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'The English School: A Neglected Approach to International Security Studies

Monday 18 November 2013 (17:00-18:30)

R.S.V.P. to Leigh-Ann Cragg:

Monday 18th November 2013, 5-6.30pm

Muirhead Tower Room 417

The English School: a neglected approach to international security studies
Professor Barry Buzan
Emeritus Professor of International Relations, LSE


Few if any people working within mainstream International Security Studies would think about the English school (ES) as a body of either theory or empirical work relevant to Security Studies. Although the ES’s defining triad of concepts – international system, international society, and world society – does incorporate a Realist element, in practice the great bulk of ES work has focused on international and world society and on the rules, norms, and institution that underpin the social order of international society. Few within the ES have explicitly addressed the International Security Studies agenda, and the concept of security does not play much of a role in ES thinking. Despite this lack of development, and seeming lack of promise, this paper makes the case that the ES can and should function not only as a way to understand certain types of security issues (so called ‘societal security’), but also as a general approach to international security. Like several other mainstream approaches to IR, the ES not only defines a distinctive framing for international security, but also offers insights into specific issues and dynamics that other approaches occlude. The paper sets out the ES as a general theoretical framework for International Security Studies that is comparable with Realism, Liberalism, and Marxism. It then reviews the existing ES literature to show in some detail how an ES perspective frames international security for insiders (i.e. members of an international society), and outsiders (i.e. those excluded from it). It then goes on to look at how international society itself functions as a referent object for security distinctive from national security. The concluding section discusses some opportunities for how the relationship between the ES and International Security Studies might be developed further.

Barry Buzan is Emeritus Professor of International Relations at the LSE (formerly Montague Burton Professor), honorary professor at Copenhagen and Jilin Universities, and a Senior Fellow at LSE Ideas.


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