Fear of Security: Australia's Invasion Anxiety
Melbourne, Cambridge University Press, 2008. 289 pp.
ISBN 9780521714273 (pbk.)
Fear of Security. Australia's Invasion Anxiety is a revised version of the initial work published in 2001 that has been modified for a more general audience. Despite this, it remains an impressive analytical work with a welcome expansion, including events post-9/11.
The book serves two purposes. First, Burke questions the very meaning of the Western conception of security that most take for granted and has formed the basis for numerous Australian policy decisions. He does this by adopting a Foucaldian approach to language and the articulation of narratives as a tool to interpret and modify reality, rather than as a mere reflection of reality. He thus rejects the notion that security is a universal concept and is rather a process of exclusion. This discussion sets the context for his elucidation about the development of Australia's obsession with security. Second, Burke seeks to explain some of the policy decisions made by Australian governments by carrying out an historical analysis of the constitution of an Australian identity and the role that security has played in this process.
On the first issue, Burke asks what it means to be secure, and argues that security is an unstable concept subject to the historical, political, social and economic context in which it is articulated. His dilemma rests on how we can talk about security when our means to obtain it result in the insecurity of other people. This dilemma leads him to conclude that security has no truth, and he is in favour of a concept of Human Security as that put forward by the United Nations Development Program in 1994. Burke's hope is that by understanding security in a more cosmopolitan way, which gives less emphasis to national borders and nationalisms and that treats threats and humans from a global perspective, conceptions of security might actually lead to policies that really do alleviate suffering and promote peace and stability to all equally.
Understanding security as a highly politicised and subjective concept, Burke moves on illustrate how Australia's conception of security has created an Australian identity that is politically manipulated and plays on the politics of fear based on perceptions of risk, race and the regional context. He argues that security has been a driver of political decision-making in Australia since the...