Complex Systems Studies as an Instrument of Security Theory and Policy

Czes³aw Mesjasz
Cracow University of Economics
31-510 Krakow
ul. Rakowicka 27

As in other areas of social sciences, in security studies theory follows the un¬folding processes and provides descrip¬tions and interpretations. Causal explana¬tions are rare or superficial. Predictions or normative approaches are even more difficult to find. It may be claimed that in the contemporary discussion on security, analytical properties of that concept too often are either concealed in a broad ideological discourse, or are deriving from common sense reasoning. Attention is paid to the universalization of security, political, doctrinal, and even ideo¬logical issues and to critical approaches, with a lack of care for definitions. Too frequent¬ly the questions are asked what we think about this or that definition of security. What politi¬cal doctrine and/or scientific paradigm does it conform to? Less attention is being paid to the most fundamental question: What security is about? Bearing in mind broader reflections on security, it is necessary to reflect upon more specific fa¬cets of security – the identification of threats and risks, the limits of prediction, actions taken to maintain or to restore security, consequences of securitization or desecuritization, validity of policy recommendations.

It is impossible to answer whether the broad idea of security can be refined to fulfil the needs of more rigorous theorizing. But it is possible to study the analytical properties of the broa¬dened definitions of security, i.e. to which extent they can be used for description, explanation of causal relationships, and prediction of phenomena in various social collectivities, not solely in inter¬national relations. Since security theory by definition has a normative character, thus expec¬tations are going even further and analytical properties of the concept of security should faci¬litate normative applications.

Usually security is treated as an attribute of different social entities (collectivities) - states, groups of states, society (defined in different ways), or as in the case of human security, as a property of living conditions of individuals. It is then necessary to discuss security not as a broad and fuzzy normative idea, but as a property of the status of social entities and of their elements (individuals). Security treated as a feature of social systems can be viewed both in terms of ‘objective’ properties, as well as a construct emerging in the discourse of the exter¬nal observers and/or participants.

This paper addresses the following questions: How security treated as a property of social systems and of their elements (individuals) can be described and studied. Whether there exists any set of universal properties, a kind of ‘core concept’, which can be identified in all cir¬cumstances when the term ‘security’ is applied.

In a kind of mirror approach, in identifying links between security-related issues and complex systems studies, Murray Gell-Mann, a Nobel Prize winner and specialist in comple¬xity studies, saw an obstacle in a too broad definition of security. Systems thinking, systems approach, and complex systems studies can be used in security theory and policy as sources of analogies, metaphors, and ma¬thematical models. Using another approach, four of Wittgenstein’s (2002) ‘language games’ emerge including: (1) the meaning of security, (2) the mea¬ning of system, (3) the meaning of ideas where the concepts of system and security are jointly applied, and (4) the meaning of complexity. In the first part of the paper interpretations of the notion security are briefly presented. In the second part, the core concept of security is developed into a collection of attributes of social systems, of their elements and of their environment. Security-related attributes of social systems are treated as an introduction to the assessment of possible analytical properties of various kinds of security, from human to military security. Complex systems studies are proposed as a foundation for description, explanation of causal relations, prediction, antici¬pation, normative approach, prescription, retrospection, retro¬diction, control and regula¬tion in security-oriented discourse.