Journal of Human Security | 2014 | Volume 10 | Issue 1 | Pages 12–13
DOI: 10.12924/johs2014.10010012
ISSN: 1835-3800
Book Review
Human Security in World Affairs: A Pedagogical, Multi-
disciplinary Approach
Published: 2 April 2014
Keywords: human security; individual and group responsibility; multi-disciplinary approach; pedagogical
Human Security in World Affairs: Problems
and Opportunities
Alexander K. Lautensach, Sabina W. Lautensach
Caesarpress: 2013
504 pp.; ISBN: 978-3-902890-00-9
The end of the Cold War and the ever increasing
interconnectivity in our globalised world have resulted
in much debate in academia, in politics, and else-
where about the progress of human security. The
debate is no longer limited to the fundamentals of
human biological and physiological needs such as air,
food and shelter, or to basic safety issues such as
protection, security, law and order, and stability. Over
the last decade, proponents of the human security
thesis have aimed for an even wider conceptualisation
of what this term is supposed to mean. The idea of
human security is now seen to relate not just to
individuals, groups or states but to entire regions, and
even globally. It refers not only to the human condition
of individual or group responsibility, but to the all-
encompassing social and political environment that
make it possible for humanity to survive and to have a
life at least mostly free from want and fear.
Alexander and Sabina Lautensach (editors) write
that their book is primarily intended for students and
for teaching, and that a pedagogical approach was
prioritised rather than a reproduction in the standard
format of an academic monograph (p. XVII). Through-
out, they aim for a diverse, multi-/trans-disciplinary
approach in term of content and presentation from
contributors, with potential student outcomes focused
on flexibility and a broad spectrum knowledge and
understanding of human security. To these ends they
have been very successful. This hefty tome, almost
encyclopaedic in its scope and depth, needs to be
approached by students in a certain way. That is,
students will benefit from some directed guidance
regarding approach and methodology in order to suc-
cessfully navigate through the many detailed concepts,
theories and practicalities contained in the book. This is
clearly provided in the preface where the editors spend
quite some time outlining the rationale of the book in a
simple and easy to understand way that will be partic-
ularly useful for students and other engaged readers.
The Synopsis and list of Learning Outcomes & Big Ideas
at the beginning of each chapter, as well as the
Summary Points and Extra Activities & Further Research
at the end are further useful tools to consolidate learning
and direct the student to other associated research.
The book has two broadly overlapping sections.
The first part of these, Chapters 1 to 13, presents, an-
alyses and discusses problems and challenges, while
the second part, Chapters 14 to 19, is more focused
on possible solutions. The overlap is less so in the
former and more so in the latter. A distinction in ap-
proaches between the two sections is not immediately
obvious but it is there, and the book has a logical
progression from general to more specific throughout.
The book begins with a comprehensive Intro-
duction by the editors that could almost have been a
separate chapter presented with all the others. The
introduction provides a useful context for the discussion
© 2014 by the authors; licensee Librello, Switzerland. This open access article was published
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of human security, but some of this could have been
incorporated into Chapter 2, "Why Human Security
Needs our Attention", which is co-authored by one of
the editors. This would leave room in the introduction
for a useful and more detailed description of what the
long list of chapters in the book are about. The
chapter descriptions in the introduction are sometimes
just one or two line statements, for example, "The
complex challenges of international development aid are
discussed in Chapter 13" (p. XXXIV) and "Chapter 17
addresses the reduction of armed conflict, and in
Chapter 18 strategies for peace building are discussed"
(p. XXXV). Each chapter in the content area does have
a solid synopsis and introduction, but it would be useful
for readers to have a condensed version of what each
chapteror perhaps couple of chapters—contains.
A particular challenge for proponents of the human
security ethos is to focus analysis and argument in
such a way that does not overly dilute its central
thesis. There is a danger of the discourse ending up
with human security being related to everything,
everywhere, all the time and about anything even
remotely associated with the human condition and
experience. The book does tackle a very broad range
of human security related issues, from religion, war,
terrorism, various political orders, and globalization
through to environmental decay, resource scarcity, a
'war against nature', governance at local, regional and
global levels, social constructivism, health…the list
goes on. The editors frequently remind the reader
early in the book that their approach and the author's
contributions are wide-ranging and deliberately multi-/
trans-disciplinary, something which they certainly
achieved. Throughout the book, the editors have
managed to very successfully bring together this large
collection of disparate approaches to the subject of
human security in a meaningful way.
Chapters 1 to 4 help to contextualise the notion of
human security. Chapter 1, "Human Security Foun-
dation Documents and Related Sources" would
perhaps be better placed after Chapter 2, "Why Human
Security Needs our Attention". For readers to be
convinced that human security is important they need
to know why it is important in the first place. The
importance of human security is concisely and compre-
hensively articulated in Chapter 2. Chapter 4, "Threats
to Human Security—An Overview" is the stand-out
chapter in this part of the book, providing a succinct
outline of human security. Chapters 5 through to
Chapter 13 then provide the reader with a broad
swathe of useful topics such as security challenges
facing individuals and groups within states; human
security and international law; environment and access
to resources concerns; transnational crime; governance
and ideological imperatives. Most of the chapters
integrate very well with the central theme of the book,
although Chapter 8 "Globalization Processes" would
benefit from some clearer linkage to the core human
security thesis.
Chapters 14 through to Chapter 20 present further
challenges to human security and incorporate many
interesting approaches, outcomes and possible so-
lutions to the topics presented. This is where the book
stamps its authority in human security analysis and
argument, and it is what the engaged reader will find
the most interesting and enjoyable to read. This is not
to say that the earlier part of the book is lacking in
some way, but the second half has a more directed
attention to a bottom-line approach regarding options
and possible solutions.
The greatest strength of the book is in its extensive
critical analysis and discussion in each of the chapters.
The book is very ambitious in its scope and depth as it
focuses on a wide range of theoretical, empirical and
practical challenges that the human security paradigm
poses. While there could be some minor rearrange-
ment of a couple of the early chapters and a little
more directed chapter information in the introduction,
these observations do not detract from the very de-
tailed and useful content of the book as a whole. This
is currently the best generalist text book on the
market regarding human security. The scope, breath
and depth of the topics covered in the book, and the
way that the editors have managed the hugely difficult
task of organising the chapters into a coherent and
meaningful manner, make this an outstanding text
book for university undergraduates and post-graduate
learners. While the editors say that this is the reading
audience the book is aimed at, I consider that the book
will also have a strong appeal for a much wider
readership outside academia.
John Janzekovic
Lectures in Politics, International Relations,
International Justice and Human rights, University of
the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore, Queensland,
Australia; E-Mail: [email protected]