Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
thesis_access.pdf (631.09 kB)

The Utility of Critical and Human Security Approaches and Perspectives in Contemporary Settings

Download (631.09 kB)
posted on 2021-11-12, 15:54 authored by Lynch, Matthew Ian

This thesis seeks to demonstrate that Critical and Human Security approaches and perspectives – under conditions associated with the ‘globalisation of security’ and the ‘bifurcation of the security environment’ – should be increasingly influential in shaping New Zealand’s contemporary approach to Security. ‘Security’ exists as a fundamental and legitimate quest for all Humankind. It is accepted as a core organising principle within societies, states and the international system, with efforts to preserve security central to the human condition. Critically though – within contemporary settings – the idea and concept of security is increasingly proving to be so weakly developed as to be inadequate for task. In the 21st Century, insecurity not only remains, but is intensifying globally. It is becoming one of the primary development challenges of our time, while today, one-and-a-half billion people continue to live in areas affected by social fragility, unrelenting competition, conflict and violence. The persistence of such alarming degrees of insecurity is partially symptomatic, and a consequence of the continuing prevalence of traditional state-centric notions of security. Such approaches are coming to be recognised for their increasingly narrow and reductionist focus on statist calculations of power; and notions of survival, sovereignty, threat and conflict. Crucially, they are proving ill-suited or inadequate to understanding, explaining and coping with the challenges of today’s transforming security environment. As a consequence, an increasing number of security of security scholars and practitioners are speaking to the emergence of a transformative evolution in contemporary security and insecurity. Such an evolution is founded upon a critical recognition that many of today’s security challenges are a consequence of the ‘globalisation of security’ and ‘bifurcation of the security environment.’ Under the conditions of globalisation and bifurcation, the resilience and utility of prevailing security ideas, institutions and practices can no longer be assumed. Indeed, many of the emerging challenges to security are the result of forces outside the traditional framework of strategic analysis that have little to do with the exercise of power by competing nation-states, but everything to do with the stability of states and human survival. While traditional state-centric security discourses continue to maintain measures of relevance, such orthodoxies – while necessary – are a not wholly complete, adequate or sufficient means by which to understand and respond to today’s complex and interdependent security challenges. As this Thesis will demonstrate, profound changes in today’s security environment and agenda, and the corresponding need for effective responses to such, is prompting the re-consideration of security concepts and policies adopted in the past, while also providing a window of opportunity for the development of fresh approaches and concepts. In this respect, I will advance the position that Critical approaches and perspective to security – and specifically Human Security – accord the normative scope for reconceptualising contemporary security in more openly inclusive and progressively comprehensive ways. Such an objective is testimony to our living in a world more interdependent than ever before, wherein all states, societies and individuals depend much more on the acts of omissions of others for their security and even for their survival. Importantly here, given such circumstances, there is a need for a clearer articulation of the inherent relationship between traditional state-centric and critical-human security perspectives. In this sense, the notion of the ‘dialectic’ and ‘via media’ provides potential for the progressive development of an ‘ideal-type’ approach to security that reconciles somewhat dissonant – if not inimical – state-centric and human-centric conceptions, while promising much in the way of addressing and alleviating insecurity and suffering. These themes, ideas and objectives will be considered through the rubric of New Zealand’s contemporary approaches to security.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

International Relations

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of International Relations

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Ayson, Robert