Working Paper


The Two Faces of Security in Hybrid Political Orders: A Framework for Analysis and Research

Published on 2 September 2013

This paper reframes the security and development debate through fresh theoretical lenses, which view security as highly contested both in the realm of politics and in the realm of ideas.

For some analysts security concerns political power, including the use of organised force to establish and maintain social orders and to protect them from external and internal threats. For others it is about how individuals and communities are protected (or protect themselves) from violence, abuse of power and other existential risks. We integrate both approaches whilst placing our focus on the deep tensions between them.

Combining them is especially apposite in the hybrid political orders of conflict-torn regions in the developing world – where the state and its monopoly of violence are contested and diverse state and non-state security actors coexist, collaborate or compete. We ask what security in these hybrid contexts looks like from below, that is from the perspective of “end users”, be these citizens of states, members of local communities or those who are marginalised and insecure.

What are their own vernacular understandings of security, and how do these understandings link to wider conceptions of citizen and of human security? Even when security and insecurity are experienced and decided locally, they are at the same time determined nationally and globally. It is at the interfaces between local agency, state power and global order that the most politically salient and analytically challenging issues tend to arise.

To analyse these interfaces we focus on three interconnecting political spaces, each characterised by their own forms of hybridity, in which security is negotiated with end-users:

  1. “unsecured borderlands” where state authority is suspended or violently challenged by alternative claimants to power or providers of security, including non-state armed groups;
  2. “contested Leviathans”, that is state security structures whose authority and capacity to deliver security are weak, disputed or compromised by special interests; and
  3. “securitised policy spaces” in which international actors collaborate to ensure peace and fulfil their responsibility to protect vulnerable end-users in unsecured regions. In making these distinctions we argue that similar analytical lenses can be turned upon international actors in securitised policy spaces as well as upon state and non-state security actors.

The concluding section argues that such a reframing of the security and development debate demands not just new modes of analysis but also fresh approaches to research designed both to provide insights into the vernacular understandings, coping strategies and potential agency of end-users and to uncover the informal networks, alliances and covert strategies of the multiple actors determining their security in hybrid political orders.


Image of Robin Luckham

Robin Luckham

Emeritus Fellow

Publication details

Luckham, R. and Kirk, T.
International Journal of Security & Development, volume 2, issue 2