Doctoral dissertation

Kari Bruun: Security, security discourse, and government: A sociological study of security as a tool of government

Kari Bruun
In his doctoral dissertation, M. Soc. Sc. Kari Bruun is aspired to get beyond the everyday discourse on security and wanted to find dimensions and meanings of security that may go unnoticed, for various reasons, in everyday speech.

Security has become a concept that seems to come up in public discourse more and more often. It is typically brought forth in utterances such as “security shall not be compromised”, “safety first”, or “there’s never too much security.” Traditionally, security has been discussed in connection with states in military and geopolitical contexts. In this doctoral dissertation of mine the focus is, however, on critical study of security, and instead of the relationships between states the matter at issue is human security.

The main viewpoint in my approach is the relationship between government and the citizen(s). The object of special interest in this work is the discourse that constructs and upholds this relationship and, at the same time, steers the meanings conferred on the concept of security.

The aim is actually not to question the concept of security by claiming it is useless or anything like that, but rather, to give information on security as a social phenomenon and thus to augment societal self-understanding. This may offer instruments to the decision-making as well and act as an analyser of the rationale of it.

The frame of reference, or perspective, of this study is the Foucauldian idea of government and governmentality. Bruun approaches security and provoking the idea of it at the level of applications and practices. Biopolitics presented itself as a framework for evaluating these practices and applications. On the basis of the chosen perspective and the observations Bruun has made on the research, he argues that security and security discourse can be seen as a governmental tool to enhance the smoothness of administration, the stability of power relations, and the welfare of the population.

In such a view, security is fundamentally associated with concepts such as community and communality, assigning responsibility to citizens, and foreseeing upcoming events. Security in its connections turns out to be a problematic “good thing” because security and its human experience, commonly presumed positive, are not easily compatible.

The research material comprises mostly documentary material of a formal nature, such as legislative texts, Government proposals, committee reports, and security plans and programmes drawn up by public authorities. For one of the articles that comprise the doctoral dissertation, Bruun also used news items published by the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat as part of the research material.

The doctoral dissertation of M. Soc. Sc. Kari Bruun in the field of sociology titled Turvallisuus, turvallisuuspuhe ja hallinta. Sosiologinen tutkimus turvallisuudesta hallinnan työkaluna will be publicly examined at the Faculty of Social Sciences of Tampere University at 12 o'clock on Friday 10 December. The venue is Linna building auditorium K103, address: Kalevantie 5. Associate Professor Janne Autto from Lapland University will be the opponent while Associate Professor Olli Pyyhtinen will act as the custos.

The dissertation is available online at

Photo: Pekka Bruun


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