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PAIR6046 Security Theory (15)

Module Overview

This module provides an overview of theoretical perspectives on security, broadly defined. Drawing on classic and contemporary literature from International Relations and other academic disciplines, we consider the nature of security as a state-of-being or socio-political practice, and we inquire into a series of fundamental questions: security of what? Security for whom? Against what? Over what time period? By what means? At what cost? Throughout the module, attention focuses on what security means in theory and practice, what it could become, and what security should be about and why. The module is informed by ongoing research in the Department of Politics and International Relations (PAIR), and it complements other modules that explore global governance, global ethics, foreign policy, and military strategy. For students enrolled in the MSc International Security and Risk degree, the theory-driven approach in Security Theory complements the issue-based approach in Contemporary Security Challenges (PAIR6002).

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aims of this module are: - to introduce students to the central debates about the meaning and purpose of security in a global political context, - to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to assess critically the descriptive and normative arguments and categories invoked in these debates, - to analyse how these arguments and categories might be affected by the changing character of social and political relationships, and - to relate such an analysis to contemporary and historical manifestations of security discourse and practice.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Identify and explain contending theories of security.
  • Distinguish between and engage in different modes of theoretical reasoning applicable to claimed security problems.
  • Identify, analyse and critique the political and/or ethical assumptions underpinning particular security policies and practices.
  • Critically assess the applicability of descriptive and normative security theories to past and present political challenges arising in world affairs.
  • Generate new, theory-driven ideas for responding effectively to claimed security problems.
  • Demonstrate an ability to integrate theoretical and empirical knowledge when explaining or advancing arguments about security.


Drawing on ideas and information from within and beyond the academic discipline of International Relations, Security Theory explores the nature and purpose of ‘security’ as a state-of-being or socio-political practice. Through a series of in-depth, research-led seminars, student will have an opportunity to engage critically with a diversity of theoretical perspectives on security in a global political context. Theoretical frameworks to be explored in the module may include: realist and liberal perspectives; Marxist and feminist perspectives; constructivism and securitization theory; risk theory; security as biopolitics; emancipation and the idea of ‘human security’; strategic theory; and Just War theory.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Student learning will be achieved through a combination of interactive lectures, group-based tutorial discussions and debates, and independent study. Learning activities and assessment tasks are designed to encourage critical thinking, intellectual autonomy, and evidence-based argument.

Guided independent study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Columba Poeples and Nick Vaughan-Williams (2010). Critical Security Studies: An Introduction. 

Michael Sheehan (2005). International Security: An Analytical Survey. 

Ronnie Lipschutz (ed.) (1995). On Security. 

Michael Walzer (2006). Just and Unjust Wars: a Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations. 

Alex J. Bellamy (2006). Just Wars: From Cicero to Iraq. 

Annick T. R. Wibben (2011). Feminist Security Studies: A narrative approach. 

Thierry Balzacq (ed.), (2011). Securitization Theory: How Security Problems Emerge and Dissolve. 

C. A. J. Coady (2008). Morality and Political Violence. 

David Fisher (2011). Morality and War: Can War be Just in the Twenty-First Century?. 

Ken Booth and Nicholas J. Wheeler (2008). The Security Dilemma: Fear, Cooperation and Trust in World Politics. 

David A. Baldwin (1997). The Concept of Security. Review of International Studies 23. ,23 , pp. 5-26.

Simon Rushton (2011). 'Global Health Security: Security for Whom? Security from What?’. Political Studies. ,4 .

Ken Booth (ed.) (2005). Critical Security Studies and World Politics. 

Paul D. Williams (ed.), (2013). Security Studies: An Introduction. 

J. Peter Burgess (ed.) (2010). The Routledge Handbook of New Security Studies. 

Arnold Wolfers (1952). â€˜National Security” as an Ambiguous Symbol’. Political Science Quarterly. ,67 , pp. 481-502.

Barry Buzan, Ole Waever, and Jaap de Wilde (1998). Security. A New Framework for Analysis. 

Barry Buzan (1991). People, States and Fear: An Agenda for International Security Studies in the Post-Cold War Era. 

Myriam Dunn Cavelty and Victor Mauer (eds.) (2010). The Routledge Handbook of Security Studies. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3000 words) 60%
Essay  (2000 words) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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