Sunday, July 6, 2014

Buzan and Hansen, 2009, The Evolution of International Security Studies (security studies)

This is probably the definitive analytical history of the discipline. As the contemporary doyen of security studies, Buzan has paired with a critical theory feminist, Lene Hansen, to broaden his outlook, which gives the book a slightly left-of-centre feel to it.  Figure 7.3 illustrates my point. From the starting point of arms control, security studies bifurcates into strategic studies and peace-research. The descendants of strategic studies, however, are limited to post-cold war traditionalists, while peace researchers seem to have spawned marxist peace research, liberal peace research, common security, feminism, post-structuralism, several varieties of constructivism, human security and critical security studies.  I would have thought there was a bit more differentiation to post cold war traditionalism; perhaps it really is one big rather unimaginative hegemonic bloc, juxtaposed to the infinite fractals of narcissistic intellectualism?  The first few chapters set up the analytical framework, and the four questions that are central to international security studies: is the state the referent object; does ISS include internal threats; does ISS extend beyond military force; is security tied to threat, danger, and urgency? Chapter 3 sets up a framework of five factors that are addressed in each of the subsequent chronological chapters.  The five driving factors are: great power politics, technology, events, academic debate, and institutionalization.  The last one is particularly interesting to me because of the role of institutionalization (through repeated interaction of structure and agency) in the sociology of knowledge and emergence of professionalism.  The chronological chapters address deterrence and the cold war (ch. 4), cold war challenges to national security (ch. 5), post-cold war and the rise of regionalism (a nod to Buzan’s colleague Ole Waever here), the widening and deepening of security (ch. 7), and the response to 9/11 (ch. 8).  Intellectually, the pieces hang together, but chronologically, I’m not sure the scheme is so sound. Widening and deepening, for example, is not something that emerges after the Cold War, but was a consistent theme on the left going back to the Hague conference in 1900, and it was certainly something that shaped the Brandt Report and resource war concerns in the 1980s.  Coming back to the picture in Figure 7.3, I’d like to see the evidence of the linkage between these different schools of thought - could you do a matrix of references or common sources, for example, linking the different schools? Are there a lot fewer authors in some boxes than others, or are there some authors in multiple boxes? 
(also posted on Amazon)
David Last, 24 September 2013

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