Security cooperation as a primary institution of western international society

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How do western states respond to real or perceived security threats? Do they tend to respond to the same threat in haphazard ways, or does their response follow similar patterns? By analysing the response to a number of diverse contemporary threats – the Crimean crisis, North Korea’s nuclear proliferation, climate change and the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic – this article shows that the security responses by different western states to the same threat tend to be consistent across states, while they also tend to follow a seemingly self-evident pattern of behaviour. In light of these findings, the article suggests that the joint pursuit of security (for short: security cooperation) has replaced war as a primary institution at the western core of sub-global international society.

In order to make this argument this article develops a new approach to analysing primary institutions: the practice-based method. While this method is inspired by Peter Wilson and Kilian Spandler’s idea that practitioners’ behaviour and rhetoric matters to institutional status, it draws analytical purchase also from Emanuel Adler and Vincent Pouliot’s influential practice-based theory to International Relations.


Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal Change, Peace and Security
Issue number1
Early online date20 Jan 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Jan 2021


  • English School, Canadian School, security cooperation, practice