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Entangled logics, which attribute meaning to security, characterise the contemporary security field, bringing about broad comprehensions and ambiguous concepts. Civil defence has (re)surfaced as one such concept that is broadly conceived in the official discourses produced by decision-makers. Since security is ultimately enacted by practitioners, alias decision-takers, their interpretations of concepts significantly shape policy actions. Therefore, this article moves from decision-makers’ discourses to decision-takers’ interpretations and explores the divergent understandings of the concept of civil defence in Sweden. Applying a discursive approach to data gathered through official documents and interviews with 21 national agency representatives, organised under five societal sectors, it finds that two main interpretations emerge, across and within sectors. These are conceptualised as “territorial civil defence” and “societal civil defence”, linked, respectively, to logics of “territorial security” and “societal security”. These differences, as is argued, potentially challenge agency collaboration and eventual policy coherence in terms of policy aims, governance and venues for cooperation. Hence, the study highlights the complex constraints that contemporary security discourses set in the policy sphere. It concludes that in order to effectively meet and capture the complexity of contemporary security, disentanglement of the field’s concepts, both in theory and in practice, is needed.
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