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Critically analysing the Centrality of Security – Maahi Gupta

International relations and politics have grappled with the idea of global security for a long
period of time as it faces several possibilities and feasibilities. There have been a lot of
disagreements among social scientists and theorists about the concept of security and what it
primarily entails. Major disagreements that exist are of what are the different domains of
security that are the most urgent like individual security, national and international. Even
after this, the one thing that has no debate over it is the importance of security in any setting.
To look at the centrality of security as a concept in international relations, it is imperative to
look at how the concept and category of security have changed over the years.
Traditional security is primarily concerned with the security of nation-states, the kinds of
threats that states face from other states and the different forms of mechanism that they are
equipped with and employ to deal with the threats. 1 During the Cold War period and a long
time after that, theorists and social scientists were concerned with national security and
government stability which translated into militarized terms and the attention and resources
were being diverted towards that direction. This took the site away from ethnocentric
security problems which existed all over the world.

 

During the Cold War period, when there were countries breaking apart like the U.S.S.R into
smaller nations, and nations coming together like the European Union, it was imperative to
see how the new nation-states would respond to the changing situation. With the possibility
of unknown threats to the state and constantly changing conditions, the ability of those
societies to persist and survive with the kind of resources and security measures they created
and employed started being called ‘Societal Security’. A critique of this kind of security
stared arising after the cold war had ended when scholars started observing the rapidly
spreading globalisation and they realised that at a time like that providing nation-states with
these kinds of security resources would not be as efficient as it would be to focus on the new
kinds of threats that were arising that were outside the control of states, like international
terrorism, monetary losses and so on. 2

 

Human Security persisted through all these time periods and kept evolving with how the
times demanded. Human security consists of an approach that considers the individual to
be of utmost importance over the state. 3 The security of people and community are very
important in this. Ideas like human development, women security, environment security,
minority communities, and sustainability among many others started becoming popular.
Human dignity was a very important part of this category.
In human history, whenever the theme of security has risen, ‘People’ have been the most
important group to look towards as reference objects, but when we enter an academic setting
especially international relations, one will notice that it started off as giving utmost
importance to the state, which soon got translated into ‘National interest’ in the American
space. When state and national security became widely known and recognised as urgent and
important, a lot of factors started supporting it. For example, the US National Security Act of
1947 basically sold national security and national interests under the banner of international
security.

 

 

In contrast to these rapid developments, as illustrated in the former arguments, the idea of
human security started gaining attention. But the major problem that arose now was to work
through which humans needed to be tended to first and prioritized. Human dignity became of
prime importance. So to work through this, the concept of societal security once again played
an important role, where the meaning of what it means to be human was thought upon.
Scholars came to the conclusion that one is as human as the groups and communities they
associate themselves with. So working towards societal security and keeping the threats of
inter-communal riots, tensions came forward. When looking at the larger picture,
theorists like Barry Buzan have pointed out eloquently that it is imperative for there to be an
inclusive aspect to security which includes economic, political, cultural, and social and most
importantly an ecological side to it. 4 Environmental security and sustainability is one of the
main reference objects of security.

 

Buzan also spoke about the five essential sectors of security that play a major role in his
theory of an inclusive and wholesome approach to the security of human collectivises. These
five sectors were military security, political security, economic security, societal security and
environmental security. Military security focused on the armed capabilities and the
interactions that different states had in regards to it. Political security included attention to
intergovernmental ideologies and dealing with possible threats. Economic security revolved
around keeping a sense of financial stability present and coming to action in times of
unprecedented crisis. Societal security talked about securing the traditional practices,
cultures, and society as a whole. And lastly, environmental security focused on the
planetary conditions, greenhouse gases and sustainability measures to ensure the management
of resources on the planet. 5 All of these have been focused on individually at some point in
history but Buzan advocated for them to be focused on at once to achieve complete security
for the planet. He did not care much for the individual components but collectively the setting
that they created was something that could ideally help attain global peace and security.

*Maahi Gupta is an undergraduate student with a specialisation in Sociology and a minor in
International Relations at the Shiv Nadar University.

1 John Baylis, et al., The globalisation of world politics, 8th ed. (Oxford University Press, 2020). pp. 243-245.
2 Ibid. pp. 242-243.
3 Ibid. 242.
4 Ibid. pp. 251-253.
5 Ibid. pp.241-243.

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