Human security suggests that security policy and security analysis, if they are to be effective and legitimate, must focus on the individual as the referent and primary beneficiary. In broad terms, human security is “freedom from want” and “freedom from fear:” positive and negative rights as they relate to threats to core individual needs. Human security is normative; it argues that there is an ethical responsibility to (re)orient security around the individual in line with internationally recognized standards of human rights and governance. Much human security scholarship is therefore explicitly or implicitly underpinned by a solidarist commitment to moral obligation, and some are cosmopolitan in ethical orientation. However, there is no uncontested definition of, or approach to, human security, though theorists generally start with human security challenges to orthodox neorealist conceptions of international security. Nontraditional and critical security studies (which are distinct from human security scholarship) also challenges the neorealist orthodoxy as a starting point, although generally from a more sophisticated theoretical standpoint than found in the human security literature. Critical security studies can be conceived broadly to embrace a number of different nontraditional approaches which challenge conventional (military, state-centric) approaches to security studies and security policy. Human security has generally not been treated seriously within these academic security studies debates, and it has not contributed much either.
Gunhild Hoogensen Gjørv and Kirsti Stuvøy
Gendering human security is useful for making explicit the role of practice and actors, and the power relations between them, attributed through socialized and naturalized characteristics of the feminine and masculine. It offers analytical and empirical insights that release human security discourses from the stranglehold that a state-based, militarized security perspective has thus far had on the definition of security as a whole. A gender-based human security analysis reveals what human security means when understood through the power and practices of domination and marginalization, and more specifically the extent to which the militaries are capable of contributing to human security today. In feminist approaches as well as many human security perspectives, security has been delinked from the state and discussed in terms of other referent objects. Feminist and human security share a “bottom-up” approach to security analyses, but feminists have identified a gender blindness in human security theory. Gender is a primary identity that contributes to the social context in which the meaning and practice of security unfolds. Gendering human security exposes how the security needs of individuals are also identified in relation to specific groups, which reflects the feminist understanding of humans’ relational autonomy and implies that human security is not individual but social security when gendered.
Critical theory in International Relations originated from the Marxist tradition which, during the mid- to late Cold War, formed the basis of dependency and world systems theory. In the years before and after the Cold War, critical theory became part of a larger post-positivist challenge to the discipline and to the development of critical security studies. At the heart of contestation within the broader arena of critical security is the concept of emancipation, developed by members of the Frankfurt School such as Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer. Several key debates have been at the center of critical security studies relating to the construction of threats, identity and difference, human security, and emancipation. In particular, critical security analysts have addressed the question of how, given the range of threats or risks that exist in the world, some threats come to have priority over others and become the focus of discourses of security. Also, some scholars have disputed the idea that identity is dependent on difference. The concept of human security shifts attention away from states to individuals, emphasizing human rights, safety from violence, and sustainable development. In the case of emancipation, critical theorists have expressed concern that the concept is too closely linked with modernity, meta-narratives, especially Marxism and liberalism, and the Enlightenment belief that humanity is progressing toward a more perfect future. What is needed is not to avoid emancipation per se, but to pay close attention to its underlying assumptions.
Laura J. Shepherd
In challenging conventional conceptualizations of the human subject, the state, and the international system, early feminist security studies (FSS) offered new ways to think about security from inside and outside the disciplinary boundaries of international relations (IR). Indeed, FSS scholars illustrate that security not only means different things in different contexts but also functions in different ways to constitute particular social/political realities. Politicizing the everyday, or rather, demanding that the everyday be recognized as political, is a core assumption of FSS. Further contributions of early FSS to the replacement of the human subject in matters of security include a form of engagement with the very language used in speaking of security matters. Moreover, FSS scholars argue that insecurities permeate the very condition of human existence, bringing FSS insights to bear on economic processes, technological development, state building, and reconstruction. Ranging from analysis of violent conflict and political violence using a gendered framework to critiques of the policies and practices governing post-conflict reconstruction, and encompassing strong and vital interjections on debates over securitizing development, migration, health, human rights, and peace, FSS scholarship is accessible, innovative, and by no means limited to “women and war.” Relocating FSS scholarship from the margins to the center and listening to the voices of those human subjects erased from the academic study of security brings new challenges but also new opportunities for collaboration, with the sighting and citing of FSS by other critical scholars.
Influenced by similar historical forces and intellectual trends, the fields of anthropology and international relations have begun collaborating in areas such as migration, human security, and non-state activism. One area of potential interest to international relations scholars is archaeologists’ study of the emergence, development, and decline of states. Another area is cultural anthropologists’ study of war, peace, and violence. Both international relations scholars and cultural anthropologists have begun studying non-state actors and globalization, as well as transdisciplinary topics such as gender, human rights, and nationalism. Moreover, international relations research on ethnic conflicts is growing, with many scholars drawing from anthropological works on the link between internal political processes and ethnic violence. Another area in which some international relations scholars and anthropologists have collaborated is human security; increasing numbers of anthropologists are studying cultures undergoing armed conflict. One controversial arena was applied anthropology’s recent involvement in U.S. military efforts in the Middle East. Most anthropologists agree that the use of anthropology for national defense purposes violates anthropology’s code of research ethics. Overall, the field of international relations has shown increasing interest in the question of “culture” and in the qualitative research methods that characterize anthropological research.
Elizabeth L. Chalecki
The term environment is often used as a short form for the biophysical environment, which refers to the biotic and abiotic surrounding of an organism or population, and consequently includes the factors that have an influence in their survival, development, and evolution. All life that has survived must have adapted to conditions of its environment. On one hand, part of the study of environmental science is the investigation of the effect of human activity on the environment. On the other hand, scholars also examine threats posed by environmental events and trends to individuals, communities, or nations, otherwise known as environmental security. It studies the impact of human conflict and international relations on the environment, or on how environmental problems cross state borders. Environmental security is a significant concept in two fields: international relations and international development. Within international development, projects may aim to improve aspects of environmental security such as food security or water security, along with connected aspects such as energy security. The importance of environmental security lies in the fact that it affects humankind and its institutions anywhere and at anytime. To the extent that humankind neglects to maintain the planet’s life-supporting eco-systems generating water, food, medicine, and clean air, current and future generations will be confronted with increasingly severe instances of environmentally induced changes.
Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen
Considerations of risk are pervasive in the contemporary security environment. A risk is a scenario followed by a policy proposal for how to prevent the scenario from becoming real. When policy makers approach security questions in terms of risk, they no longer seek to address specific and calculable threats like the Red Army during the Cold War. Instead, they focus on trends that give a future significance to present challenges—trends that give future significance to present challenges include (a) the personalization of risk, (b) the establishment of political community based on risk, and (c) existential risk where the fate of humanity is at stake. In his 1958 book War and Industrial Society, Raymond Aron claimed that industrial society had shaped not only the way in which war was fought in the 20th century, but also the expectations of what force could achieve and how peace could be made. A number of sociologists argue that the industrial society described by Aron is changing into what Ulrich Beck terms a risk society. Risks are associated with a decision. Risk is inside politics, not outside—both internationally and domestically. Risk studies therefore often focus on the difficulties and dilemmas confronting policy makers as they struggle to provide security in a post-secure society. Risks are continuously identified by scenarios pre-empted by military actions or other acts of security—only for the results of these actions to produce, in turn, new risks. The article seeks to explain why risk studies have never coalesced into a coherent research program, as perhaps some of the scholars engaging with risk theory hoped it would. Having concluded that risk theories remain fragmented and more engaged with particular subfields than with each other, it makes sense to deal with the substantial contribution of risk theory by focusing on particular trends in security policy in which the risk perspective has something important to say.
B. Welling Hall and Nadira Khudayberdieva
The notion of responsibility to protect (R2P) emerged as a legal challenge to what F. R. Teson called “the moral and legal enclosure of states.” The development of the R2P doctrine coincided with the surge in popularity of the democratic peace thesis, according to which the creation of a security community rests not on the existence of a common enemy, but on the “positive shared foundation of democracy and cooperation.” The R2P doctrine was developed by international lawyers in response to the failure of the international community to prevent or react effectively enough to the commission of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing in Rwanda, Bosnia, Haiti, and elsewhere during the last decade of the 20th century and the first of the 21st century. Some scholars of international law argue that R2P reconceptualizes sovereignty as a legal construct and expands the international toolkit for the peaceful prevention of deadly conflict. The International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) report, The Responsibility to Protect, lays emphasis on military intervention as a key component of R2P. Others, however, claim that R2P simply provides new, legal justifications for the use of force. International law scholarship on R2P is overwhelmingly dedicated to the question of when and how R2P might be invoked to support military intervention (jus ad bellum) and the relationship between R2P and international criminal tribunals (jus post bellum). One area that deserves attention from scholars is a “law instead of war,” or jus non bello.