Introduction: Definitions & Conceptual Issues

Defining security

Individual versus collective notions of security

The definitions of "security" are a well-established institution of international politics. The scholar Emma Rothschild has argued that historically, the idea of security has been at the center of European political thought since the 17th century.1 In its most consistent sense, security from the period of the mid-17th century to the French Revolution was regarded as a condition or an objective that constituted a relationship between individuals and states or societies.2 The term security stems from the Latin noun securitas, which in turn comes from securus, meaning freedom from care. Both terms signify objective and subjective aspects of this condition. Therefore, security is a product of both material circumstances and the psychological state produced by those circumstances. This understanding of "security" as a sense of freedom, devoid of fear or personal violation has been an important concept in liberal political thought. The shift from considering security as an individual to primarily a collective good ensured by military or diplomatic means began towards the end of the 18th century, when the security of individuals became subsumed under the security of the nation.

The traditional paradigm of security

The narrow definition of security has traditionally, but not always, taken the referent object--or things that are seen to be existentially threatened and that have a legitimate claim to survival--as the state, incorporating government, territory, and society.3 Security has been defined exclusively in terms of the ability of the state to defend its territory and its principal values against military threat. From a military-political point of view "security," which is an objective of states, to be achieved primarily (but not exclusively) by military policy, is about survival. The narrow focus on external military threats and the use of political, legal or coercive instruments has complemented ideas about power and interests. Bellany notes that "Security [...] is a relative freedom from war, coupled with a relatively high expectation that defeat will not be a consequence of any war that should occur."4 Similarly, Walt defines 'security studies' and by extension, the concept of security, as "the study of the threat, use and control of military forces, especially of the specific policies that states adopt in order to prepare for, prevent, or engage in war."5

Nevertheless, there were some regimes, especially authoritarian dictatorships that considered internal threats within the scope of their national security. The preservation of sovereignty against external threats encompasses the state's ability to control what happens to its territory, its citizens, its resources, and its political system. Broadly speaking, this means that states are concerned with the defense of its territorial borders. It was generally believed that only traditional armed forces could penetrate state borders in such a way to credibly threaten the sovereignty of the state. If the threat was derived from within the state, as in cases of rebellion or secession, the military could be the guarantor of security.

Redefining security: the widening and deepening of the concept

The first move toward expanding the notion of security dates back to 1960s, when Robert McNamara suggested that security implied the freedom of a state to develop and improve its position in the future. He remarked that, "Security is development and without development there can be no security [...] development means economic, social and political progress. It means a reasonable standard of living, and reasonable in this context requires continual redefinition."6 This statement foreshadows the link that would be eventually formed between security and development issues in the late-1990s as the concept of security became redefined according to the new security threats that emerged. In 2005, the UN Secretary-General echoed the same sentiments when he stated that, "In an increasingly interconnected world, progress in the areas of development, security and human rights must go hand in hand. There will be no development without security and no security without development."7

Indeed, since the end of the Cold War, frequency of debates on the nature and meaning of security have increased. With that, the meaning of security has both widened8 to include issues on economics, development, environment, human rights, and migration, etc, as well as deepened9 by moving the focus down to the level of the individual or up to the level global security, with regional or societal security as possible intermediate points. However, there is still little agreement on what the broadened construct of security should look like.10

Over the last half century, the growing awareness of the limits of the traditional definition of security, the challenge of rapid globalization, and the states ability to deal with other kinds of threats, not only military in naturesuch as transnational drug trafficking, disease pandemics, global climate change, resources scarcities, international terrorism, etc have been of vital importance. At the same time, the increasing realization of the dilemmas of the empirical weakness of states combined with internal threats from the proliferation of non-state actors seeking to challenge, overthrow, or reform the state, or alternatively, when the state is the source of threat to its own citizensrepressing and brutalizing marginalized groups, the broadening and deepening of the definition of security seems to have been unavoidable.

Overall, the unmodified term "security" covers a wide terrain. On one end of the spectrum, it can encompass the individuals perception of safety and freedom from threats or human security. At the other end of the spectrum, it can include the state of order in the international system which has been the primary pursuit of the United Nations.11

Peace and security & order and stability

Politically, the concept of security is commonly equated with an ability to either remain at peace without having to sacrifice important values to do so, or failing that, to restore peace quickly. Security and peace in turn are closely related to order and stability. Therefore the quest for international order is essentially nothing more than the quest for peace and security.12

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Defining public order

"Public order" or ordre public can be understood as the principles and means that ensure the peaceful and safe functioning of society. It is a concept that closely affects a state's sovereignty. With the rise of modern nation-states and adoption of constitutions, different states have ascribed different meanings to the term 'order' and have had different views to the management of public order. In general, there are two categories of public order:

"Basic public order"

Basic public order concerns the protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms, and includes morals, principles that prevail over the action of individuals and the state. This understanding of public order traditionally arises in defense of fundamental rights against the repressive action of the state.

"Essential public order"

Essential public order embodies the principles that tend to protect the general interest realized in the legal, economic, and social public order of the state.

Variations in interpretation of public order

Considerations of public order provide acceptable reasons for regulating conduct. Different views have different ways of explaining that value. For instance, Utilitarians will found public order on considerations of aggregate happiness, Kantians on the preconditions of autonomous conduct, and still others on the intrinsic value of human life and human sociability. More importantly, there is bound to be disagreement about the requirements of public order--including disagreement about if a state is necessary to secure the conditions of order. 13 For instance, in its most extreme form is the idea of the police state, where the use of law enforcement institutions is ultimately for the control of the population. It stems from measures taken by a state to ensure an ordered political and social environment, which includes the protection of the population, the welfare of the state and its citizens, and the improvement of society. However, in practice it has been realized by totalitarian regimes to promote their own political tyranny at the expense of individual citizens. In contrast, in democratic states, the measures for ensuring public order focus on complicity with the law, accountability, and respect for human rights.

The means of maintaining public order

The maintenance of public order is the core function of governance. Broadly speaking state agents that are responsible for the maintenance of internal public order within the state include the police, in some instances, the military police or paramilitary, and justice or judicial proceedings. Contemporary societies have become used to specialized law enforcement institutions such as the police (in its various forms) that are authorized to regulate social conflicts, and at times, employ coercive force. In Weberian terms, they represent the state's claim to the "monopoly of legitimate physical violence" concerning internal relations, whereas the military exercises the same powers with respect to the external world.14 The creation of a police apparatus is supposed to guarantee impartial enforcement of the rules of public order and become functionally differentiated from the military forces. In turn, the role of the state military is to defend the state (and by default the society) against external aggressors. However, reflecting back in history, the roles of police apparatus and the military, in some societies, have not been well delineated.

Go to Different notions of public order and policing in the Community Policing subsection

Global public order and internal public order

The maintenance of internal public order is an inescapable function of global public order, since it is the comprehensive, global order which determines and secures both the inclusive and exclusive interests of states. In this sense, "[...] global public order, thus affects the internal public order of its many constituent communities and the internal public order of each constituent community, in turn, affects the global public order."15

1. Emma Rothschild, What Is Security? Daedalus, 124, no. 3 (1995): 53-98.
2. Ibid.,61.
3. Barry Buzan, Ole Wver, Jaap de Wilde, Security: A New Framework for Analysis. (Boulder and London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1998), 21-39.
4. I. Bellany, Towards a Theory of International Security, Political Studies, 29, no. 1 (1981): 102.
5. S. Walt, The Renaissance of Security Studies, International Studies Quarterly, 35, no. 2 (1991): 212.
6. R. McNamara, The Essence of Security (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1968):149-150.
7. UN Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan, In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for All (New York: United Nations Publication, 2005), 6.
8. See: Theodore Moran, International Economics and National Security, Foreign Affairs, 69 (1990/91): 74-90; Beverley Crawford, The New Security Dilemma under International Economic Interdependence, Millennium 23 (1994): 25-55; Brad Roberts, Human Rights and International Security, Washington Quarterly, 13 (1990): 65-75; Myron Weiner, Security, Stability and International Migration, International Security,17 (1992/3): 91-126; Thomas Homer-Dixon, On the Threshold: Environmental Changes as Causes of Acute Conflict, International Security, 19 (1994): 5-40.
9. See: Barry Buzan, People, States and Fear. Second edition (Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991); Rebecca Grant, the Quagmire of Gender and International Security, in Gendered States, edited by V. Spike Peterson (Boulder: Lynne Reinner Publishers, 1992), 83-97; Robert Rubenstein, Cultural Analysis and International Security, Alternatives, 13 (1988): 529-542.
10. Keith Krause and Michael C. Williams, Broadening the Agenda of Security Studies: Politics and Methods, Mershon International Studies Review, 40 (1996): 229-254.
11. Dan Caldwell and Robert E. Williams, Seeking Security in an Insecure World (Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2006), 6.
12. Caldwell and Williams, Seeking Security in an Insecure World, 5.
13. Joshua Cohen, Democracy and Liberty, in Deliberative Democracy. Edited by Jon Elster (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 196.
14. Max Weber, Economy and Society. 3 vol. (English translation of the 4th edition of Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft) (Berkeley: Stanford University Press, 1972), 29.
15. Harold Dwight Lasswell and Myres Smith McDouglas, Jurisprudence for a Free Society (New Haven: New Haven Press, 1992), 162.

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