Security in a Globalized World. Understanding the Paradigm Shift of Contending Dynamics

Term Paper, 2014

15 Pages, Grade: A


Table of Contents


Chapter I: Probing the Dynamic Evolution of Security
The Paradox of Tradition vs Evolution
Traditional Security
The Non- traditional conceptualization of security
The notion of Global Security

Chapter II: Contemporary Threats Posed to Global security
International Armed Conflict
Infectious Diseases
Climate Change

Chapter III: The work of the UN in circumventing threats to Security
The Security Council
Health and the Security Agenda
Climate Change


Bibliographic References


Since the dawn of time, the issue of security has been one of humanity’s greatest concerns. So much so, that the prevailing modern day rhetoric seems to be focalized on that which German scholar John Hertz (1951) calls ‘the security dilemma’.

According to Wolfers (1953), 'Security, in any objective sense, measures the absence of threats to acquired values and in a subjective sense, the absence of fear that such values will be attacked'. He therefore effectively defines security by presenting its two dimensions: the objective dimension which concerns itself with the absence of threats, and the subjective side which concerns itself with the absence of fear. That which is clear however, is that ‘security’ speaks to the degree of resistance to or protection from harm in relations to any vulnerable asset be it a community or a nation.

The succession of time however, has allowed for a redefining of the concept of ‘security’ as applied to sovereign states in the International community. Armstrong (1996) speaks to World War 1 that engendered the liberalist notion of collective security through the League of Nations in 1919. This eventually led to the creation of the United Nations and the Security Council. One considers also the effect of terrorism attacks of September 11 on the United States, which according to Griffiths (2004) has increased the rise of the defensive realist conceptualization of security. This variant of political realism predicts that anarchy on the world stage causes states to become obsessed with their own national security; and rightly so, as it is the duty of the state to protect their own national interests. Which begs the question: to what extent has security moved from a more individualistic approach to become a homogenous concern for the members of the international community? Has it evolved past the seemingly anarchic conceptualization of security as military prowess? Are there new threats to global security?

In this argumentation, we will explore in a first instance, the evolution of the conceptualization of security over the course of time, which will then lead us into an examination of the threats posed to global security. A third part of this piece will then see us putting into examination the works of the United Nation as relates to the circumvention of these new issues.

Chapter I: Probing the Dynamic Evolution of Security

Griffin (2004) argues that over the years, the understanding of security has changed. While the fundamental nature still exists, its application has become more widely spread, thus increasing its complexity. In this section we will explore, in a first instance, the paradox of tradition. This will then lead us to examine the emergence of global security.

The Paradox of Tradition vs Evolution

Modern day theorists of International Relations converge on the common understanding that the evolution of concepts of security has led to a paradox between the traditional definition of Security vis-à-vis realist ideology, and the new aged non-traditional understand of security.

Traditional Security

For Griffith (2004), security speaks to a states’ ability to protect their national interests which, for traditional writers such as Rosenau, translates to military might, political stability and economic prowess. This effectively collaborates with Griffith’s thesis which he explains in his book: Caribbean Security in the Age of Terror. He argues that amidst the liberalist tendencies of the international system which has, since the end of world war II, made remarkable strides to international corporation, small island developing states still retain their vulnerability. This he claims arises where geographic, political and economic factors cause a nation’s security to be compromised.

Buzan (1991) however critiques this traditional neo-realist understanding of security. In summary, he alludes to the fact that the traditional view of security is too constricted. He however fails to describe what a broader conception of security should be. These arguments advanced by Buzan highlight the contested nature of the definition of security, and therefore its application within the context of the international system. Two pertinent questions therefore impose themselves: How does one truly define the term security? And furthermore, as Griffith (2004) recalls, against what framework should one examine the Caribbean security reality as opposed to that of the security of the European Union? Traditional security, founded in realist ideology, therefore speaks to military prowess, economic strength and political stability.

The Non- traditional conceptualization of security

The emergence of a pantheon of security theorists has led to the non-traditional dimension of security, and thus the birth of its conceptualization as a subjective contemporary issue of International Relations. This means that there is a fluctuation of the understanding of security in the international system; that which is security for the United States, is not necessarily security for Jamaica. In applying Griffith’s understanding of security therefore, security not only speaks to the ability of a country to protect its interest, but also its degree of resistance to, or protection from harm (Bruce, 2012). For this reason, the notion of security ceases to only embrace political welfare, economic prowess and military might. It now includes issues of environmental security and to a large extent, human security.

Human security, in itself, is an issue that has been duly debated in academic circles. According to King (2002):

First coined in 1994 by the UNDP which gave a broad, vague, all-encompassing definition as “the freedom from fear and from want”, human security has often been said to be “too broad to be useful” and a “vague and inconsistent slogan”(King, 2002).

In fact, Paris (2001) emphasizes that supporters of human security have stated that the power of the concept lies in its ambiguity whereas critics assert that the ambiguity of the concept makes it useless for “practical and policy-making purposes”. Paris (2001) highlights seven aspects of human security being: economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community and political security. This new definition of security constituted an important paradigm shift from state-centred approaches to a more people-centred one.

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, states have come to understand that security is no longer an external issue but one that has an internal dimension. One might even deduce that internal conflict may eventually lead to a spill over into an external issue of security, the best illustration of which is the ongoing Syrian crisis which started as an internal affair, between rival groups and the Al-Assad led administration.

The notion of Global Security

The idea of global security is one that stems notably from the concept of collective security. Collective security can be understood as a security arrangement, be it political, regional, or global, in which each state in the system accepts that the security of one is the concern of all, and therefore commits to a collective response to threats and breaches to peace. According to Lowe (2010) , collective security is more ambitious than systems of alliance security or collective defence in that it seeks to encompass the totality of states within a region or indeed globally, and to address a wide range of possible threats.

Global security represents an important evolution in the understanding of what true security means for states in the international system, as it incorporates both aspects of traditional and non-traditional security. The cold war between the United States and the USSR allowed for the understanding that in the current climate of globalization, a threat to any one country (be it use of force or a pandemic) is an instant threat to all the other countries in the international system. Griffiths (2004) argues therefore that security in the modern context is no longer a concern of the individual state but an issue of global propensity.

Chapter II: Contemporary Threats Posed to Global security

To speak of global security, is to understand that there are many different aspects of which it is comprised. Buzen et al (1998) argue that the content of international security has expanded over the years to cover a variety of interconnected issues in the world that have an impact on survival. ‘It ranges from the traditional or conventional modes of military power, the causes and consequences of war between states and economic strength, to ethnic, trade and economic conflicts, energy supplies, science and technology, food, as well as threats to human security and the stability of states from environmental degradation, infectious diseases, climate change and the activities of non-state actors’ (Buzen et al,1998). In this section we will be focusing specifically on the use of force, infectious diseases and climate change as threats posed to global security.


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Security in a Globalized World. Understanding the Paradigm Shift of Contending Dynamics
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Security, International Relations, The United Nations, Global Warming and National Security, Human Security, The Security Dilemma, Global Security
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Kavoy Ashley (Author), 2014, Security in a Globalized World. Understanding the Paradigm Shift of Contending Dynamics, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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