Societal security differs from the traditional approaches on various levels. Unlike the traditional approach to security, a new concept argues that security can be based on economy, environmental protection and politics. Societal security focuses on how to preserve the society against infiltration, invasion and military actions from foreigners (Panić 2009). In addition, societal security is best analyzed from an international and individual perspective.
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Therefore, international systems, subsystems, units and subunits are critical to the analysis of societal security (Panić 2009). Compared to the traditional approach, societal security does not focus on territorial sovereignty. Instead, societal security focuses on collective identity ranging from politics, economy, institutions, and the environment to individuals. Therefore, preservation of elements that compose national identity is the hallmark of societal security.
Security as the survival of the society rather than of the state
In recent times, security is viewed as a survival of the society and not the state. From this perspective, the concepts of security from a national perspective focus on protecting the sovereignty of the state (Brauch 2008). Major threats for national security means include countries, terrorism and guerrilla groups. From state security, a focus on national and societal groups becomes imperative. The main aim of societal security is to preserve national unity and identity (Brauch 2008). In this context, threats against national identity are derived from immigrants and foreign cultures. Human security refers to survival for individual or mankind.
However, human survival refers to the quality of life that may be threatened by nature, terrorism and globalization (Brauch 2008). Environmental security refers to the sustainability of the ecosystem that is normally threatened by mankind through pollution and socioeconomic activities. In other instances, human survival can be determined by gender security. In this context, indigenous people, gender relations, racial minorities, mature adult and children are subject to insecurity (Brauch 2008). The idea of providing gender security is to promote equality, equity, identity and social representations that are threatened by totalitarian institutions, intolerance, elites, violence and religion.
Societal security as a threat to collective identity
National, ethnic and religious identities
As the need for societal security grows with time, countries become sources of self-threat, especially on national, ethnic and religious matters. For example, as countries prevent invasions from other nations, the consequences result in the creation of inter-regional conflicts. Therefore, acts of war and similar provocations by the government may endanger the citizens and the country from external attacks. Moreover, the need to have a collective identity may cause inter-ethnic conflicts due to lack of intolerance. The same intolerance may threaten freedom of worship and human rights, especially on religious matters.
Unrest in Tibet
The outbreak of unrest in Tibet in 2008 was a classic example of how societal security threatens peace in the region (Topgyal 2011). China’s threats against Tibet’s affected the region’s economic, political, environmental and individual arrangements. In fact, China’s invasion in Tibet and the subsequent colonization was an example of how the country is intolerant to other societies’ way of life. On the other hand, the uprising in Tibet justified the right to self-protection against societal insecurities (Topgyal 2011).
From this perspective, using civil rights movements, guerrilla warfare and nonviolence mechanisms to protect territorial integrity was necessary. Moreover, the unrest in Tibet was driven by the need for improved quality of life from the oppressive Chinese government (Topgyal 2011). Moreover, the Tibetans requested equal treatment and social representation of the society in the region’s economic and socio-political aspects.
Brauch, H G 2008, ‘Introduction: Globalization and Environmental Challenges: Reconceptualizing Security in the 21st Century’, Globalization and Environmental Challenges: Reconceptualizing Security in the 21st Century, pp. 27-43.
Panić, B 2009, ‘Societal security–security and identity,’ Western Balkans Security Observer-English Edition, no.13, pp. 28-39.
Topgyal, T 2011, ‘Insecurity dilemma and the Tibetan uprising in 2008,’ Journal of Contemporary China, vol. 20, no. 69, pp. 183-203.