The Global Covenant: Human Conduct in a World of States

By Robert Jackson | Go to book overview

8 Security in a Pluralist World

The normative aspects of security are often ignored by positivist international relations scholars who preoccupy themselves with instrumental questions, such as deterrence strategy, defence policy, coercive diplomacy, and the like. 1 They are often confused by post-positivists who have difficulty distinguishing ethics from ideology. Security is not only or even primarily an instrumental question. Nor is it an ideological question. It is a moral question. Security is a foundation value of human relations. It is a core subject of political theory as well as international theory. This chapter renovates the classical approach which strives to arrive at a clear understanding of what security in international human relations involves. What is the character and modus operandi of security as a value? What is the role of the state and what are the responsibilities of statespeople when it comes to the provision of security? Who are the main clients of security? Individuals? States? The society of states? What is the role of the great powers? Is there a discernible cosmopolitan right of human security? The chapter presents preliminary answers to these questions that clear a path to the interrogation of several closely related questions in subsequent chapters.


The Value of Security

Thomas Hobbes is the foremost political theorist of security and anyone who wishes to understand the subject would be well-advised to start with some of his insights. Without security, according to Hobbes, 'there is no place for industry . . . no arts, no letters, no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short'. 2 That might seem like an overstatement but it will only seem that way to people who are fortunate enough to live in successful states that enable them to take security more or less for granted. But that is not the case for many people today. And it was not the case for Hobbes in seventeenth-century

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