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 SSC 354 - Security in the Post-Cold War Era


Security - a concept referring broadly to the protection of human life from threatening forces- has traditionally been thought of in International Relations in purely military terms, relating to the threat and avoidance of conflict between national states. A typical approach to this field therefore refers to ‘the study of the threat, use and control of military force’ (Walt 1991), placing it firmly at the centre of the traditional concerns of Realist theory. Yet since the end of the Cold War in 1989-91 there has been something of a paradigm shift in both International Relations and Security Studies. First, there was a ‘Widening’ of the subject area of Security Studies. With the contest between the superpowers no longer defining the direction of international affairs, from the 1980s onwards greater attention was given to issues that had previously been marginalised in highlevel diplomacy, such as environmental degradation, economic security, energy and natural resources, etc. The absence of Cold War tensions enabled these issues to be brought more onto the global political agenda.

Second, there was also a trend towards ‘Deepening’ in Security Studies. This referred to the shift of emphasis away from the security of the national state towards a greater concern for the security of the individual. This recognised that the national state was in fact not so much the defender of the individual’s security, as in some cases the principle threat to an individual’s security. This has given rise to an increasing interest in Human Security and claims by some that the underlying assumptions of Security Studies as a whole need to be rewritten. This course aims to provide the students with an in depth-overview of the field of International Security in the Post-Cold War Era.

  • The first part of the course focuses on concepts, general approaches and theoretical frameworks of international security in today’s world. Special attention is given here to the approach of Constructivism, Securitisation, and Human Security. Constructivism has criticised the inability of Realism and orthodox International Relations theory to understand the importance of ideas, identity, and interests within foreign policymaking. The concept of ‘Securitisation’ as developed by Barry Buzan and the so-called Copenhagen School of Security Studies has widened the field of activities that fall under the heading of ‘national security’. And Human Security has provided a whole new paradigm for security thinking, shifting the emphasis away from the national state and more towards the provision of basic needs.
  • The second part of the course tries to get an overall perspective into the main security challenges in the world up to 2030, based upon publications of authoritative institutions. The Global Risk Report of the World Economic Forum (2013) points to Economic, Environmental, Geopolitical, Societal and Technological challenges. The Global Trends 2030 Report of the US National Security Council identifies Megatrends, Game-Changers and Potential Words.
  • The third part of the course focuses on an analysis of the national security policy and geostrategy of some of the main powers (or defence spenders) in the world; the United States of America, the Russian Federation, the People’s Republic of China, the United Kingdom, France, the European Union as a whole, India, Brazil, Japan, Saudi Arabia. Students will (learn to) analyse, with the help of the concepts and schools of thought from the first part, the national security policy and geostrategy of these countries.
  • The fourth part of the course discusses the widening and broadening of security in today’s world; from traditional military security to economic security, energy security, environmental security and societal security. We will link these to current issues in today’s international relations. The cases are the following; economic security and the French ‘guèrre economique’, energy security in China and Japan, environmental security: the ENVSEC-initiative in Central Asia (UN and OSCE), societal security and international migration into Europe’s capitals.
  • The fifth part of the course discusses current topics of international security; weapons of mass destruction: North Korea, regime securiy, failed states and terrorism: Mali, piracy and the policies of the Anglo-Saxon world (Somalia, Yemen), the introduction of US-drones in Pakistan/Afghanistan, health and security: the case of HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa, cyber security and the United States of America.
  • The sixth part of the course will look at international negotiation, from a theoretical point of view, but especially also the practical side. The course ends with a negotiation simulation on a matter of high importance for – probably – the North Atlantic Council - NATO (case to be announced later).
  • In the last part of the course, we appraise Security Studies as a body of literature and science. Also, students evaluate and reflect on their own personal and academic growth and development in the course.
  • Throughout the course, each week, students will briefly present current case studies of international security in a Weekly Security Analysis. These combine a certain dimension of security in a well-circumscribed geographical area.
Dr. David Criekemans


Political Science 


The following course is required in order to take this course:

  • SSC 251 Foundations of Comparative Politics
  • SSC 255 Theories of International Relations​​

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