Security in a Changing Global Environment: Challenging the Human Security Approach
Reviewer: Enrico Fels (University of Bonn)
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Within the last two decades, both the end of the Cold War as well as an increasing inter-dependence between nations, economies and societies not only changed the architecture of international security, but also fruitfully expanded the security debate within international relations. Both the previously dominant focus on states as the most important actors in inter-national politics and the concentration on negative security – in the minimalistic sense of avoiding international wars – were called into question. While the academic debate has primarily dealt with these aspects in constructivist theories, on the actual policy level the Human Security approach came to the fore and still predominates numerous guidelines for foreign and security policy.
Schuck’s (ed) book Security in a Changing Global Environment: Challenging the Human Security Approach critically evaluates the Human Security approach in three parts. The first part offers a thorough, theory-oriented security debate, while the second section focuses on particular facets of Human Security. The book’s final section provides five detailed case studies related to regional security in order to demonstrate why concentrating solely on a Human Security understanding is not sufficient for dealing with many of today’s security problems.
Perhaps the greatest strength of this systematic and logical volume is its extensive critical discussion of the security theory debate in its first section. Six chapters cover not only concepts for defining the Human Security approach (Manuel Fröhlich/Jan Lemanski), but also ways in which it differs from more classical security understandings (Reimund Seidelmann) as well as the theoretical and empirical problems the Human Security paradigm poses (Christoph Schuck, Mark Arenhövel, Andreas Vasilache). In this context, the chapter by Bob Sugeng Hadiwinata is of particular significance, since he provides a fresh, non-Western insight into the debate of the Southeast Asian academic security community.
In the book’s second part, four chapters analyse primary aspects of Human Security, which broadens and deepens the debate of the Human Security concept. Wolfgang Merkel looks at the interactions between security and democracy, while Thomas Meyer examines the effects of security policy on welfare services and vice versa. In addition to a chapter by Astrid Carrpatoso on the increasing importance of ecological aspects on security policymaking, a chapter on gender questions (Claudia Derichs/Daniel Pinéu) presents insights that seldomly have been examined in the context of Human Security and which – even within the Critical Security Studies community itself – have received only peripheral attention.
The third and final section of the book underscores the continuing relevance of traditional security understandings. While the assumptions of the Human Security approach are justified as a normative principle by the authors, their five detailed chapters show that due to its theoretical and practical weaknesses, the Human Security concept is not adequate for dealing with several of the currently important security issues and that national, regional and bi-regional security will continue to be of primary relevance to policymakers as well as academics. The extensive case studies cover South (Conrad Schetter/Janosch Prinz) and East Asia (Aurel Croissant/David Kühn, Jörn Dosch), the Middle East (Matthias Heise) and Africa (Olaf Leiße). Unfortunately, the book lacks both a chapter on the notion of Human Security in Latin American states as well as in China.
Apart from this minor shortcoming, Security in a Changing Global Environment: Challenging the Human Security Approach is among the few works in the field which succeed both conceptually and in terms of content in providing a sound and balanced analysis of the Human Security concept. The extensive and complex systematic theoretical analysis of the topic, combined with five substantial empirical case studies, provides a detailed and comprehensive perspective on the problematic sides of the Human Security paradigm, clearly pointing to its strengths while analyzing its weaknesses. This renders the book a valuable contribution to the field of international security with the clear potential to soon become a standard textbook for scholars and postgraduate students alike.