The Evolving Dialectic between State-Centric and Human-Centric Security

Author/s (editor/s):

Pauline Kerr

Publication year:


Publication type:

Working paper

Find this publication at:
IR Working Paper 2003/2 (PDF, 3.11MB)

Pauline Kerr, ‘The Evolving Dialectic between State-Centric and Human-Centric Security’, IR Working Paper 2003/2, Canberra: Department of International Relations, Research School of Pacific and Asian Affairs, The Australian National University, September 2003.

This paper makes three main arguments. First, a critique of both the traditional state-centric approach to security and the more recently articulated human-centric approach suggests that each is necessary but not sufficient to address the contemporary security agenda. Second, there is however conceptual and empirical evidence that shows there is an evolving dialectic between these two approaches which is producing new thinking about security. The dialectic is between two referent objects, the state and people, between internal and external threats to these referent objects and between the various military and non-military means for enhancing the security of each. The dialectic also involves causal and constitutive connections between these elements. The final argument is that this evolving dialectic suffers from a number of problems, not least of which is the difficulty of achieving a balance between the two approaches on any given security issue. Nonetheless, in principle a dialectic between the state-centric and human-centric approaches offers a promising way of addressing the contemporary security agenda of state, trans-state and intra-state security issues and the connections between them.

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