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International Security Studies




Admissions requirements

Students must have successfully completed at least one of the following 100-level courses: Introduction to International Relations & Diplomacy; Introduction to Globalisation and Transnational Politics; Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies.


Security is one of the most widely used – and abused – concepts in politics. Hardly a day goes by without politicians and the media invoking the concept, alerting us to an ever-increasing list of (alleged) threats to our safety. Alongside ‘traditional’ security threats that emanate from inter-state dynamics, such as wars, nuclear proliferation, and arms races, we are told to fear a sheer endless assortment of challenges, including transnational terrorism and crime, globalisation, cyber attacks, climate change, resource scarcity, economic depression, immigration, infectious diseases, population ageing, violent computer games, societal disintegration, and cultural alienation. The ensuing debates in political circles and in the wider public are often alarmist, ahistorical, and analytically muddled. As a result, the ostensibly ‘objective’ requirements of national security and international order are often used to justify exceptional measures, such as increasing defense spending and decreasing civil liberties at home and military intervention abroad.

This course will enable students to navigate this slippery, highly politicized terrain by providing a conceptually rigorous introduction to International Security Studies (ISS). A subfield of the discipline of International Relations, ISS examines the social construction of threats, the nexus between international and human security, and the use of coercion in world politics by both state and non-state actors. ISS pays much attention to understanding why, how, and when states use coercive instruments – particularly, military force – to achieve their security objectives. However, it also critically scrutinizes how these objectives are defined in the first place and demonstrates that conceptions of security are highly malleable, resulting from the interplay of powerful political and socio-cultural forces, including the media and popular culture.

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Analyze how conceptions of security are constructed and normalized while alternatives are marginalized;

  • Evaluate the roles that various forms of coercion – particularly war, economic sanctions, and nuclear deterrence – play in world politics;

  • Analyze how security threats are linked to powerful political constructs such as national identity and militarist ideology;

  • Assess the political, strategic, and ethical dilemmas associated with coercion and identify non-coercive alternatives.


Once available, timetables will be published in the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course is taught through two-hour seminars, using a mix of short lectures, class discussions, group work, and student presentations. Specific emphasis is placed on active student participation in seminar discussion. The role of the professor is primarily to safeguard the intellectual quality and academic rigour of seminar discussion.


19% class participation
19% group presentation
30% mid-term exam
32% final essay


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

Before the start of the course, students are required to purchase a copy of Paul Williams & Matt McDonald (eds.) 2018: Security Studies: An Introduction, 3rd edition, Routledge. This textbook will be useful for this course as well as many others in the World Politics major and beyond.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr. Kai Hebel


For the first session, students are required to prepare in three ways.

First, compose a list of what they judge to be the three greatest contemporary challenges to international security. They should be prepared to explain and defend their choices in classroom discussion.

Second, read the introduction and chapter 12 in Paul Williams & Matt McDonald (eds.) 2018: Security Studies: An Introduction, 3rd edition, Routledge.

Third, read Graham Allison 2015: ‘The Thucydides Trap’, in Richard Rosecrance and Steven Miller (eds.): The Next Great War? The Roots of World War I and the Risk of U.S.-China Conflict, MIT Press, 73-79.

The instructor reserves the right to drop students from the course in case of unsatisfactory advance preparation.