Neo-functionalism, a theory of European integration, fell into disuse after events in the 1960s: Neo-functionalism is frequently represented as a theory of European Union past with comparatively little to say to European Union studies present.' However, after the acceleration of the integration process in the 1980s, neo-functionalism is once again being considered. The question asks whether neo-functionalist theory still plays a relevant role in explaining and predicting European integration since neo-functionalism's abandonment in the 1960s and the acceleration of integration in the 1980s. This paper will evaluate whether neo-functionalism can be considered to be a relevant theory used today for European integration studies. First, a short introduction of neo-functionalism theory will be given, followed by a discussion on the term obsolete', leading to an exploration of different positive and negative aspects of the theory which finally leads to an evaluation of whether neo-functionalism has become obsolete or not in explaining and predicting European integration.
[...] Rosamond Ben rightly points out that Haas' work has been extensively misread and misinterpreted. In the years following the Empty Chair Crisis, many declared the obsoleteness of neo-functionalism on the basis of the slowing European integration. However, Haas never assumed that Spill-Overs would occur automatically or in a close linear sequence to each other. Haas did mention specific contextual situations in which spill- over would be more likely to happen, such as the need of convergence of interests between states, and emphasized that spill-over processes would become more difficult in reaching agreements, as the process affected more and more actors and spheres of integration. Haas never gave a specific temporal component to the speed of a possible integration. Therefore, the fact that European Community did not continuously spill-over for the first thirty years of its existence does not make the theory obsolete. Furthermore, Haas never assumed that the complete transfer of sovereignty from nation states to supranational organizations was the inevitable end, but rather stated that this was actually only a possibility, and not the most likely. Critics claiming the obsoleteness of neo-functionalism based on its failure to predict a diminishing pace of European integration are therefore not well founded. [...]
[...] A brief overview of neo-functionalism was given, followed by defining of the term obsolete which finally linked to the exploration and evaluation of whether neo-functionalism has become obsolete. As Stanley Hoffman rightly put it: ‘When the European Community stagnates, as in the 1970s, scholars speak of the obsolescence of regional integration theory; when it rebounds, as in 1985, they speak of the obsolescence of the nation-state. Regional integration has been unjustly consigned to the dustbin.' The logic of spill-over implies that today, neo-functionalism is by no means obsolete, but also appears to have serious weaknesses and limitations which make it difficult for the theory alone to predict future integration. [...]
[...] ‘Overall, it does seem safe to conclude that neo-functionalist pressures have played an important role in speeding up integration and that since 1985, there has been a re-emergence of the neo-functionalist logic.' However, neo-functionalism makes many omissions which are crucial to understanding and perhaps predicting integration. Hoffman rightly criticizes the theories' ignoring of the effect of outside pressures and factors on integration. Another criticism is that integration can spread to low politics by spill-overs, but not to high politics, such as national security and defense, as it would mean giving up much sovereignty. Social scientist Amy Verdun claims that the whole idea of high and low politics should be reevaluated: macroeconomic policy making, social and labor policies, what the neo-functionalists had called low politics, have become high politics as they play a crucial role now in the welfare of the state. The crucial mistake of neo-functionalism theory which must be rectified for relevance today is that, in the end, European integration ultimately depends on intentional acts by individual human beings. [...]
[...] Stone Sweet, Alec and W. Sandholtz (1997) ‘European Integration and Supranational Governance,' Journal of European Public Policy, pp. 297-317. Tranholm-Mikkelsen, J. (1991) ‘Neo-functionalism: Obstinate or Obsolete? A Reappraisal in the Light of the New Dynamism of the EC,' Millennium, 20: pp. 1-22. Verdun, Amy (2000). European Responses to Globalization and Financial Market Integration. London: Macmillan Press Ltd. Keywords: neo-functionalism; neofunctionalism; European integration theory; integration theory; European politics; Ernst Haas; regional integration Rosamond, Ben (2000). Theories of European Integration. [...]
[...] (1991) ‘Neo-functionalism: Obstinate or Obsolete? A Reappraisal in the Light of the New Dynamism of the EC,' Millennium, 20: pp.6 Bache, op cit pp.130-131 Bache, op cit, pp.130-131 Ibid. Tranholm-Mikkelsen, op cit, pp.9 Stone Sweet, Alec and W. Sandholtz (1997) ‘European Integration and Supranational Governance,' Journal of European Public Policy, pp.340 Ibid. Rosamond, op cit, pp.239 Stone, op cit, pp.341 Interestingly, Even Stanley Hoffmann, a known critic of neofunctionalism cites Haas in one of his books: Spill Over process,” as he said, far from automatic”. [...]
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