The concept of security has been one of the most prominent issues in political science. Security can generally be defined as “staying away from dangers and fears and the absence of a threat”. Establishing and maintaining security in international arena is one of the most critical topics on the agenda of both states and non-state actors.
In the contemporary world, with the impact of globalization and the speedy developments in information and technology, security parameters have changed and different forms of security including human security and cybersecurity have emerged.
In the aftermath of WWII, states engaged in creating stronger foundations to prevent the outbreak of another war, thus NATO was founded. NATO is regarded one of the major organizations established to maintain peace and stability in international arena despite many flaws in its history. During the Cold War years, not only military themes but also ideological motivations played a key role in security perceptions. Since the early 1980s, the increasing interconnectedness among states and organizations and the growing trade relations paved the way for the emergence of a “global village” discourse in world politics.
With the world going online in 1990s, a major change in the concept of security and the concept of cybersecurity has occurred. The term cybersecurity can be defined as the sum of all areas of computer security, internet security and network safety.
The Concept of Security and its Evolution
The Westphalian system is critical to both define and trace the security formation in world politics. The Westphalian system foresaw the equality of states in legal context and underlined certain rules of international law, such as the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs.
The concept of security is an ambiguous term. Arnold Wolfers is known as the first scholar to draw attention to the ambiguity of the concept. In his article titled “National Security” as an Ambiguous Symbol (1952) Wolfers argues that the questions of “which values should be protected from which threats, with which tools and at what cost?” are critical.
Initially, the concepts of “security” and “power” were generally evaluated together and considered as complementary to each other. The most important example of the power-oriented definition of security was made by Niccolo Machiavelli in his work The Prince. According to Machiavelli there is an important correlation between the power of the ruler and the security of the state.
Hugo Grotius known as the founder of the natural law emphasized the importance of the international legal system in ensuring security. According to Grotius, in order to prevent permanent conflict, states have more say in international system than any other actors. At the center of this approach, security is evaluated in the context of international law through which states must act on common ground.
After the French Revolution, concepts such as freedom, nation, equality and democracy began to become the main concepts in Western thought. The work On Eternal Peace by Immanuel Kant discusses security in the context of international institutionalization. Kant recommends that the best step to provide security is to achieve international institutionalization.
While taking the nation-state as the unit of analysis, the focus is on the concept of security that is based on the idea of preserving the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state. This understanding focuses on a military and strategic framework of security. Moreover, while discussing the concept of security in international system, it is a must to consider the phenomenon of “anarchy”. The anarchic system refers to the absence of a supra-state authority among the states. In an anarchic system, the first goal of every state is to preserve its own security.
The Current Situation
Since the early 1980s, especially due to the globalization trend, threats such as environmental problems, ethnic and religious conflicts, global pandemics, threats like cybercrimes and the spread of chemical weapons have come to the fore as fundamental problems that harm the security of states. In this new environment, the idea of state security envisioned by the Westphalian state system has changed.
Today, the traditional (conventional) state-centered approaches of security are not sufficient to follow what is going on around the world due to the changing nature of the threats. The unpredictable and instable nature of world politics has become one of the main points of security studies today.
Globalization has pushed security studies to move towards human security with an emphasis on environment, technology and sociology. The rapid advancement of technology has brought the concept of “cybersecurity” to the research and policy agenda.
In a digitalizing world, the developments such as the growing interest in artificial intelligence in both theory and practice and global pandemics have transformed the concept of security in radical ways. The Coronavirus pandemic has triggered the shift to the use of online tools further and evolved to be a kind of “catalyst” for the adoption and increasing use of digitalization. This shift has undisputedly enhanced a more internet-based lifestyle. Amid these developments, it is observed that the threats against state sovereignty have become much more diversified and this uncovered the need to move forward to a more encompassing form of security.
To be continued…
Amankwah-Amoah, J., Khan, Z., Wood, G., & Knight, G. (2021). COVID-19 and digitalization: The great acceleration. Journal of business research, 136, 602-611.
Salomon, A. (1947). Hugo Grotius and the social sciences. Political Science Quarterly, 62(1), 62-81.
Wolfers, A. (1952). ” National security” as an ambiguous symbol. Political science quarterly, 67(4), 481-502.
Fotoğraf: Stijn Swinnen