Referent Objects From the State to the Individual

One of the primary questions that security studies seek to answer is whose security? It is imperative to note here, “without a referent object there can be no threats and no discussion of security because the concept is meaningless without something to secure” (Williams 2008: 7). Therefore, a referent object forms the answer to the above question and remains the focus of security. In theories of international relations, this focus has predominantly been on the state, though more recent (and novel) conceptions of the international have moved the focus to various other ‘objects’ such as the individual or the environment.&nbsp.&nbsp.

The dominance of realism as an explanatory theory of international relations has been remarkable. The theory has itself become a research program within and about which there are many debates about its core and auxiliary propositions. However, most realists agree that the international system is anarchical, without any central organizing mechanism and populated by nation-states that are in permanent conflict. Nation-states have lexical priority over all other institutions and their national interests are defined in terms of power. every state aims at the satisfaction of these interests by maximizing power (Donnelly 2000: 7-8). In this schematic, the state is the constituent unit of the system. the sate both provides and is the referent object of security, which is militarily defined.

For realists, the central concerns are power and security, making the theory essentially “statist” in nature. Insecurity is understood as an inter-state conflict and security competition, which is fueled by the anarchical structure of international politics.&nbsp.Since the internal structures of states remain akin to a black box in realist analyses, it is but obvious that the state should remain the most important, and perhaps only, the referent of security.