Threat Construction inside Bureaucracy : A Bourdieusian Study of the European Commission and the Framing of Irregular Immigration 1974-2009

Abstract: This dissertation examines how we construct security threats. Theoretically, it contributes to the literature on securitization and threat construction, which has hitherto overlooked how influential bureaucracies that – in contrast to the police and the military – have little to gain from widened threat perceptions, may still contribute to threat construction.The dissertation studies the European Commission and the issue of irregular immigration. By using frame analysis, it firstly explores what constructions of irregular immigration that the Commission generates and to what extent these contribute to threat construction. Using the Bourdieusian concepts of field, capital and habitus, it secondly analyzes how certain constructions of irregular immigration are authorized at the expense of others, due to the inner bureaucratic logic of the Commission.The empirical result reveals that the Commission mostly defines irregular immigrants as victims, yet simultaneously favors policy solutions that mainly seek to avert immigration. The Commission thus contributes to threat construction primarily through its policy solutions. Studying the inner logic of the Commission field highlights how informal routines and tacit power relations between Commission departments authorize certain frames over others. Importantly, the analysis shows how the naming of irregular immigrants as victims tends not to cost the officials anything in terms of symbolic capital, whereas the suggesting of less restrictive solutions tends to do so. Definitions and policy solutions thus follow different bureaucratic logics, which enables a mismatch between them. Moreover, the threat construction appears not because Commission officials believe that restrictive measures are the only way to solve problems linked to irregular immigration. On the contrary, officials believe that a multitude of solutions are needed. Instead, the threat construction is an unintended consequence of the logic of the field.