Security in the Global Context: Blurring the Internal-External Divide

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter critically analyses and challenges traditional understandings of the boundaries between the internal and the external within the field of security, with a particular, but not exclusive, focus on Europe. The constantly evolving political environment, and within that understandings of the International, shapes and reshapes how the boundaries between the internal and external are established, negotiated, maintained and transformed. In particular, the chapter argues that the evolution of understandings of security, both in practice and theory, are increasingly challenging the traditional dichotomy between internal and external security.

From Machiavelli’s ideas about the nature of the threats to the power of ‘The Prince' to neorealism’s focus on military threats to the state, understandings of security have been dominated by the internal-external divide. Yet this distinction has not been as definitive as often portrayed, with the internal and the external rarely as clear-cut as often portrayed in theory and practice. In particular, this distinction was significant through the late Twentieth Century and into the post-Cold war era as the security agenda (and number of actors) expanded. The internal-external divide was increasingly transcended along three axes: geographic, institutional, and functional. These shifts have seen theorising develop around the transnationalisation and/or the externalisation of security policies and the emergence of security nexuses and ‘transboundary’ security threats.

This chapter explores these practical and theoretical developments and argues that the boundaries between the internal and the external are increasingly blurred by the nature of security threats and the responses of states and international organisations to them.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of International Political Theory
EditorsHoward Williams, David Boucher, Peter Sutch, David Reidy, Alexandros Koutsoukis
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Electronic)9783031522437
ISBN (Print)9783031522420, 9783031522451
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Aug 2023

Publication series

NameInternational Political Theory
PublisherPalgrave MacMillan
ISSN (Print)2662-6039
ISSN (Electronic)2662-6047


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