Regions and Powers: The Structure of International Security

By Barry Buzan; Ole Wæver | Go to book overview

1
Theories and histories about the
structure of contemporary
international security

This chapter starts by sketching out the three main perspectives on the structure of international security. The second section gives a short history of regional security, and the third reflects on the legacies of that past for states and regions.


Three theoretical perspectives on the post-Cold
War security order

The three principal theoretical perspectives on post-Cold War international security structure are neorealist, globalist, and regionalist. What do we mean by 'structure' in this context? We are using it in broadly Waltzian (1979) terms to mean the principles of arrangement of the parts in a system, and how the parts are differentiated from each other. But our range is wider than the neorealist formulation (though we incorporate it) because we want: (a) to look at structural perspectives other than the neorealist one; and (b) to privilege the regionalist perspective.

The neorealist perspective is widely understood and, since we will have more to say about it in chapter 2, does not need to be explained at length here. It is state-centric, and rests on an argument about power polarity: if not bipolarity, then necessarily either unipolarity or multipolarity (or some hybrid). This debate is about the distribution of material power in the international system, which in neorealism determines the global political (and thereby also security) structure, and the interplay of this with balance-of-power logic. Its interpretation of the post-Cold War structure of international security assumes that there has been a change of power structure at the global level (the end of bipolarity), and its concern is to identify the nature of that change in order to infer the security consequences. Neorealism does not question the primacy of the global level,

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