Comprehensive Security in East Asia

Authored by: Ralf Emmers

Routledge Handbook of Asian Regionalism

Print publication date:  November  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415580540
eBook ISBN: 9780203803608
Adobe ISBN: 9781136634734


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The field of security studies has been significantly redefined over the last few decades. The term ‘security’ has become a highly debated concept. Its conventional definition has been questioned and the term is now the object of multiple interpretations. In its narrow definition, security is related to the threat or use of military force. The state, and especially its defence from external military attacks, is considered as the exclusive focus of security policy. Military security is by definition based on the notion that security should be promoted against potential or actual enemies. States, therefore, operate in an anarchical system where individual actors are responsible for their own security. Security is approached in competitive and zero-sum terms. This understanding is at the core of strategic studies and is intellectually rooted in realism, the leading school of International Relations (IR) since the late 1930s (Morgenthau 1948 and further editions; Waltz 1979). Realists have continued to discuss security exclusively in military terms. Walt has famously stated, for instance, that security studies must be about ‘the study of the threat, use, and control of military force’ (Walt 1991: 211–240). The usefulness of adopting a narrow definition of security is questionable, however. The concept is limited to interstate military relations while economic, societal, political and environmental matters are mostly if not completely ignored.

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