Critique for Action: Outline of a Craft Turn in Security Practices

NB: This paper was submitted for consideration as a contribution to the special issue Doing and Mediating Critique in Security Dialogue published on February 4, 2019. This last version was completed on July 9, 2018. The first version was submitted on April 23rd, 2017. To cite: Beaulieu-B., Philippe. 2018 ‘Critique for Action: Outline of a Craft Turn in Security Practices. Unpublished paper.

Building on the seminal works of Aristotle highlighting three virtues of thought for a well-functioning society: episteme (scientific), techne (craft) and phronesis (practical judgment), this article argues that CSS would benefit from leveraging critique with a scientific attitude towards a craft attitude if it hopes to better intervene in security realities in the future. The intent of this article is therefore to shed light on an alternative pathway to dominant critical practices in CSS. This proposition is one possibility among many to emancipate CSS from a deadlock resulting from a tension between those seeking to show how security realities could be otherwise and those seeking to make this otherwise, a reality mostly in the form of denunciatory critique in sophisticated textual production. To show the potential of a craft inclined CSS, this article presents four craft principles building on Aristotle and Charles Peirce: producing knowledge with a conscious intent, abductively, radically particular and self-corrective, on the one hand. On the other hand, this article shows how some security practitioners expressed these craft principles to leverage the same underlying philosophy as CSS in order to be more relevant in intervening in security realities. The Israel Defense Forces-led disengagement of Gaza in 2005 is used as an example. These findings are based on over 80 interviews with critical security practitioners and participant observation in Israel Defense Forces, the US Army & Special Forces and Canadian Armed Forces between in 2015 and 2018.


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