Ontological security, myth, and existentialism

Xander Kirke, Brent J. Steele*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper contributes to this special issue by examining the existentialist themes re-emerging in Ontological Security Studies (OSS) and does so by proposing an under-explored and overlapping terrain regarding the function of myths and ontological security. What Blumenberg calls the 'absolutism of reality' becomes something to avoid through the process of telling, retelling, and adapting myths to suit our existential needs. The paper distinguishes our existentialist intervention into OSS from recent ones within that research community and then draws examples of the work on and of myth from the recent Covid-19 pandemic. Speaking to the need for OSS to develop an ethical-political perspective to not only explain but also change the world, the account we develop here also provides a pathway for an alternative politics based in counter-myth. It discloses, therefore, a promising and, in the face of rising authoritarianism and anti-democratic forces, necessary moral ethos regarding prescriptive ideas about what to do and how to confront and and counter the mounting challenges of global politics in the 2020s and beyond.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)905-923
Number of pages19
JournalReview of International Studies
Issue number5
Early online date7 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2023

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