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Problem Solving Theory Vs Critical Theory Notes

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This is an extract of our Problem Solving Theory Vs Critical Theory document, which we sell as part of our Critical Security Studies Notes collection written by the top tier of University Of Warwick students.

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*Link - 1.4 Engendering Security / 2.4 Spaces of (In)Security

Problem-Solving Theory VS. Critical Theory
Section A:
◦ How do critical approaches to security challenge/propose alternative understandings of security to traditional, in particular realist, views? Discuss using the 'Feminism & Gender Studies' approach to security. [2018, 2017, 2016, 2014]

'The focus of security analysis should be on investigating what security does rather than on defining what security is'. Discuss this statement with reference to the 'Feminism & Gender Studies' approach to security. [2018]

What should be seen as the referent object of security and why? Critically discuss using the 'Feminist
& Gender Studies' approach to security. [2015]

'All theory is for someone and for some purpose' (Cox, 1981). Critically evaluate this statement and its implications using the 'Feminism & Gender Studies' approach to security. [2017, 2015]

In 1981, Robert Cox contended that 'theory is always for someone and for some purpose'. There is, accordingly, no such thing as theory per se, where theory denotes a framework of general propositions or laws about the world,
divorced from a standpoint in time and space. He identifies two ways of thinking about IR:
Security studies originated from neorealist IR theory, and began with the explicit mandate of solving the problem of war and instability in world politics. It has a clear referent object of analysis (the state) and a clear goal
(explaining why states go to war). As such, security studies is defined as 'the study of the threat, use and control of military force'. [Stephen Walt]
Breaking it down…

1. Positivism - asserts that scholars can attain and produce knowledge of the world in an objective and valueneutral fashion.
◦ Takes the world as it is, and assumes there are perennial rules/'enduring recurrent features' of world politics, namely: the state, international anarchy (i.e. the absence of a supreme authority to enforce order), power politics and human egoism. These 'rules' are directly observable by measuring material forces, e.g. state interactions, military size, nuclear weapon stockpiles, etc.

2. State-centrism - the state as referent object and provider of security.

Although by no means a cohesive research project, CSS orients around 3 key themes: [Browning]

1. A fundamental critique of the ontology, epistemology and normative implications of traditional approaches to security.
 Paints a static, fatalistic and incomplete image of contemporary IR that fails to account for non-state actors (terrorists, NGOs, MNCs) and change (globalization*)

Breeds wilful ignorance - 'When the state is the main subject of research, war becomes not the author's own personal problem or passion, but a practice or institution belonging to another plane of reality - the international one 'out there" [Booth]

Reifies/legitimizes the very power structures and discourses - of which are not directly observable - that perpetuate insecurity. In 'developing countries', we often find that the state system itself is a major source of poverty, oppression and instability. Wyn Jones attributes this to global capitalism, whereby 'the relative security of inhabitants of the North is purchased at the price of chronic insecurity for a vast majority of the world population'.

To this end, CSS scholars advocate a study of security that 'goes beyond problem-solving within the status quo,
and instead seeks to engage with the problem of the status quo' [Booth]. This requires a post-positivist outlook that rejects the idea of an 'objective reality' beyond our social, historically-conditioned constructions of it.

2. The politics of security - As a 'derived' concept, security reflects very particular, and politically powerful,
conceptions/discourses of:

i. Referent - whose security? Who is worthy of protection? Who is the 'we' seeking security from threats?

ii. Agent - which actors are legitimate providers of security?

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