Security in international relations IR3140

This course provides insights and understanding of order and stability both within and between states.

A common misunderstanding is to equate security with defence, but the security agenda is much broader than this and now includes along side questions of force and military preparedness, problems and policies to do with human and minority rights, migration, poverty, the environment, and other societal issues. Security in international relations is increasingly concerned not only with the safety of states but also of the peoples within them.

What students take away from this course is an understanding of security as a core value of human life and an awareness that security policies will vary depending upon how one answers the key questions: security in (or of) what; security from what; and security by what means.


If taken as part of a BSc degree, courses which must be passed before this course may be attempted:

  • IR1011 Introduction to international relations.

Topics covered

The idea and value of security:

  • Key assumptions of security
  • Security of the state and security of the person
  • Normative vs instrumental approaches to security
  • Three paradigms of security

The state as a security arrangement: 

  • Security of the prince
  • Security of the people
  • Nation states and national security

National security: current issues and contemporary application: 

  • National security as a reciprocal arrangement
  • National security policies
  • National security and deterrence
  • National security and the war on terror
  • National security in authoritarian states
  • Security in weak, failed or quasi-states

International society as a security arrangement: 

  • International security and the problem of disorder
  • International security
  • The balance of power and the concert of great powers

International security: current issues and contemporary application:

  • The international security paradigm in operation
  • Military Intervention
  • Nuclear Non-proiferation
  • Climate Change
  • Why International Security is Difficult to Achieve

Human security as an alternative to national and international security:

  • State-centred approached to security
  • A person centred approach to security
  • Instruments of human security

Human security - current issues and contemporary applications: 

  • Achievements of human security
  • Problems with human security
  • Overcoming the problems of human security
  • Towards a Responsibility to Protect (R2P)

Security paradigms in conflict - the problems of intervention: 

  • Different paradigms, different priorities
  • Origins of the problem of military intervention
  • Current justifications for military intervention
  • Military intervention for international peace and security: Iraq
  • Military intervention for national security: Bosnia-Herzegovina and Afghanistan
  • Military intervention for human security: Kosovo; Military Intervention after R2P: Darfur

Learning outcomes

If you complete the course successfully, you should be able to:

  • A critical understanding of the issues involved in security policy decision making
  • An understanding of the contexts, pressures and constraints with which security policy-makers have to deal
  • An ability to engage in comparative analysis of security policy without losing a sense of historical context.


Unseen written exam (3 hrs).

Essential reading

  • Bain, W. (ed.). The Empire of Security and the Safety of the People. London: Routledge.
  • Buzan, Barry. People, States and Fear: An Agenda for International Security Studies in the Post Cold War Era. London: Pearson
  • Hough, Peter. Understanding Global Security. London: Routledge.
  • Economides, Spyros and Mats Berdal (eds). United Nations Interventionism, 1991–2004. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Course information sheets

Download the course information sheets from the LSE website.