For over a decade, the discourse of security has been almost ubiquitous as a way of dealing with diverse forms of risk – medical, health, ecological, terrorist, humanitarian, financial, economic, sexual, and violent urban risks. This article outlines the socio-political foundations of the construction of this discourse of fear and its spread throughout western societies. It argues that three transformations significantly reduced the legitimacy of democratic states during the 1980s and 1990s : the restructuring of the welfare state ; the economic, cultural and technological changes brought about by the globalization of industrial production, communications and the financial sector ; and the resulting increase in social inequality. The article continues by analyzing the discourse on security in relation to two other significant and highly charged public discourses of the 1990s, the discourses of social cohesion and the defence of national identities. These discourses amount to attempts to reconstitute the legitimacy of the state.
- social cohesion