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What is security?

What is security?

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by Rauta Radu Vladimir. Originally submitted for International Security and Defence Policy at Other, with lecturer Christopher Martin in the category of International Relations & Politics
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by Rauta Radu Vladimir. Originally submitted for International Security and Defence Policy at Other, with lecturer Christopher Martin in the category of International Relations & Politics

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Abstract This essay is looking at the concept of “security” from the perspective of securityas a concept with many variables that determine its nature. Following theliterature in the field, based mostly on prolific authors of International Relationsand security studies, as well as philosophy, this paper is attempting to presentthe concept of security within a short word limit and in such a manner that itcould introduce an undergraduate to the key concepts.First, the traditional perspective of security is going to be presented as well asthe important relation between power, national interest and national security. The redefinition of security studies is presented, with information regarding thecontribution of Barry Buzan and the entire English School to this field, followedby the most important non-traditional security issues: human and environmentalsecurity. The final two paragraphs are looking into the debate surrounding thesetwo approaches to security and their implications to the study of internationalrelations. Human security and environmental security have been chosen fromthe range of non-traditional security issues because of their importance after theend of the Cold War and because of the impact they had in shaping the world of International Relations and Security studies as academic fields, as well asconcerning policy makers and international organizations.1
What is security?
For centuries, security has been perceived as state centred, perspectiveconsidered “traditional”. From the oldest times, security of individuals wasassured by the state directly; with the security of state, the security of theindividual as well as the collective was ensured and the only source of threat wasmilitary. The state was responsible for security perceived as “the absence of anxiety upon which the happy life depends”
. For Realism, especially for HansMorgenthau, security is seen through the action of the state for pursuing itssecurity through the formulation of its national interest, in this case aiming toprotect the physical and cultural identity against others
. A clear example hasbeen the Cold War when USA was pursuing the protection of its territory andcultural identity from communism. Also, Morgenthau describes security throughthe conceptualization of national interest based on power: it is the duty of eachstate to pursue its national interest, “defined in terms of power”
, as a road tosecurity and survival. David Jablonsky explained the concept of national poweras the use of natural determinants (geography, resources and population) as wellas social determinants (economic, political, military, psychological andinformational)
. He also stated that national power is dynamic, not permanent,and linked with military capacity as a natural relationship because of its
Cicero - “Tusculan Disputations”, V. 42, in ed. Gerber, A. et Greef, A.
Lexicon Taciteum
(Leipzig :1903), Hist. III. Liii, cited in Rotschild, Emma. – “What is Security” in
(Massachusetts: MITPress, 1995, vol. 124, no. 3)
Morgenthau, H.J. –
In defence of the National Interest: A Critical Examination of American ForeignPolicy 
(New York: Alfred Knopf, 1951)
Morghenthau, H.J. –“ Another ‘Great Debate’: The national interest of the United States” in
 American Political Science Review
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, number 46-4), page961
Jablonsky, David – “National Power” in
(US Army War College Quarterly, Spring, 1997,vol.27)
characteristic as an ‘ultima ratio’ of power in the international relations amongststates. One of the founders of neo-realism, Kenneth Waltz, explains that statesafter finding their security requirements (acknowledging the potential threats),they move and use their power in order to meet their national interest
. A clearcase described intensely is the case of the Cuban missile crisis: after identifyingthe threat to national security (missiles approaching Cuba), the USA has pursuedits national interest and used its power (military capacity as well as diplomaticlinks) to remove it. There is a visible limitation to the traditional approach to security because itcannot explain why states adopt certain policies over alternative means forachieving security. Through a constructivist approach, Alexander Wendt explainsnational interest as the tool which states use to manipulate the anarchic systemin their favour
. Wendt reconceptualised national interest in the form of intersubjective processes of meaning creation. Even more, the Munich analogyand the domino theory
bring quasi-causal arguments for national interest, anexample being the spheres of interest during Cold War and the representation of security as the manipulation of national power in the form of national interest byinfluencing neighbouring states.As an academic, Barry Buzan has looked at security not from the classical narrowperspective, but from a micro to a macro perspective, taking into considerationthe neo-realist view of the anarchic system into an elaborate constructivistapproach in which he explored all the elements that form the security package.As a founding member of the English School of International Relations Theory,Buzan has a more pluralistic approach on International Relations, identifying
Waltz, K. –
Theory of International Politics
(New York: McGraw-Hill, 1979)
Wendt, Alexander – “Anarchy is what states make of it: The Social Construction of Power Politics”in
International Organization
(Massachusetts: MIT Press, volume 46-2, 1992)
Weldes, J. – “Constructing National Interests: The Logic of US National Security in the Post-WarEra” (PhdD Dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1993)

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