Existential Security: Towards a Security Framework for the Survival of Humanity

Existential Security: Towards a Security Framework for the Survival of Humanity

Humankind faces a growing spectrum of anthropogenic existential threats to human civilization and survival. This article therefore aims to develop a new framework for security policy – ‘existential security’ – that puts the survival of humanity at its core. It begins with a discussion of the definition and spectrum of ‘anthropogenic existential threats’, or those threats that have their origins in human agency and could cause, minimally, civilizational collapse, or maximally, human extinction. It argues that anthropogenic existential threats should be conceptualized as a matter of ‘security’, which follows a logic of protection from threats to the survival of some referent object. However, the existing frameworks for security policy – ‘human security’ and ‘national security’ – have serious limitations for addressing anthropogenic existential threats; application of the ‘national security’ frame could even exacerbate existential threats to humanity. Thus, the existential security frame is developed as an alternative for security policy, which takes ‘humankind’ as its referent object against anthropogenic existential threats to human civilization and survival.

Policy Implications

  • ‘Anthropogenic existential threats’ refer to a class of threats that have their origins in human agency and could bring about, at the minimum, the collapse of civilization, or, at the maximum, human extinction. The spectrum of anthropogenic existential threats is broad and growing.
  • Anthropogenic existential threats should be conceptualized as a matter of ‘security’; that is, through a logic of protection from threats to the survival of some referent object.
  • Existing security frames are inappropriate for security policy towards anthropogenic existential threats: a ‘human security’ frame would lead to policy incoherence, while a ‘national security’ frame could even exacerbate the threats to humanity. Policy makers should resist making political decisions on the basis of a national security frame in response to anthropogenic existential threats.
  • ‘Existential security’ represents a new framework for security policy; security is about the survival of humanity. Its referent object is humanity, the dangers are anthropogenic existential threats, the modes of protection are mutual restraint and resilience, the security actors are nation states and global political institutions, and the timeframe is intergenerational.

 

 

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