Security Dilemma

free essayThe end of the Cold War has led not only to the transformation of the relations between states, but also to a review of security priorities, as well as the search for new theoretical approaches that allow to understand changes in the world. One of them offers a sociological view of international relations. The main object of study and the main actor of international relations is the state. The character of relations between states can be considered unchanged, as follows from the immutability of human nature. Despite the fact that classical realism was the basis for all the later directions of realism, due to its eclectic nature it cannot be proposed as an optimal analysis method. The framework of classical realism gets political pragmatism on one hand, and the desire to draw a general conceptual idea of foreign policy on the other hand. This approach, however, had not answered the fact whether moral constraints affect the external policies. None of the basic concepts of classical realism have precise definitions. However, this was the essence of realism in the framework of which the term of security dilemma was inserted.

The essence of the security dilemma lies in the fact that most of the actions that the country is taking to enhance its security reduce the security of other countries, because they lose their relative strength. It is important to mention that the term “security dilemma” is closely linked with the notion of “balance of power.” The term “balance of power” in the framework of classical realism is used to define various concepts, depending on the context. Hence, it may refer to the balance of power in the international arena. On the other hand, politics of the balance of power may also be called a policy that is aimed at preserving its own dominance on the international scene. The balance of power in both cases is the result of a struggle for power and the clashes between the states seeking to expand their opportunities and those who are more advantageous to maintain the status.

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At its core, the concept of the security dilemma is stored in neorealism and is virtually unchanged. The amount of security in the world arena tends to increase security in general. In other words, one reactor leads to the reduction of another one. However, conversion of power from the point of the state is a tool. The emergence of a new category of security would not affect the analysis of the behavior of the state in a security dilemma. On a separate note, neo-realism in all its manifestations is taken by relatively few into account as the economic value of military build-up, since achieving the military objective is always the first priority, the economic costs of which the states must accept.

The first position underlies the sociological approach to the study of safety, the research reflects the shift of emphasis from the state to society. The political science investigates the events and processes in the international arena ‘from above,’ with the states’ positions. Considering their interests and concepts in the field of foreign and defense policy, sociology approaches the study of international ‘bottom’ of relations on the part of social groups that construe their own judgments and views on the current situation. This approach brings together the sociology of international relations and political sociology, the study sponding policy through humans, social groups, their consciousness and behavior.

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Barter (80) concerns, first of all, the social community, and only then – the individuals. Therefore, in the modern system of international relations the main object of the state should be considered safe. However, non-state, ethnic and cultural communities should also be considered important units of analysis from the point of view of security and security dilemma.

Along with the definition of society as a security object, Barter (81) extends the list of possible threats to the five major sectors: military, political, economic, societal, and environmental. Particular importance for the development of a sociological approach to the study of security is the introduction of the category of the societal security, which is defined as resistance within acceptable conditions for the development of traditional patterns of language, culture and religion, national identity, customs, and traditions. It should be noted that societal security needs to be distinguished from social security, which is relevant to the individual level of analysis and is impacted predominantly by economic factors.

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Societal security, in turn, is connected to ensuring the existence of large groups that share a common identity. In other words, it can be defined as ‘security identity.’ However, despite the expansion of the list of safety facilities and the inclusion of social groups that share a common identity, Baskerville (239) emphasizes that the security content is determined by the ultimate interests of the state. For example, societal security is important not only to the existence of groups, but also for the survival of the state. This identity has a significance that allows the state to preserve the viability, even in the case of temporary loss of the physical basis – the territory and institutions. If members of the society are divided in accordance with the ideological, cultural, or religious factors, party and regional interests, ethnic or class loyalty, this creates a security risk. Thus, Baskerville (239) believes that the fragmentation of society and the inability of the political elite to follow the interests of the state lead to serious errors in the perception of threats. Lack of integration of the ideas is able to put the state at a disadvantage in the international arena, because it can not maintain its existence in a competitive environment.

The issue of the security dilemma is connected with the notions of terrorism and globalization. For example, the acts of terrorism which take place in the numerous countries (because of the military events in Asia) urge the authorities to make a decision to forbid any sort of weapons. On the other hand, they understand that only weapons can sustain security. In the process of globalization, political terrorism acquires the following new features: an unprecedented scale and cruelty of the methods to achieve their goals, networking flexibility, and relative independence from information of external translators. Global terrorism is different from the international one, because it poses problems of a global nature, associated with dysfunctions of the entire world system. The acts of global terrorism can be carried out both in the global and in local areas. Globalization reduces dependence on external media terrorists, as they appear their own relay agent. These properties significantly complicate the fight against terrorism only by force. Modern anti-terrorist strategies must take into account the position and the conclusions of the latest theoretical developments in the field of security, in particular the theory of ‘peripheral realism’ (considering security problems from the standpoint of countries at the periphery of the world system) with its key idea of the relationship of security and development.

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Such views can also be found in the works by Glaser (111). He refers to two factors as the “insecurity dilemma.” The insecurity dilemma goes in contrast to the “security dilemma” of political realists. First, the “weak” state is relatively free of external threats because it is defended by the international system. Second, it is itself a threat against its own population. Inside the “weak” states unsafe situations have always been known to form, and the main referent object of security appears to be an individual, who is an ordinary citizen. The concept of “weak’ states spawned the term “failed state” or “non-state.” Not every “weak” state is “failed” from the point of view of security dilemma. Moreover, a strong repressive apparatus of the “weak” state may in some time compensate the lack of cohesion, as can be seen in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. A “failed state” is most often characterized by civil wars, humanitarian disasters, or a total collapse of control (examples: Afghanistan, Liberia, Somalia, Sierra Leone), when the power goes to the private security structures, insurgents, or mafia.

In different dynamic modes one and the same set of factors can give essentially different results. The risk of a crisis is significantly increased if the speaker becomes chaotic, or changes with a high degree of intensity. One of the key features of these dynamics is increasing resource scarcity and resource pressure rise of the limitations. Chaotization dynamics leads to an increase in uncertainty and creates a state of instability of the system. The worsening security dilemma between the major centers of power is due to the high political uncertainty and instability. As a result, the situation becomes vulnerable to the impact of even the most minor fluctuations and factors that can trigger it abrupt and irreversible escalation.

The term “security dilemma” belongs purely to the international relations field of expertise. The international relations theories differ in the offered ways to solve the problem, but they all agree that the anarchy and the security dilemma are objective prerequisites for international relations. Searching for solutions for the anarchy problem has become a powerful impetus for the development of the theory of defense. Certainly, there was a category of the order of one of the key.

The process of the release of limitations is a very common scenario. In terms of development, it creates new opportunities for growth, albeit fraught with ‘soap bubbles.’ But, in terms of the power, it generates risks for the system of international relations. Mutual power capacity, expressed for example in the form of defense spendings, may well increase uncertainty and exacerbate the security dilemma. This is the scenario of an arms race. The threat of ‘reckoning’ for bloated military spendings could cause the outbreak of war. As liberals and Marxists would say, the political elite finds it easier to start a war than to respond to the citizens of their respective countries on the subject of the fall of indices. It is understood that the higher the intensity of going beyond the limits, the higher the risk.

The threat and the process of learning do not traditionally fall within the scope of sociological research. They are the object of study of political and military sciences, psychology, and history. An exception is the analysis of public opinions about the existing security risks for the individuals, society, and state, as well as identifying those features of social and political relations that are associated with images in the mass consciousness of states, including the image of the enemy. In the past decade, foreign and domestic threats are studied by sociology in the light of the associated risks.

In accordance with the security dilemma, the threats posed by man are not homogeneous in their characteristics and can be divided into intentional (social) and unintentional (structural). An example of deliberate threats can be an ultimatum when the subject openly expressed the intention to cause harm to others in the event of requirements non-compliance. The threat should be understood not merely as the effect of certainty in these circumstances, external conditions, one-way processes, and as a result of the relationship between subjects. This reaction to the conditions, imposed by threatening the subject, lead to a new round interaction, which can be a result of the requirements of subordination, resistance, or extension counter threats. Thus, as stressed by Johnson (25), a threat is one of the types of relationships that has the property of the organization of social systems. Thus, this type of relationship is of interest to sociology. An example of an unintended or structural threat is the situation of occurrence of the security dilemma.


Its essence consists in the fact that when the state is increasing the number weapons for defensive purposes, it can be perceived by other participants in international relations as a threat. In other words, the strengthening of defense of the country without the intention to harm, according to the definition, should not be seen as a threat to other countries. The theoretical significance of the study of the structural risks is associated with the search for the answer to the question of whether the absence of a subject may be the intention to cause harm and act as a sufficient reason for its action on the military-industrial capacity complex to no longer be regarded as threatening.

On the other hand, it would be incorrect to consider structural threats to be a component devoid of intentions, because in any case they are the result of purposeful, deliberate social actions. In other words, although the emergence of the security dilemma is not associated with a plan to cause harm, it is based on well-thought-out, planned government actions to ensure their safety.

Thus, to sum up, any deliberate action can not be completely spontaneous and depend solely on the desire of the subject. It is always ‘structured,’ i.e. derived from the existing rules of the system under which relations are developing threats. The considered hazard classification of sources allows us to refine the definition of a formulated earlier threat. It is a kind of subject-subject relationship, which is a part of the existing social structure. As a last favor, established security architecture provided by the contracts concluded the established military-political alliances, elaborated the norms and rules of interaction, and shared ideas about areas of vulnerability and major hazards. The theoretical significance of this definition is that it puts the safety of existing ones and threats to the problem of collective and individual relations, agents, and social structure at the center of the study.

Finally, in essence of the security dilemma, it is important to choose between ‘securitization’ and the militarization of development on one hand and complete individualization of problems of security on the other hand, which is a false dilemma. Despite the apparent contrast between two approaches to the relationship of security and development, both ultimately contribute to the strengthening of the subordinate position of the developing countries. It is necessary to realize that weakening and strengthening of the economically emerging countries are not the major problems of global development and security.