The main theme underlying this paper is the contention that ‘security’ is “an essentially contested concept”. The article attempts an overview of the current debates shaping the sub-field of ‘security studies’. Six main ‘schools of thought’ are examined in turn to demonstrate how each of these ‘schools’ challenge and contest the traditional agenda of ‘security studies’ by attempting to both widen and deepen the concept of ‘security’. The last section concludes by examining the value of engaging in such debates on widening and deepening the term ‘security’ for international politics in our present age.
Debates about the meaning of security and the agenda of security studies have entered a new stage following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the US. This paper explores some of the main themes and likely directions in this debate. It identifies five issues: (1) the new threat of, and the new warfare against, terrorism; (2) US strategic primacy and its impact on international stability; (3) implications for “clash of civilizations” thesis; (4) implications for the relationship between democracy and international security, and (5) the shift from “human security” to “homeland security”. The paper argues that the new threat of transnational terrorism and international responses to it have undermined both “clash of civilizations” and “end of history” perspectives, which together formed one of the great debates in international security studies in the post-Cold War era. The new security debate in the post September 11 era should be about the role of the US in a unipolar world (especially whether and how it can be stabilizing), and the rise of the “homeland security” paradigm, which entails a reassertion of state power over societal forces and blurs the distinction between Western and Third World security paradigms.
Last updated on 01/07/2014