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State Security, Human Security, and the Problem of Complementarity


The concept of human security has been proposed as a more comprehensive, analytical, humane, and reform-oriented approach than traditional views of state security. But, many commentators, including a United Nations commission, insist that human security and state security are complementary, mutually dependent perspectives. This view, which understates the clash between the two doctrines, is well intended but mistaken. Efforts to describe their relationship in terms of separate or overlapping spheres of praxis have not been successful. Particularly in the post-Cold War period, when the prevailing structure of global politics has become imperial, a failure to understand that human security and imperial power are incompatible threatens to convert the former doctrine into an imperial ideology.


  • Human security
  • State security
  • Hard power
  • Soft power
  • Complementarity
  • Empire

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Rubenstein, R.E. (2017). State Security, Human Security, and the Problem of Complementarity. In: Jacob, E. (eds) Rethinking Security in the Twenty-First Century. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

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