New Perspectives on International Functionalism pp Cite as. Functionalism has been a feature of international relations theory for over fifty years. In that time, it has been modified, augmented, supplemented, critiqued and ignored. The approach has inspired both sharp criticism and emulation.

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Functionalism , an approach to the formation of international organizations that advocates international cooperation on scientific, humanitarian, social, and economic issues. Functionalists argue that mutual trust and habits of cooperation between governments are more likely to develop through the sharing of discrete public-sector responsibilities, or functions e.

The central feature of the functional approach is the creation of international agencies with limited and specific powers defined by the function that they perform. Functional agencies operate only within the territories of the states that choose to join them and do not therefore threaten state sovereignty. The UN Charter makes explicit reference, in Article 55, to promoting conditions of stability and the promotion of higher living standards , economic and social progress, and development. The period of to represented the most successful period for the application of the functional approach, when a broad consensus about the theories of John Maynard Keynes on the provision of international public goods in sectors prone to market failure prevailed.

The last quarter of the 20th century, however, proved to be problematic. Political disputes occasionally disturbed the technocratic rationale of the agencies. The rise of nongovernmental organizations NGOs also challenged the democratic credentials of the agencies. In addition, globalization in the form of privatization , deregulation, and marketization has challenged the public-sector monopoly basis on which the original functional scheme relied. At the turn of the 21st century, the combined growth of global civil society and the transnational business sector appeared to progressively narrow the range of services historically and uniquely associated with the functional agencies.

A variant form of functionalism, known as neofunctionalism, has been applied at a regional level to explain the early stages in the formation of those institutions that later evolved to form the European Union EU.

Considerable disputes among academic and policy communities ensued as so-called neofunctionalists attempted to use these original limited, functional successes to advance the larger quasi-federal project of the EU.

David Mitrany, a Romanian-born British scholar, is most closely associated with promoting a functional approach. Mitrany was also influenced by observing the elaborate processes of interallied collaboration made in preparation for the Normandy Invasion and the plans for the postwar administration of Europe. The Tennessee Valley Authority TVA was an example of a new institution providing a particular public service that was separated from the territorial basis of state authority.

In the TVA case, seven state governments renounced their authority over the river-watershed and agreed to create one specific agency to plan and execute an ambitious plan of dam construction, hydraulic engineering, electricity generation, and job creation in an area subject to regular flood damage. Mitrany advocated the creation of a range of similarly constituted technical and scientific agencies with potentially global reach to implement infrastructure and reconstruction programs, organized on a technical or functional basis rather than on a territorial basis.

An earlier variety of so-called public international unions, such as the International Telecommunication Union ITU founded in and the Universal Postal Union created in , sought both to promote and to regulate these new technologies. In the creation of the International Labour Organization ILO institutionalized a role for organized labour within the international human rights standard setting.

Thereafter, the network of interdependent relationships that these agencies would come to manage, a process called spillover, would create a so-called working peace system between the members. This argument matured later in many writers on regime theory during the s and after. Those writers often described the process of enlarging the competence of the agencies in terms of international organizations progressively acquiring normative, rule-creating, rule-enforcing, and finally programmatic responsibilities.

For example, the International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA founded in gradually expanded its tasks from low-key technical assistance to the extraordinary legal powers of inspections developed under the auspices of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The so-called safeguards system administered by the IAEA in countries around the world is the most fully developed example of a functional scheme of regulation.

Mitrany also argued that the agencies could apply sanctions to countries that were judged to be acting contrary to international law. After the focus of creating new functional agencies shifted from scientific cooperation toward economic development. These agencies and programs were deliberately created to segregate functional cooperation from political and security disputes conducted in the UN General Assembly and Security Council.

However, this attempt to distinguish and segregate a technical-managerial approach to the functional agencies, as if a category of low politics could be kept separate from high politics, proved problematic in the later development of the functional agencies. After , when the global south i. In this way, task expansion and spillover acquired new meanings to promote and to disseminate multilateral aid programs.

The agencies also became subject to increasingly political disputes in defining their scope of operations. Info Print Print.

Table Of Contents. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. Introduction Functional cooperation in the United Nations Neofunctionalism Rationale for functionalism Critique of functionalism The uncertain future of functionalism.

Written By: Mark F. See Article History. Functional cooperation in the United Nations Functionalists argue that mutual trust and habits of cooperation between governments are more likely to develop through the sharing of discrete public-sector responsibilities, or functions e.

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David Mitrany

David Mitrany — was a Romanian-born, naturalized British scholar, historian and political theorist. Earle , Winfield W. Riefler , Walter W. Stewart , and Robert B. He left the IAS in


Functionalism (international relations)

Functionalism is a theory of international relations that arose during the inter-War period principally from the strong concern about the obsolescence of the State as a form of social organization. Rather than the self-interest of nation-states that realists see as a motivating factor, functionalists focus on common interests and needs shared by states but also by non-state actors in a process of global integration triggered by the erosion of state sovereignty and the increasing weight of knowledge and hence of scientists and experts in the process of policy-making Rosamond, Functionalism is a pioneer in globalisation theory and strategy. States had built authority structures upon a principle of territorialism. State-theories were built upon assumptions that identified the scope of authority with territory Held , Scholte: , , , aided by methodological territorialism Scholte Functionalism proposed to build a form of authority based in functions and needs, which linked authority with needs, scientific knowledge, expertise and technology, i.


Working for Peace: the Functional Approach, Functionalism and Beyond


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