State Security is probably the most important issue when dealing with international relations. State security is the main focus of any move made by a state in the political arena. One definition from one of the approaches of a state’s security “is the state’s capacity to protect its boundaries and its sovereign ability to act as it sees fit” (TCJM, pp. 62-63). When considering the above definition from the realist approach I would have to disagree. I feel that there is more that needs to be considered and there are many different approaches that have to be looked at for a good understanding of such a complex topic.
One approach that focuses on the state and its interaction with other states is realism. The nature of realism is that states exist in an international structure where the possibility of conflict always exists. The main reason for conflict is that there is no overriding institution to settle competing interest among states. The level of threat depends upon how much one state can either oppose the threat of another or impose its threat on the competing state. For realist security, a state protecting itself is the threat or use of military power or other related instruments of coercion against another state (TCJM, pp.31).
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Another approach to state security is liberal institutionalism. This perspective is similar to the realism approach in many ways. However where the two ideas diverge is the importance of outside institutions. The liberal institutionalism approach states that institutions came moderate the threats between competing states in a way that can control the actions of the states. Liberal institutionalists argue “international institutions have become significant in world politics in that they have a role in changing conceptions of self-interest” (TCJM, pp 49).
Realist will contend that states working together for common interest will work temporarily. Their argument is that this co-operation is difficult to sustain because it is destructive to the states own self-interest and survival. I would have to disagree with this argument because the liberal institutionalism approach shows that when states co-operate for collective interest they create institutions to assist and maintain the collective structure.
Peace studies are another state-centric approach to security, however its concept is much wider and involves more that inter-state violence as threats to the state. Peace studies looks “to prevent wars by imposing effective institutions, structures and processes to allow for rational, measured negotiation; in this way, peace was to be a product of reason” (TCJM, pp.66). Peace studies is an unbounded state-centric approach to security, where as realism is a bounded one. The difference being that peace studies looks at non-military forms of solutions as well concerns for the individuals within the states, whereas realism just deals with inter-state violence.
The feminist approach maintains that security must include structural violence. These forms of structural violence especially affect women and other subordinate groups. “A gender-aware analysis opens up security studies in two way: first by looking at the position of women and how their immediate security is violated; and second by focusing on the patriarchal philosophy behind this reification and violence, and how this relates to security studies” (TCJM, pp. 86). This is very much a contrasting view to that of realism, which is very state-based. It is also a necessary focus when considering that men dominate the political scene and the effect that has on women.
“Post-positivism is the label for approaches that seek to provide a different insight into the social sciences and, by extension, into IR and security studies” (TCJM, pp. 99). The post-positivist approach places emphasis on the social construction of knowledge, instead of the positivist stress on reason. For the post-positivist perceived facts and real facts are the same, for positivist there are “real facts and perceived facts and the analyst may compare the two” (TCJM, pp. 101). In contrast to the realist view the post-positivist approach is based more in theory than hard fact. This is important in understanding the basis to why states act the way they do and not just responding to those actions.
All of these approaches to state security give a unique perspective on the topic. Especially when compare to realism, a view that seems to dominant the modern political scene, the other views can help create a broader knowledge of international politics. While it seems impossible to say that one approach is right and the other wrong, many of the views states in the realist approach seem to be dated. There are many other important players in today’s world other than the military that figure into today’s international state relations.
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