ASTK18440U Security, Uncertainty and Politics of Complexity

Volume 2023/2024

Full-degree students enrolled at the Department of Political Science, UCPH

  • MSc in Political Science
  • MSc in Security Risk Management
  • Bachelor in Political Science


Full-degree students enrolled at the Faculty of Social Science, UCPH 

  • Master Programme in Social Data Science
  • Master programme in Global Development


The course is open to:

  • Exchange and Guest students from abroad
  • Credit students from Danish Universities
  • Open University students

Post–Cold War global order is characterized by the emergence of “new threats” such as climate change, terrorism, attacks on critical infrastructure, and migration smuggling, among others. Common to the characterization of these new threats is their unpredictability, either due to the impossibility to calculate the extent of the risks or the increasingly decentralized, networked organization of the imagined adversaries. As a result, it is often argued we live in an age of crisis and uncertainty.


This course deals with the question of how security professionals and experts deal with and govern uncertainty. It specifically discusses scientific worldviews imported from network science, chaos theory, complex adaptive systems theory, and cybernetics into security governance, which naturalize uncertainty, failure, and experimentation in dealing with crises. The course engages with different strands of security studies scholarships to enable an understanding of uncertainty as a multi-faceted concept.


The course is organized into three blocks. The first part examines the conceptual apparatus of systems-cybernetic thinking and its increasing relevance in International Relations. The second part looks into particular systems-cybernetic concepts used in security establishments and international organizations and zooms into a rethinking of risk/uncertainty management by discussing practical examples from peacebuilding, warfare, climate change, terrorism, critical infrastructure protection, migration management, organized crime,  and cybersecurity, among others. The final part of the course will introduce theoretical schools of thought that aim to overcome, either pragmatically or critically, the negative impacts of systems-cybernetic thinking in security governance. This part will include worldviews that are yet to be explored in security studies, to enable constructing/imagining alternative notions and futurities of security and uncertainty.


The tentative list of topics is as follows:

  • Introduction to systems-cybernetic thinking: a new paradigm in International Relations?
  • How do imagined futurities shape security practices? Towards a theory of speculative security
  • Introducing the concept of resilience in security governance
  • Uncertainty as an organized principle of the Surveillance Society
  • Revolution in Military Affairs and the concept of network-centric warfare
  • The logic of preemption in the case of counter-terrorism: War on Terror and beyond
  • Critical infrastructure protection and vital systems security
  • Living with crisis – examining securitization of climate change
  • Changing paradigms of crime control in the age of uncertainty
  • Migration management in a world of connectivity
  • Systems-cybernetic thinking as a cultural logic of late capitalism?
  • Techno-feminists re-imagine uncertainty!
  • Decolonial approaches to cybernetic security governance: or is decolonial thinking a mode of cybernetic thinking after all?
  • Beyond critique: pragmatic worldviews in security studies
Learning Outcome



By the end of the course, students will be able to

  • Identify theoretical underpinnings of uncertainty management in security environments
  • Understand modes of systems-cybernetic governance involved in the management of military, political, economic, societal, and environmental security through practical examples
  • Analyze merits and drawbacks of orthodoxal, critical, and post-critical approaches to systems-cybernetic security governance




By the end of the course, students will be able to

  • Incorporate theoretical discussions into the empirical studies on governance of uncertainty
  • Understand differences within systems-cybernetic thinking as applied across various security issues in various contexts




By the end of the course, students will be able to

  • Identify the novel features of systems-cybernetic security governance in comparison to more traditional forms of security management

The tentative literature list is as follows:


Amoore, L., 2013. The politics of possibility: Risk and security beyond probability. Duke University Press.

Andrejevic, M., 2016. Theorizing drones and droning theory. In Drones and unmanned aerial systems (pp. 21-43). Springer, Cham.

Aradau, C., & Blanke, T. (2022). Algorithmic reason: The new government of self and other. Oxford University Press

Arquilla, J. and Ronfeldt, D., 2001. Networks and netwars: The future of terror, crime, and militancy. Rand Corporation.

Austin, J.L., 2019. A parasitic critique for international relations. International Political Sociology13(2), pp.215-231.

Austin, J.L., 2019. Security compositions. European Journal of International Security4(3), pp.249-273.

Bellanova, R., Jacobsen, K. L., & Monsees, L. (2020). Taking the trouble: science, technology and security studies. Critical Studies on Security8(2), 87-100.

Bousquet, A., 2008. Chaoplexic warfare or the future of military organization. International Affairs84(5), pp.915-929.

Bousquet, A. and Curtis, S., 2011. Beyond models and metaphors: complexity theory, systems thinking and international relations. Cambridge review of international affairs24(01), pp.43-62.

Collier, S.J. and Lakoff, A., 2015. Vital systems security: Reflexive biopolitics and the government of emergency. Theory, Culture & Society32(2), pp.19-51.

Cooper, M., 2006. Pre-empting emergence: the biological turn in the war on terror. Theory, culture & society23(4), pp.113-135.

Corry, O., 2012. Securitisation and ‘riskification’: Second-order security and the politics of climate change. Millennium40(2), pp.235-258.

Deleuze, G., 2017. Postscript on the Societies of Control. In Surveillance, crime and social control (pp. 35-39). Routledge.

de Goede, M., 2012. Fighting the network: a critique of the network as a security technology. Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory, 13(3), pp.215-232.

Feigenbaum, A. (2015). From cyborg feminism to drone feminism: Remembering women’s anti-nuclear activisms. Feminist Theory16(3), 265-288.

Galič, M., Timan, T. and Koops, B.J., 2017. Bentham, Deleuze and beyond: An overview of surveillance theories from the panopticon to participation. Philosophy & Technology30(1), pp.9-37

Glouftsios, G., & Loukinas, P. (2022). Perceiving and Controlling Maritime Flows. Technology, Kinopolitics, and the Governmentalization of Vision. International Political Sociology16(3), olac010.

Grosfoguel, R., 2011. Decolonizing post-colonial studies and paradigms of political-economy: Transmodernity, decolonial thinking, and global coloniality. Transmodernity: journal of peripheral cultural production of the luso-hispanic world1(1).

Grove, N. S. (2023). Receding resilience: On the planetary moods of disruption. Review of International Studies49(1), 3-19.

Haggerty, K.D. and Ericson, R.V., 2017. The surveillant assemblage. Surveillance, Crime and Social Control, pp.61-78.

Haraway, D., 2006. A cyborg manifesto: Science, technology, and socialist-feminism in the late 20th century. In The international handbook of virtual learning environments (pp. 117-158). Springer, Dordrecht.

Hoijtink, M., 2014. Capitalizing on emergence: The ‘new’civil security market in Europe. Security Dialogue45(5), pp.458-475.

Lemke, T., 2021. The Government of Things: Foucault and the New Materialisms. New York University Press.

Methmann, C. and Oels, A., 2015. From ‘fearing’to ‘empowering’climate refugees: Governing climate-induced migration in the name of resilience. Security Dialogue46(1), pp.51-68.

Parslow, J. (2021). The Mechanical Atatürk: Cybernetics and State Violence in the Second Turkish Republic. International Journal of Middle East Studies53(4), 569-588.

Paul, R. and Roos, C., 2019. Towards a new ontology of crisis? Resilience in EU migration governance. European Security28(4), pp.393-412

Rindzevičiūtė, E., 2020. Soviet policy sciences and earth system governmentality. Modern Intellectual History17(1), pp.179-208. 

Wilcox, L., 2017. Drones, swarms and becoming-insect: Feminist utopias and posthuman politics. Feminist Review116(1), pp.25-45.

Teaching will combine lecture style elements with interactive discussions, group works and presentations.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Total
  • 56
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Type of assessment
Written examination
Type of assessment details
Written free assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

- In the semester where the course takes place: Free written assignment

- In subsequent semesters: Free written assignment

Criteria for exam assesment

Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings

Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings

Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner