Can the concept of security be defined, should it be? Abstract This essay analyses whether the concept of security can be or should be defined. The analysis is conducted by reference to the debate on traditional concepts of security and the expansion of the concept of security which emerged in the post-Cold War era…
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In addition, while there is an agreement on the broadening agenda of security, incriminate expansion of the concept, hinders intellectual coherence of the concept and the security field. More importantly, the remaining importance of the question of war and violence under international anarchy cannot be ignored. This paper begins by questioning what security is and identifying its conceptual difficulties. This includes an examination of conflicting theories in Security Studies. Secondly, the narrow concept of security defined by traditional theory developed during the Cold War is discussed. Thirdly, proponents in favour of extending the concept of security in more detail are examined as well as the different dimensions of security challenging traditional concepts. Fourthly, limitations arising out of indiscriminate expansion of the concept are examined. Fifthly, a critical analysis of contemporary discourse which comes across as Eurocentric will be conducted. In this regard, the need for the strong and the weak in the same context is suggested. Finally, a conclusion is provided suggesting that relational thinking should be applied to security studies. Introduction Security studies dramatically developed in response to the development and spread of nuclear weapons and the corresponding conflicts between two superpowers during the Cold War influencing the growth of international relations (IR) theory. After World War (WW) II, the nuclear arms race between the US and the former Soviet Union produced myriad strategic concepts characterized by the balance of power, bipolar world, containment and deterrence comprising the major issues during the Cold War. Realist theory emerged dominating IR, displacing the earlier emphasis on international law and organisations. Rational problem solving emphasizes scientifically calculating interest, cost and the best alternatives. The central question for strategists during the Cold War was how states could states could use weapons of mass destruction as policy instruments, given the risk of nuclear exchange (Walt, 1991, p.214). Cold War security discourse therefore required a reflection of the immediate reality and as a result, historical and cultural contexts were largely ignored or relegated to low politics. For example strategic theory failed to satisfactorily explain theVietnam War as there was little attention to Vietnamese cultural context and instead relied on expectations that the Vietnamese adversary would conform to academic models (Kolodziej, 2005, p.23). With the collapse of the former Soviet Union and thus the end of the Cold War, low politics gained currency, commanding the adoption of a new concept of security by expanding on the traditional concept. Thus, in 1994 the UNDP advocated for a transition 'from nuclear security to human security' which included issues such as ‘hunger, disease and repression', and 'protection from sudden and hurtful disruptions'. In 1995, the International Commission on Global Governance recommended that international security must be reconceptualised to direct attention ‘to the security of people and the planet.' In other words, difficulties for mankind generally or specific communities are now conceptualized as security risks. Changes in the past have resulted in changes in conditions and thus have corresponded with changes relative to the concept of securit
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