Subscribe to our newsletter

Photo: OSCEVedran Pribilovic

Introduction to Preventism in Security

Liesbeth van der Heide Jelle van Buuren
Journal 01 November 2015

The determining argument in this debate is the idea that we live in a constant state of emergency in which exceptional measures must be taken to control the threats and dangers we face. This shift has taken many different shapes in many domains of security. In the field of security policy, there is a general tendency to create a split between approaches that focus on responding to threats and policies that aim to prevent threats. One prominent example is the field of terrorism, where the old “counter-terrorism” paradigm was first replaced with countering violent extremism (cve), which in turn was replaced with the label, “preventing countering extremism”. All such concepts have spurred debate in the academic world while often remaining un-explained in policy documents as if their meaning is self-evident. As a result, any research that attempts to understand the process of radicalization or vulnerabilities to extremism falls under the banner of “prevention”, whereas any research that is focused on responding to terrorist attacks—such as investigating, capturing and prosecuting terrorists or military responses to terrorism—falls under the banner of “repression”. Though many security agencies have traditionally been focused on “everything that happens after the bomb goes off”, to paraphrase Peter Neumann, in recent years we have witnessed a shift towards a more prevention-oriented security policy in Western countries.