Bader International Study Centre


at Herstmonceux Castle, U.K.



at Herstmonceux Castle, U.K.

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POLS 263/3.0 Introduction to International Security

The study of security is a dominant theme in International Relations (IR). In recent years, everything from China's rising, Nuclear proliferation, weak states, terrorist groups, the environment, diseases, organised crime and banking crises has become a security threat. What do these issues share to see them as threats? What constitutes a threat, and to whom? Competing, and, to some degree, ‘incommensurable’ theoretical traditions which ‘see’ very different worlds and types of security threats, have provided different kinds of explanations about whose security is at stake and what kind of threats are worth considering.  In this course, ‘security’ is treated as an essentially contested concept. We explore multiple meanings or interpretations of security drawn from competing IR perspectives (realism, liberalism, constructivism, critical theories), and we then investigate four cases from these perspectives.

The cases are:

  1. The rise of China
  2. The emergence of international norms around Humanitarian Intervention
  3. Terrorism
  4. The ‘securitisation’ of poverty and underdevelopment

The main purpose of the course is to expose students to analysis of a number of pressing contemporary security issues, and the secondary purpose is to do so in a theoretically sophisticated way. This course, in short, will allow you to reflect upon your opinions about current security ‘concerns’, recognize that you may have approached the understanding of them with pre-existing biases.