Security in International Relations

Security in International Relations

Security, a complex and multifaceted concept, undergoes meticulous examination through various lenses. Barry Buzan’s comprehensive view introduces a five-fold framework that includes political, economic, societal, environmental, and military aspects, forming the bedrock of a holistic security discourse.

In the realm of international relations, the concept of securitization takes center stage. Pioneered by the Copenhagen School and advocated by scholars like Ole Waever, Barry Buzan, and Jaap de Wilde, securitization involves subjective assessments of perceived threats across crucial sectors: military, political, economic, societal, and environmental. This approach adds layers of depth to understanding how states navigate security challenges.

Walter Lippmann’s perspective elevates the discussion, framing security as a nation’s capability to protect core values without compromising them, whether in times of peace or war. Realist concepts, deeply rooted in state-centric ideologies, emphasize sovereignty and territorial integrity. Methods such as diplomacy, balance of power, deterrence, and preemptive war unfold within this realist paradigm.

Various Paradigm of Security

  • The liberal school expands the horizon by incorporating collective security, trading states, security communities, democratic peace, and liberal internationalism into the security narrative.
  • Feminist scholars bring a distinctive lens to the discourse by advocating a shift from state-centric security to a focus on human security, with a particular emphasis on the security of women. This perspective challenges traditional notions and broadens the understanding of security.
  • Marxist concepts propose a fundamental shift from a state-centric society to one centered around civil society. The Critical or Emancipatory school takes this further, advocating for the dilution of territorial states and the strengthening of civil society networks, promoting grassroots democracy as a cornerstone of true security.

Barry Buzan‘s article, ‘New Patterns of Global Security in the 21st Century,’ provides a comprehensive perspective on security. In his book, ‘People, States and Fear,’ Buzan advocates for a constructivist approach to securitization. The conventional view of security, predominantly focused on the state, has been extensively debated by International Relationists. The realist perspective, equating security to a mere “synonym for power,” was relevant during the World Wars but appears oversimplified in the post-Cold War era, characterized by a more intricate and multifaceted understanding of security.

Buzan, in ‘People, States and Fear,’ critiques the narrow foundation of the security concept, aiming to present a “broader framework of security.” This broader perspective includes previously overlooked elements like regional security, as well as societal and environmental dimensions. Buzan’s approach is holistic; while he incorporates neorealist principles such as anarchy, his analysis is fundamentally constructivist. He challenges accepted notions and systematically explores each element of what he deems the security package, leading to a more informed and nuanced conclusion.

Traditional and Non-Traditional Security:

Traditional Security:

  • Focuses on the use of military power, war, balance of power dynamics, and the formation of alliances.
  • Extends beyond military concerns to include threats to conditions essential for human survival.
  • Primarily concerned with the state and its governing institutions.
  • Encompasses a narrow aspect of security, such as internal and external threats to the state.
  • Main focus is on the application of force to ensure security.

Non-Traditional Security:

  • Goes beyond military considerations to include a broad spectrum of issues like hunger, diseases, and other factors impacting human well-being.
  • Concerned with security not only at the state level but also for individuals and humanity as a whole.
  • Involves cooperation rather than a reliance on force, contributing to the protection of human and global security.
  • Recognizes and addresses threats to human survival beyond traditional military aspects.
  • Takes a holistic approach, considering various dimensions of security beyond state-centric perspectives.

Collective Security

Discussing collective security, Buzan describes it as a liberal alternative to balance of power politics, initially proposed by Woodrow Wilson. The principle of “All for One and One for All” characterizes collective security, serving as a middle ground between balance of power and world government. This principle is embedded in the United Nations (U.N.) Charter, outlining a system of collective security to address international crises arising from war, aggression, or the threat thereof in any part of the global system.

In conclusion, these intricate perspectives offer a rich and layered understanding of security. By weaving together these diverse strands, a more nuanced and inclusive approach emerges, transcending conventional state-centric paradigms and embracing the complexity inherent in contemporary security studies.

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