Human Security and Mutual Recognition

30 Pages Posted: 30 May 2020

Date Written: May 25, 2020


Held up for its emancipatory aims, derided for its hegemonic ways, human security (HS) is the object of contradictory claims that revolve around the concept’s critical credentials. Particularly its cosmopolitan ethos that calls for individuals to be made the referent object of security policy and the equal and global concern for us all is contentious in this regard. While this can be read as liberating people from statist security associations to prioritise their needs and fears, critics argue that its cosmopolitan call emanates from a particular standpoint that imposes on its referents a certain (liberal) understanding of security. This paper attempts to reconcile the cosmopolitan desire to ‘help others’ (who, in cosmopolitan thought, are part of the ‘we’) with the emancipatory necessity to hear the affected. It argues that the question of emancipation is closely tied to justice, where the procedure of arriving at definitions of, and approaches to, security needs to be free from dominance. This conceptualises justice in terms of Erik Eriksen’s justice as mutual recognition. Employing insights from Jonathan Gilmore’s work on post-universal cosmopolitanism, Jenny Peterson’s agonistic approach to HS and Oliver Richmond’s work on hybridity, the paper sketches what a negotiated HS could look like and what its limitations are. These limitations, and a discussion of other emancipatory challenges to the HS concept, highlight that HS remains a work in progress and that emancipation is perhaps never possible, only ever approachable.

Keywords: Communitarianism, cosmopolitanism, emancipation, human security, post-universalism

Suggested Citation

Dorschner, Orphee, Human Security and Mutual Recognition (May 25, 2020). GLOBUS Research Paper 15/2020, Available at SSRN: or

Orphee Dorschner (Contact Author)

University of Tübingen ( email )


Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics