International Security

Course Material 2024/25

“Security” is a contested concept in international relations. To some analysts, it refers primarily to issues related to the use and control of military force. Others contend that this definition is unhelpfully narrow, and suggest that climate change, migration, and other transnational phenomena should also be understood as security issues. Much is at stake here: what we label security issues and what we don’t may have serious implications for how we prioritize and approach different policy problems.

This paper introduces students to the academic field of “security studies”, broadly conceived. Much of the focus of the paper will be on “traditional” security issues. Why do wars happen, and how do they end? What do nuclear weapons deter, and how might a conventional conflict escalate to a nuclear exchange? How should we think about the influence of rapid changes in military technology on crisis stability? Questions like these are particularly pressing in today’s geopolitical context, and the paper will accordingly devote substantial attention to them. However, the paper also explores alternative perspectives on security, and helps students to think about the security implications of issues like global climate change and pandemic disease.