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How Many Meanings Does Security Have To This Day?

The famous Sculpture of the Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd in front of the United Nations headquarters in New York [Photo] - Rick Bajornas

Security has always been a core value in traditional civilizations, but it has emerged as a critical value in modern international relations, particularly since the Cold War's end. As time passed, the concept of security grew to include individual, societal, global, and human security. As a result, the notion of security must shift from territorial security to people security, from armaments-based security to security based on long-term human development. The concept of security must be broadened to cover other domains such as the economy, food, health, the environment, and human beings.

To start with, security is a term that invokes necessity and makes people feel free from the concern of going into dangerous situations. At the base of the concept of security lies that of insecurity. Concerns about risk usher in deep anxieties about security. The more we are uncertain, the greater our sense of insecurity is. Like a risk, security is socially produced, whereas risk threatens security promises. It gives people both a sense of being safe and the means to achieve that. It promises a condition in which risk is non-existent, neutralized, or avoided. While the non-existence of the risk is utopian, the desire for neutralization or avoidance of risk provides the rationale for the relentless pursuit of security. The attraction of such circularity has led to the recasting of many socio-political problems as security measures. The pursuit of security is as much about security providers seeking raison d’etres for their operations as it is about risk prevention.

Since ancient times, societies have felt the need to establish mechanisms of security to protect themselves from external dangers. However, until the advent of Westphalian society, the concept of security was primarily based uniquely on the territorial aspect. Governments provided armies and any other useful means to counter anyone who intended to attack their cities and possessions. There was no idea of ensuring security for citizens other than territorial security. With the advent of the Westfalian community, the focus moved from cities to the state, making it the referent object of security. Even though the preferred term was national security, this was a misnomer when applied globally and only appropriate in those exceptional cases where nation and state happened to be coterminous. This international system was supposed by anarchic and consist of sovereign states, each pursuing its national interest, defined in terms of power or, somewhat more modestly, in terms of security in the sense of survival. Furthermore, this universe was characterized by strife, since the aforementioned national interests inevitably collided, hence the pervasiveness of competition, conflict, and war. Since states were thus inherently insecure, they were well advised being sure their power would suffice to parry threats from other states to their sovereignty. As far as the system was concerned, the best safeguard of peace would presumably be a "balance of power".

A map of different meaning of security [Image] - Algerian Encyclopedia of Political and Strategic Studies

Security as a more universal concept has become the main focus of international relations, as a result of the aftermath of the massacre of the First World War and the urgent need to put a stop to such horrific events from re-occurring again; thus this coined the discipline of international relations in 1919. The balance of powers based on military security was accompanied by the system for the maintenance of peace and security based on the first international organization with sanctioning powers, the League of Nations. However, with the advent of the Second World War and its cruelty discovered at its end, the states understood that even the people physical security had to assume a central role within the new international system founded on the United Nations. Thus, the concept of security was further broadened to a sphere that had never been considered before. However, the advent of the Cold War brought back that concept of security based on the balance of power between the two blocs. This climate of uncertainty, however, was guaranteed to a certain extent by the action of the United Nations, which through targeted actions aimed at protecting international security.

Kids in a village at lunchtime [Photo]- UN news.

International security was determined basically by the internal and external security of the various social systems, by the extent, in general, to which system identity depends on external circumstances. Experts generally have defined social security as internal security; the essential function was to ensure the political and economic power of a given ruling class or the survival of the social system and an adequate degree of public security. In the traditional approach, security is perceived as a military phenomenon as the military were said to protect its territory from threats posed by other armed forces of other states, as “a state and its society can be in their terms, secure in the political, economic, societal and environmental dimensions, and yet all these accomplishments can be undone by military failure. Thus, military security was mainly about identifying real and feasible enemies that posed a threat to its state and eliminating them either by acquiring more military might or by allying with other states to possess the required power or force needed. Outside of military security, no other form of security was envisaged, since nation-states only focused on their interests and focused on balance policies.

Only during the short period between the end of World War Two and the fall of the Berlin Wall has security not been the main concern of individuals, in particular in more developed societies. This short period is also the period of change from industrial to post- industrial societies and of the change from industrial capitalism to financial capitalism. However, with the advent of the globalisation and most of all in the last years, security has gained prominence in other domains of international relations, in addition to the military one. In fact, issues such as cyber security and data protection have become central. It is clear that with the advent of modernity and globalisation, threats to security have become increasingly connected. In particular, the internet has led to the implementation of cyber security and data protection measures. The global proliferation of actors, even non-state, with high attack capabilities, the increasing sophistication and the intrinsic unattainability of the cyber threat, the growing pervasiveness of technologies connected to the network are all elements that, together, redefine the very concept of frontier, and have a significant impact on international relations. Faced with the threats that emanate from cyberspace, an entire country system becomes the playing field of a confrontation that takes place globally and whose rules and implications are not yet fully explored. Every day, people can be victims of cyberattacks aimed at the theft of identity or sensitive data, thus endangering their personal security. However, implementing effective cybersecurity measures is particularly challenging since hackers are becoming increasingly innovative.

Secure your network [Image] - Focusbanker

In conclusion, international relations have seen a development of the concept of security over the centuries. Starting as a territorial type, the concept of security has expanded even more to other fields belonging to the modern world. Security is conceived in the periods between the two Wars exclusively as military security, not realizing the international society the requirement to protect other aspects linked to human life. However, with the evolution of society and its needs, states have become aware of the existence of new dimensions to be protected; therefore, new measures have been created to give security to people in specific fields, such as privacy and data protection. Even though these are different areas in which security must act, the need to ensure security for people in every domain is at the core of international relations.



Image references

  • The famous Sculpture of the Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd in front of the United Nations headquarters in New York [Photo] - Rick Bajornas

  • A map of different meaning of security [Image] - Algerian Encyclopedia of Political and Strategic Studies:

  • Kids in a village at lunchtime [Photo]- UN news.

  • Secure your network [Image] - Focusbanker

1 Comment

In the realm of digital security, EDR cyber security stands out as a crucial aspect, focusing on the detection and response to threats at the endpoint level. This specific meaning of security highlights the importance of safeguarding devices and data from cyber attacks, ensuring that organizations can operate safely in an increasingly connected and vulnerable digital landscape.

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Federica Panico

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