Security and Development in Global Politics: A Critical Comparison

  • Published

Security and Development in Global Politics: A Critical Comparison edited by Joanna Spear and Paul D. Williams. Georgetown University Press, 334 pp.

Under the backdrop of the grappling challenges of international society and states to contain the growing conflict and war-like situations in “failed” or “weak” states, this book is an attempt to address the prevailing ambiguity, disagreements, and concerns between security and development among scholars and practitioners. Edited by two security scholars, Joanna Spear and Paul D. Williams, the book presents a critical analysis of the complex and contested relationship between security and development by considering seven core issues of concern: aid, humanitarian assistance, governance, health, poverty, trade and resources, and demography.

As mentioned by the editors, the order of these issues in the book is intentional. Those issues more related and critical to security and development of failed or weak states are discussed before in the book. This is followed by issues, such as demography, that are more universal and not necessarily specific to failed or weak states. Each issue is deliberated from the perspective of both security and development, in two chapters, by respective scholars. This is followed by a brief commentary by the editors which brings the issue under the combined lens of security and development. In total there are 17 chapters, out of which first and last chapters include introductory chapter and conclusion.

In the conclusion the editors attempt to map the relationship between security and development. By identifying eight types of relationship (zero-sum, positive-sum, distinct, synonymous, sequential, hierarchical, selectively co-constitutive, and sui generis), editors conclude that the relationship between security and development is generally co-constitutive. That is, both the entities are interconnected but in a complex way and not necessarily in similar ways. The editors further argue that this relationship does come together or move apart based on how one considers whom to secure, or in other words, how referent object of security is considered. Traditional state-based referent object sets the relationship apart, and referent object based on individual or people brings the two entities closer to each other. Therefore, to promote synergy between security and development, editors posit the importance of human security as a perspective while considering security.

What is unique about the book is the way it objectively conducts a detailed analysis of the intricate relationship between security and development. By not restricting the contributors to explicitly compare security and development and by keeping it open, the editors have managed to keep the book unbiased. Each chapter (excluding chapter one and chapter 16), presents a typical perspective on the assigned issue either from security or development experts. This certainly has enabled the editors to conduct a compelling comparative analysis in the subsequent commentary after each chapter. Also, each chapter maintains coherence to the overall theme of the book—the relationship between security and development. Most of the chapters engage with the given issue from their respective field (security or development) except the chapter by Daniel Morrow. Daniel deliberates the issue of aid in fragile or weak states from the perspective of both development and security. This, perhaps, reflects how the relationship between development and security in case of aid in fragile states is so complex and overlapping.

In the conclusion, the editors express the need for considering referent object as individuals by both the security and developments experts and scholars. This emphasis by the editors clearly reflects the alignment of the editors towards the Aberystwyth School of critical security studies. This is no surprise as both the editors, by virtue of being security scholars and with Williams being an alumnus of University of Wales (Aberystwyth), have highlighted the pressing need to address the deprivation of individual as referent object in the rhetoric of international security. Also, with the emerging trend of growing insecurity in the failed or weak states today, this school of thought is becoming more relevant to anyone dealing with the security in these states and to those who seek a sustainable model of resolving conflict and promoting peace and security.

The book is, therefore, a masterpiece through which the authors persuade the reader on how state-centric traditional security and development perspective and practice in failed or weak states are counterproductive, and how a non-traditionalist, individual, and bottom-up approach is necessary and productive. For instance, the editors find that both the security and development scholars, while discussing the issue of poverty in chapters 10 and 11, have considered that the relationship between security and development as positive-sum. This is because of the fact that both the security and development experts based their referent object as individuals rather than the state. On the contrary, in the issue of governance, the relationship between security and development are seen as distinct by the editors.

The book is generally a qualitative-based study with illustrations from contemporary global and local events revolving around failed or weak states such as Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, and Afghanistan. Only in the last three issues (poverty, trade and resources, and demography), development scholars use quantitative data to support their arguments. There is scope to include more quantitative analyses in the study, especially in the security section of each issue. Also, the book could have accommodated more pages on human security, probably a chapter, emphasizing how this could actually bring both security and development together.

The book is suitable for research students and teachers interested in the security and development studies in contemporary world politics, particularly those who are focused on failed or weak states. Also, not only limited to the scholars, the book is very relevant to security and development practitioners like humanitarian aid worker, diplomat, state officials, and military personnel, who often get caught between the tensions between security and development in the failed or weak states.

Stanzin Lhaskyabs
Jawaharlal Nehru University


"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."