Sorpong, Peou (2014) Human Security Studies: Theories, Methods, and Themes. Singapore: World Scientific. 498 pp.

​ISBN: 9789814440455.​

Virak Prum

Pannasastra University of Cambodia

​This book provides comprehensive accounts of four mainstream theories—liberal, realist, critical, and gender— and  assesses their strengths and weaknesses against six crucial themes which continue to shape the debate on human security: Military intervention, micro-arms regulation, economic sanctions, global criminal justice, human rights and democracy, and human development and empowerment.  While all agree that military interventions are controversial and potentially dangerous, the success of micro-arms regulation and micro-disarmament is also not encouraging. Feminists charge that economic sanctions actually make women even more disproportionately vulnerable. The pursuit of justice is a good thing but the ‘deterrent effects on the serious crimes remain so weak that other alternatives should also be explored’ (p. 358). The promotion of human rights and democracy finds strong support among liberals. Realists, however, do not blindly believe that democracy is the best possible system, whereas critical writers join hands in rejecting the idea that western-style democracy can readily be planted on any soil. Ultimately, even feminists charge that assistance to women has not been able to address the alarming issue of gender equality and gender-based violence. Peou concludes that ‘[r]ich insights from these four theoretical traditions have added to the complexities of collective efforts to ensure and enhance human security’ (p. 437) but rejects the idea of a world government. He proposes that human security is best secured by establishing a global democratic governance system to be perfected by incorporating liberal and realist insights in the short term and critical and feminist insights in the long run. This book is a much needed contribution and should be read by anyone interested in human security studies in particular, and by peace researchers generally.​