Peace and Security: Two Evolving Concepts and Their Changing Relationship

  • Ole Wæver
Part of the Hexagon Series on Human and Environmental Security and Peace book series (HSHES, volume 3)


At least one thing about security seems to be agreed on by most authors — it is something good. In other words, the very term ‘security’ is positively value-loaded. And precisely for this reason much less agreement exists on what clear meaning to attach to that word (Wiberg 1987: 340).


National Security Security Council Human Security International Peace Security Study 
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  1. 2.
    This statement refers to the whole literature starting out in the large 1970’s and gaining momentum in the 1980’s, arguing for new or widened concepts of security–from the ‘common security’ of the Palme Commission (Palme 1982) to various articles “Redefining Security” (Ullman 1983; Mathews 1989) mostly with reference to the environment. This 1980’s literature mostly argued straightforward and in empirical terms for ‘widening’ in order to get a more ‘correct’ security concept, without much reflection on the politics and the sociology of science hereof. The ‘wideners’ (so labelled and discussed in Buzan/Wæver/de Wilde 1998) transmuted in the 1990’s especially in Europe — into a more theoretical literature organized around various new’ schools’: Critical Security Studies, Copenhagen School, Paris School, feminism, etc., which sometimes meant more attention to’ security’ as such, but often stayed at the level of using security in discussions between different applications of security. A notable exception, already reflecting on the concept of security as such was People, States and Fear by Barry Buzan (1983).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    This is implicit in most mainstream writings, where it is assumed that we all know what is security is from our everyday experience, and now we discuss how to attain the same at the level of states. This becomes most explicit in some of the more conceptual pieces from within the mainstream: Baldwin 1997).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    The terms ‘negative peace’ and ‘positive peace’ stem from the Norwegian peace research pioneer Johan Gaining. It does not mean ‘bad’ and ‘good’; the idea is basically, that negative peace is defined purely negatively, by what it is not, i.e. the absence of violence. Positive peace is social justice. Positive peace eliminates the root causes of war and violence. They were hardly present as two separate concepts much earlier, and therefore it is a consciously anachronistic observation to ask here whether a concept like ‘negative peace’ could be thought at that time. As the history here shows, the concept of peace emerged out of a quite ambitious basically ‘positive peace’-like concept of general order into an increasingly narrow concept of non-war, and this enabled the Galtungian clarification of the two concepts (Galtung 1964, 1969).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Seen from the third world and mobilized mostly through the non-aligned movement, both concepts were useful strategically as part of a ‘third party positioning’: peace as the larger, more programmatic basis for principled arguments and thereby useful in the recurrent pattern of cooperation of the Soviet bloc with the third world for instance in UN organs; and security was useful mostly at the ‘unit level’, i.e. pointing to the kind of security problems relevant to third world situations (Ayoob 1995). Both slogans could be adopted by the South and to some extent played back at its senders in respectively the East and the West. Most characteristic of third world approaches was probably a ‘positive peace’-like logic of development as precondition for long term stability and security. During they heydays of ‘New International Economic Order’ in the 1970s, the issue of development and disarmament became established in the UN system. The 1980 report from the Brandt Commission (Brandt 1980) aimed at showing the self-interest of the North in development for the South, and consequently development was cast as an issue of ultimate security interest — in a wider sense — thus paving the way for the new security theories of the 1980s.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Noras we saw above (cf. Wæver 2006) — was’ security’ in its Cold War meaning actually a well established theoretical term in the West (although it was believed to be), but this was less of a problem in a less text-based political culture.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    It might even be argued that the dynamic of movements like the peace movement demands a dualism of radical activists and reformist scholars or policymakers (Wæver 1989, 1997: ch. 6). The movement creates rupture from without through forms of politics (marching in the street) and languages (peace instead of security) that ultimate play on the metaphorics of revolution and people power. However, this ability to challenge and frighten the meaning system of the establishment by transgression, also makes the movement mute on the inside of the system — it speaks the street speak of peace. It is therefore crucial that the direction of its impetus is guided by reinterpretation within the language of security — thus the dualism.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    In the 1980’s, peace researchers especially in Germany but also in e.g. Denmark, Sweden, and the UK worked on devising ‘alternative defence’, ‘non-aggressive defence’ or ‘non-offensive defence’. Although the focal concept here was not security but defence, the organizing concept was in many cases security, typically in the form of common security and the theory of the security dilemma (Herz 1950; Jervis 1976).The idea was to break the typical pattern of insecurity, arms races, and deterrence, by ensuring that both parties felt secure with a defence strong enough compared to the offence of the other side, but in a form that did not create insecurity for the other, i.e. a defence tailored truly as defence. By ensuring stability at the conventional level, much of the impetus would be removed also from the nuclear system which was partly driven by at least rhetoric of propping up insufficient Western defences against Soviet conventional superiority (Boserup 1986, 1988). The best overviews of this whole literature are found in Møller 1991, 1992. Through networks like Pugwash, these ideas entered the Soviet ‘think tank ‘circles (the institutes) and it is often claimed that they had decisive influence on the formation of Gorbachev’s ‘new thinking’ (Risse-Kappen 1994; English 2005)Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    Beyond these two original projects, many other significant developments took place at the institute including the work around Pertti Joenniemi on Baltic regionalism, Hans Mouritzen’s theories of small state adaptation, work by Ulla Holm, Lene Hansen and others on national identity and foreign policy, etc. COPRI was de facto closed, technically merged into the larger semiofficial DIIS, the Danish Institute of International Studies, a think tank with closer ties to the foreign ministry. About COPRI, see: Guzzini/ Jung 2004 and the cumulative publication lists on COPRI_publications/COPRI_publications/publications/ wor kingpapers.htm; doc.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    This blackmail against Russia was re-played in 2006–7, when Russian opposition to US unilateralism in general (Putin’s big Munich speech in February 2007) and to American missile defence plans in particular were handled in the Western press almost uniformly in terms of what silliness or bad habits led Russia to re-create the Cold War, not in terms of possibly legitimate objections to a US world order strategy that increasingly floated as military practice void of political legitimization since the decline of neo-conservatism (Wæver 2007a).Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    A revealing way to see the two disciplines is to compare two recent textbooks, such as Kolodziej 2005 and Collins 2007, not to take cases with an even larger distance like Jordan/Taylor/Mazarr 1998 and Huysmans 2006.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ole Wæver
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political Science, CSSCopenhagen KDenmark

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