Researching Human Security: maping new insecurities?

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‘Security is like oxygen: you tend not to notice it until you lose it.’ The simile that Joseph Nye, a renowned scholar from Harvard, presented in a study to the Pentagon after the September 11and during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, highlights an interesting point on how we think security: many of our thoughts about security are in fact shaped by its antithesis, and our attempts to define it are in fact ways to achieve it. However, the concept of security, and therefore of insecurity, have been changing. The answers to the questions ‘security for whom?’, ‘from what values?’, ‘from which threats?’, and ‘by what means?’ have proved to be different according to the focus, the values at risk and the sources of the threat. Indeed, since the mid-twentieth century, more precisely in the late 80s, there has been a profound change in how security is studied and practiced in the International Relations (IR) discipline, as well as in the way it is conceptualized and designed by strategic culture and praxis of the States.One of the concepts associated with this new approach is Human Security (HS). Even if a common definition has not yet been mainstreamed for member states or International Organizationsexternal action, it is a core concept of the current academic debate within critical security studies, privileging individuals and communities. This approach reflects, on the one hand, the concept of comprehensive security of the Copenhagen school, and on the other, the concern with the individual’s empowerment promoted by the Frankfurt doctrine. Therefore, this paper will first attempt to establish the concept of HS – a concept which has in recent years induced the academic literature to focus more on the individual and community and less on the State – and understand in what extent the Copenhagen and Frankfurt schools has inspired researchers from different disciplines and with different agendas to think on the necessary conditions of universal freedom. We will focus on the role of postmodernist approach, also known as ‘Critical Human Security’ by arguing that the state should no longer be regarded as the only provider and security beneficiary.We will reflect on the way Critical Human Security approaches not only intend to challenge the ways in which security was conceived in traditional terms and its objectives and priorities, but specially expand and deepen the concept as such. We will conclude that human security is a valid concept that has found its implementation through the UN and the European Union and is increasingly present (although in different perspectives) in the external relations of states such as Canada or Japan but two major theoretical dilemmas remain: how do we recognize it when we see Human Security?And where is the new wine in the new bottles? Our last thought is to recognize that we must return to some realistic assumptions to accept that States are not over as security players!
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceeding of the International Scientific Conference
Subtitle of host publicationResearching Security: approaches, concepts and policies
Place of PublicationOhrid
PublisherSt. Kliment Ohridski University
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-50938-9
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Human security
  • Concept
  • European Union
  • Critical human security


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