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Article

Human Security  

Edward Newman

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.

Article

Liberalism and Security  

John M. Owen IV

Liberalism has always been concerned with security, albeit the security of the individual; institutions, including the state, are all established and sustained by individuals and instrumental to their desires. Indeed, liberalism cannot be understood apart from its normative commitment to individualism. The tradition insists that all persons deserve, and it evaluates institutions according to how far they help individuals achieve these goals. Nor is liberalism anti-statist. Liberal theory has paid particular attention to the state as the institution defined by its ability to make individuals secure and aid their commodious living. Although liberal security literature that only examines individual states’ foreign policies may be guilty of denouncing the role of international interaction, the general liberal claim argues that the international system, under broad conditions, permits states choices. As such, for liberalism, states can choose over time to create and sustain international conditions under which they will be more or less secure. Liberalism’s history can be traced from the proto-liberalism in the Reformation to the emergence of the social contract theory and neo-theories, as well as liberalism’s focus on increasing security. Meanwhile, current debates in liberalism include the democratic peace and its progeny, reformulations of liberal international relations (IR) theory, and meta-theory. Ultimately, liberalism’s most striking recent successes concern the democratic peace and related research on democratic advantages in international cooperation. Liberalism is a useful guide to international security insofar as individuals and the groups they organize affect or erode states.

Article

Security Practices  

Thierry Balzacq, Tugba Basaran, Didier Bigo, Emmanuel-Pierre Guittet, and Christian Olsson

Practices refer to collective and historic acts that shaped the evolution of the fundamental distinction used to define the field of security—that of internal vs. external security. In general, security practices relate to two kinds of tools through which professionals of (in)security think about a threat: regulatory tools, which seek to “normalize” the behavior of target individuals (for example, policy regulation, constitution), and capacity tools, specific modalities for imposing external discipline upon individuals and groups. The roots of the distinction between internal and external security are embedded in a historical process of competition over where to draw the line between the authority and limits of diverse agencies. Much of the international relations (IR) literature ignores the diversity of security practices, and reduces security to an IR problem detached from other bodies of knowledge. This is an error that needs to be corrected. Security and insecurity must be analyzed not only as a process but also as the same process of (in)securitization. The term “security” cannot be considered as a concept capable of capturing a coherent set of practices, but rather the result of a process of (in)securitization. Research on security practices opens a variety of promising paths, but at least three challenges need to be met before this potential can be realized: a sustained development of cross-disciplinary studies; address the “sacrifice” entailed in definitions of security; and more time to elucidating as clearly as possible processes of resistance from those who are the target of these practices.

Article

Security Regimes: Collective Security and Security Communities  

Bruce Cronin

The twentieth century was marked by the proliferation of security regimes, and collective security in particular. Under a collective security arrangement, all states at either a regional or global level agree to resolve their disputes peacefully, collectively oppose acts of aggression, and actively defend those who are victims of such aggression. It is based on the premise that security is indivisible, that is, each state’s security is intricately tied to the security of others, and no nation can be completely secure so long as the territory, independence, and populations of other states are seriously threatened. However, over the past several decades, ethnic conflicts, civil wars, guerrilla insurgencies, and other forms of internal violence have dramatically increased, even as large-scale interstate wars have declined. In addition to these sources of instability and conflict, political repression and extreme human rights abuses by governments against their populations (particularly genocide and ethnic cleansing) often generate massive refugee flows, illegal arms trafficking, and the rise of paramilitary guerrilla armies, all of which could disrupt neighboring states and regional stability. Thus, the concept of security adopted by international and regional regimes over the past few decades has expanded from the threat and use of force for deterrence and enforcement to include nation- and state-building, peacekeeping, and peace-making.

Article

Security Studies and Security Policy: An American Perspective  

Harvey M. Sapolsky

Security studies in the United States is marred by a lack of status. Opportunities within American universities are limited by the fact that the work deals with war and the use of force. Another reason for the isolation of security studies is its inherent interdisciplinary nature. It is nearly impossible to separate military technology from security policy, and there is the constant requirement in doing security analysis to understand weapons and their operational effects. However, the most serious limitation of security studies is its narrowness. Nearly all of its ranks are international relations specialists concerned primarily with relationships among and between nation-states. Absent from serious analysis are international environmental, economic, and health issues that may precede and produce political upheaval and that have their own academic specialists. The collapse of the Soviet Union raised questions about the opportunities and dangers of the United States' globally dominant position. The efforts to specify America’s new grand strategy produced a variety of expressions which fall into four main categories. The first is Primacy. Its advocates are primarily the neo-conservatives who relished America’s post-Cold War global dominance and sought to thwart any attempts to challenge this dominance. The second strategy is usually labeled Liberal Interventionism, which is also based on the dominance of American military might and urges US intervention abroad. The third strategy is the Selective Engagement. Under this strategy the United States should intervene only where vital interests are at stake. The fourth strategy focused on Restraint.

Article

Statebuilding and Nationbuilding  

Catherine Goetze and Dejan Guzina

Since the early 1990s, the number of statebuilding projects has multiplied, often ending several years or even decades of violent conflict. The objectives of these missions have been formulated ad hoc, driven by the geopolitical contexts in which the mandates of statebuilding missions were established. However, after initial success in establishing a sense of physical security, the empirical evidence shows that most statebuilding efforts have failed, or achieved only moderate success. In some countries, violence has resumed after the initial end of hostilities. In others, the best results were authoritarian regimes based on fragile stalemates between warring parties. A review of the literature on statebuilding indicates a vast number of theories and approaches that often collide with each other, claim the exact opposite, and mount (contradictory) evidence in support of their mutually exclusive claims. Still they are united by their inquiry into the general structural and policy-making conditions that nurture or impede statebuilding processes. A problematic characteristic of the statebuilding literature is a lack of dialogue across the various disciplines. Many of the claims in the international relations literature on external statebuilding are a mirror image of the previous ones made on democratization. Another problem is the propensity to repeat the same mistakes of the previous generations.

Article

Defining–Redefining Security  

Barry Buzan and Lene Hansen

International security studies (ISS) has significantly evolved from its founding core of “golden age” strategic studies. From the onset of the Cold War in the late 1940s through to the 1970s, strategic studies virtually was ISS, and remains a very large part of it. The fact that it continues to stand as the “mainstream” attacked by widening/deepening approaches further speaks to its status as a “core.” This core consists of those literatures whose principal concern is external military threats to the state, and the whole agenda of the use of force which arises from that. This core was originally focused on nuclear weapons and the military-political rivalry between the US and the Soviet Union, but has since adapted its focus to changes in the salience and nature of military threats caused by the end of the Cold War and 9/11. It includes literatures on deterrence, arms racing, arms control and disarmament, grand strategy, wars (and “new wars”), the use of force, nuclear proliferation, military technology, and terrorism. Debates within ISS are structured, either implicitly or explicitly, by five questions: (1) which referent object to adopt, (2) whether to understand security as internally or externally driven, (3) whether to limit it to the military sector or to expand it, (4) what fundamental thinking about (international) politics to adopt, and (5) which epistemology and methodology to choose.

Article

Gender and Global Security  

Valerie Hudson, R. Charli Carpenter, and Mary Caprioli

It is not only gender ambiguity that is securitized in the international arena, but femininity as well. Some scholars argue that conflict over what women are and what they should do is characterized as a risk to national/global security. Meanwhile, there are those who would characterize gender as irrelevant to, or is one of many variables, in thinking about “security.” Feminist international relations (IR) scholars, however, have argued that gender is across all areas of international security, and that gender analysis is transformative of security studies. A redefinition of security in feminist terms that reveals gender as a factor at play can uncover uncomfortable truths about the reality of this world; how the “myth of protection” is a lie used to legitimize war; and how discourse in international politics is constructed of dichotomies and that their deconstruction could lead to benefits for the human race. Feminist work asserts that it is inadequate to define, analyze, or account for security without reference to gender subordination, particularly, the dichotomy of the domination/subordination concept of power. Gender subordination can be found in military training routines that refer to underperforming men as “girls,” or in the use of rape and forced impregnation as weapons of war. It is the traditional sense of “power as dominance” that leads to situations such as the security dilemma.

Article

Feminist Security Theorizing  

Laura Sjoberg

Feminist Security Theorizing is in many ways what it sounds like—thinking about security in the global political arena through gender lenses. Since early work in feminist International Relations (IR), feminists have been exploring research questions about the ways that gender shapes and is shaped by war, conflict, and militarism. The field has developed to be labeled Feminist Security Studies (FSS). Debates about whether FSS is “feminist security” studies or feminist “security studies” have asked about the subfield’s focus—whether it is toward rethinking security in feminist ways or toward the mainstream field of security studies as such. With space in the field for both approaches, feminist security theorizing has looked at revealing the importance of gender in conceptualizing security, demonstrating that gender is key to understanding causes and predicting outcomes, and showing gender as a key part of solving security problems. FSS has several common theoretical commitments and concerns. These include a necessary commitment to intersectionality, a recognition of the importance of theorizing not only about gender but also about sexuality, a consciousness about framing, and an awareness of the politics of sociology of the academic disciplines in which it is situated. It is important to explore the past, present, and potential futures of feminist theorizing about security, concluding with an invitation to expand recognition of feminist work addressing security issues across an even wider variety of perspectives.

Article

International Relations and Outer Space  

Dimitrios Stroikos

Although the study of the international politics of space remains rather descriptive and undertheorized, important progress has been made to the extent that there is already a growing literature examining certain aspects of space activities from an International Relations (IR) theory perspective, reflecting the broader surge of interest in the utilization of space for civilian, military, and commercial purposes. In this regard, this is the first systematic attempt to outline this emerging and vibrant multidisciplinary subfield of IR. In doing so, it covers a substantial body of research on the politics of space that builds on realism, liberalism, constructivism, Marxism, critical theory, poststructuralism, feminism and gender studies, postcolonialism, and eclecticism. The study also discusses a distinctive approach concerned with examining the process of space policy decision-making at different levels of analysis, what can be called “Space Policy Analysis (SPA).” The study concludes by briefly considering possible avenues for future research.

Article

International Relations of the Pacific Islands  

William Waqavakatoga and Joanne Wallis

The Pacific Islands region occupies 15% of the world’s surface, yet there have been relatively few analyses of the international relations of the Pacific Island countries (PICs). Existing analyses tend to view the region through the lens of the interests of major and metropolitan powers. They consequently focus on how geopolitical competition between those powers is likely to develop in the region but afford little consideration to the agency of PICs to shape how that will occur. This article reimagines the international relations of the Pacific Islands to capture how Pacific Island countries are exercising their agency in pursuit of their interests and to manage the behaviour of great and metropolitan powers. This reimagining involves three analytical moves. First, it subverts stereotypes of “smallness”, “weakness”, and “fragility” which tend to dominate the policy and academic literature of metropolitan powers about the region. Second, it better recognises the agency and activism of Pacific Island countries captured by the concept of the “Blue Pacific”. Third, it accounts for the dynamism and diversity of the nature and interests of the entities and actors that make up, and are involved in the Pacific region.

Article

Empire and Order in International Relations and Security Studies  

Tarak Barkawi

International relations (IR) and security studies lack a coherent and developed body of inquiry on the issue of empire. The central focus of IR situates discussion of imperialism and hierarchy outside the core of the discipline, and on its fringes where scholars from other disciplines engage with IR and security studies literature. Similarly, security studies focus on major war between great powers, not “small wars” between the strong and the weak. The general neglect of empire and imperialism in IR and security studies can be attributed to Eurocentrism, of the unreflective assumption of the centrality of Europe and latterly the West in human affairs. In IR this often involves placing the great powers at the center of analysis, as the primary agents in determining the fate of peoples. Too easily occluded here are the myriad international relations of co-constitution, which together shape societies and polities in both the global North and South. In 1986, Michael Doyle published Empires, a thoughtful effort to systematize the historiography of empire and imperialism with social science concepts. It is rarely cited, much less discussed, in disciplinary literature. By contrast, the pair of articles he published in 1983 on Kant and the connection between liberalism and peace revived the democratic peace research program, which became a key pillar of the liberal challenge to realism in the 1990s and is widely debated. The reception of Doyle’s work is indicative of how imperialism can be present but really absent in IR and security studies.

Article

Feminist Security Studies  

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.

Article

International Organization and Health/Disease  

Kelley Lee and Julia Smith

Human history has been shaped by shifting patterns of health and disease. Many of the factors influencing those patterns have spanned national borders, such as human and animal migration, armed conflict, colonization, trade and investment, globalization, and environmental change. International studies scholars’ interest in health and disease has slowly evolved over time. After World War II, international health cooperation was accepted as a key function of the United Nations system, with the creation of the World Health Organization (WHO). However, health was deemed a largely technical field, alongside the activities of international health organizations. The limited scholarship produced during the postwar period was largely descriptive of technical and legal issues. It was not until the 1970s, when debates emerged about the appropriate forms of health development assistance, concerns about large commercial interests, and the role of WHO, that scholars began considering the politics of international health cooperation. The Declaration of Alma Ata on Health for All, Essential Drugs List, and International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes were expressions of discontent in international health with a status quo perpetuating inequality among states. These initiatives then spurred accusations of “politicization” of WHO’s technical mandate, accompanied by the freezing of the organization’s budget. The study of international organizations and health began to apply critical theoretical approaches, locating health and disease within the liberal world order. From the 1990s onward, the proliferation of new institutional arrangements for international health cooperation prompted studies of this increasingly complex landscape. The term “global health” was coined to reflect the interplay of state and nonstate actors amid globalization, alongside the concept of global health governance (GHG). This encouraged scholarly exchange across international studies, social policy, law, and anthropology. International organizations with health-related impacts, such as the World Trade Organization, and powerful nonstate actors, such as foundations and commercial interests, were incorporated into GHG scholarship. Concurrently, new theoretical approaches to understanding collective action for global health emerged, notably realist notions of global health security, and social constructivist approaches to the framing of problems and solutions. Major disease outbreaks since the early 2000s, including SARS in 2003–2004, Ebola virus in West Africa in 2014–2015, and COVID-19 since 2020, have intensified scrutiny of GHG. The sharp rise in noncommunicable diseases alongside the globalization of market capitalism also drew growing attention. Amid renewed debate about WHO reform, analyses have focused on the lack of coherence among global health actors, weakness of legal and ethical frameworks for collective action, and inadequacy of resources.

Article

Governmentality and Biopolitics  

Benjamin J. Muller

Governmentality and biopolitics has emerged as a chief source of scholarship and debate within contemporary international relations (IR), particularly among those involved in the sub-disciplines, Critical Security Studies and International Political Sociology. Governmentality, first and foremost, is a term coined by philosopher Michel Foucault, and refers to the way in which the state exercises control over, or governs, the body of its populace. Meanwhile, biopolitics, which was coined by Rudolf Kjellén, is an intersectional field between biology and politics. In contemporary US political science studies, usage of the term biopolitics is mostly divided between a poststructuralist group using the meaning assigned by Michel Foucault (denoting social and political power over life), and another group who uses it to denote studies relating biology and political science. The foci of literatures on governmentality and biopolitics are particularly agreeable to many scholars critical of traditional IR scholarship and its distinct articulation of “world politics.” The shifty nature of both concepts, as defined by Michel Foucault and the subsequent use by various scholars, presents challenges to setting any specific account of these terms; yet the blurriness of these concepts is what makes them productive, contrary to the zero-sum, rationalist accounts of power and behavior so central to much of conventional IR.

Article

Late Modernity/Postmodernity  

Alina Sajed

Postmodernity is commonly perceived as a stage of late modernity or late capitalism that follows modernity, whereas postmodernism is understood as a theoretical trend that attempts to unsettle a number of key concepts associated with the Enlightenment, such as grand narratives of progress, a linear unfolding of history, and traditional notions of reason and rationality. Within the discipline of International Relations (IR), however, late modernity is used interchangeably with postmodernity/postmodernism. Postmodernist/poststructuralist accounts in IR emerged in the 1980s, drawing their inspiration from authors identified with poststructuralism, such as Jacques Derrida, Jean-François Lyotard, Jean Baudrillard, and Julia Kristeva. Three important themes can be identified in the development of a set of concerns that shaped International Political Sociology (IPS) as a subfield of IR: the self-understanding of IR and its relation to broader sociopolitical structures and institutions; limits, borders, and frontiers; and the emergence of a concern with practices of power perceived as acting in various sites, such as security and citizenship. The concretization of a different set of research preoccupations that are associated with IPS has resulted in some of the more significant developments in postmodern IR theory. Nevertheless, there are a few issues that deserve further consideration in social research that would help decenter the Western frame of IR, including the need for postcolonial discussions concerning the project of Enlightenment.

Article

Environment and Security  

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.

Article

Intelligence Cooperation  

Timothy W. Crawford

Intelligence cooperation (or liaison) refers to the sharing or exchange of politically useful secret information between states, which may also work together to produce or procure such information. There are many important connections between the key concerns of intelligence cooperation and the cooperation problems and solutions illuminated in mainstream traditions of international relations theory (realism, liberalism, and constructivism), and work on bureaucratic and organizational politics. These are captured in a descriptive typology that breaks down intelligence cooperation relationships into four classes, reflecting the number of states and quality of reciprocity involved. Those are transactional bilateral cooperation, relational bilateral cooperation, transactional multilateral cooperation, and relational multilateral cooperation. Across these categories, the most important concepts, conjectures, and conundrums of intelligence cooperation are found.

Article

Poststructuralism and Security  

Lene Hansen

Poststructuralism is an International Relations (IR) theory that entered the domain of Security Studies during the Second Cold War. During this period, poststructuralists engaged with power, security, the militarization of the superpower relationship, and the dangers that the nuclear condition was believed to entail. Poststructuralism’s concern with power, structures, and the disciplining effects of knowledge seemed to resonate well with the main themes of classical realist Security Studies. At the same time, the discursive ontology and epistemology of poststructuralism set it apart not only from Strategic Studies, but from traditional peace researchers who insisted on “real world” material referents and objective conceptions of security. The unexpected end of the Cold War brought challenges as well as opportunities for poststructuralism. The most important challenge that arose was whether states needed enemies. The terrorist attacks of September 11 and “The War on Terror” also had a profound impact on poststructuralist discourse. First, poststructuralists held that “terrorism” and “terrorists” had no objective, material referent, but were signs that constituted a radical Other. They viewed the actions on September 11 as “terror,” “acts of war,” and “orchestrated,” rather than “accidents” committed by a few individuals. The construction of “terrorists” as “irrational” intersected with poststructuralist deconstructions of rational–irrational dichotomies that had also been central to Cold War discourse. These responses to “the War on Terror” demonstrated that poststructuralist theory still informs important work in Security Studies and that there are also crucial intersections between poststructuralism and other approaches in IR.

Article

Neutrality Studies  

Pascal Lottaz

The study of neutrality, as an academic subject in the fields of history and the social sciences, is concerned with the politics, laws, ethics, economics, norms, and other social aspects of states and international actors that attempt to maintain friendly or impartial relations with other states who are—or might become—parties to international conflict. In this regard, neutrality studies is a subject of international politics in its broadest sense, encompassing international law and international relations. It is an open space that has been explored through various academic lenses, including (but not limited to) realism, liberalism, constructivism, and poststructuralism. Most neutrality research in the early 21st century is focused on particular periods or forms of neutrality. To discuss this topic, it is helpful to distinguish two levels of analysis. First, there is historical research that describes the observable phenomenon of neutral behavior and its related effects, in other words, specific instances when countries (or actors) remained neutral. This is mostly the domain of historians. The second level is the moral, legal, political, and ideational assessment of neutral situations, which are theoretical discussions that treat issues (including but not limited to) the underlying reasons and the larger impact of neutrality on specific conflict dynamics, security systems, identities, and norms. Ideological debates often occur on this level since theoretical assessments of neutrality depend heavily on the subjective framing of the conflicts they accompany.