraordinary measures were suggested to curb the threat. The research shows that securitisation of extremism took place discursively, with all Prime Ministers employing securitising speech acts to present extremism as an existential threat to various Referent Objects, such as the state, national security, and society. On a theoretical level, this means that the proposed framework adapted from the Copenhagen School with amendments from Speech Act Theory allows the study of discursive securitisation by elite actors, making it an applicable method for securitisation research on a practical level. The key benefit for the reader of this thesis is that it offers an understanding of how a concept that is objectively not dangerous in itself, such as extremism, has entered the security agenda and become securitised via language. It offers an insight into securitisation and how it happens, and it discusses Securitisation Theory’s limitations before offering solutions for overcoming them (expanding the focus of speech acts). Although the thesis comments on how extremism was securitised, it does not answer the question why it entered the security agenda as it did not focus on the Prime Ministers’ reasonings for securitisation. Instead, it aimed to apply the ‘Principle of Expressibility’ brought forward by John R Searle, working under the assumption that everything which is said is also meant the way it is presented.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Securitisation Theory; Speech Act Theory; Extremism; Securitising Speech Acts; Tony Blair; Gordon Brown; David Cameron
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Government and International Affairs, School of
Thesis Date:2021
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:13 Dec 2021 09:40

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