Functionalism and Modernity in International Relations

  • John H. Eastby
Part of the International Political Economy Series book series (IPES)


David Mitrany’s brand of functionalism has never quite proven itself compatible with the mindset of American political science. To reconsider the importance of his approach then is not a task which seems destined for glory. But, simply because American political science has wished to look past Mitrany does not, as such, put American political science in the right. This chapter proceeds on the premise that a reconsideration of functionalism can help American political science and international relations theory sort through the some of the most pressing problems of the discipline — problems closely associated with the continuing vitality of the Enlightenment. Now, so far as the Enlightenment goes, it might be useful to consider it the effort to restructure society according to reason and science, effectively replacing religion and myth as the basis of social and political order. This effort, moreover, explicitly includes the self-emancipation or release of society from tutelage (Kant’s ‘self-imposed immaturity’).1 One cannot ground society in reason unless its members are, or have become, amenable to reason. One must also permit reason or science to operate unencumbered if it is to offer society guidance. Thus, at least in rough terms, the Enlightenment envisions a dual agenda. In the first place the Enlightenment insists upon emancipation of science from political or public control. In the second place, the Enlightenment expects the public to emancipate itself from myth and magic.


Public Good Political Science International Relation American Political Science Association International Relation Theory 
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    James N. Rosenau, ‘Sovereignty in a Turbulent World’, in Gene M. Lyons and Michael Mastanduno (eds), Beyond Westphalia? State Sovereignty and International Intervention ( Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995 ), p. 205.Google Scholar
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    David Mitrany, The Progress of International Government ( New Haven, CN: Yale University Press, 1933 ).Google Scholar
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    James N. Rosenau, ‘Adaptive Politics in an Interdependent World’, in The Study of Global Interdependence: Essays on the Transnationalization of World Affairs ( London: Frances Pinter, 1980 ), pp. 55–6.Google Scholar
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    David Mitrany, The Functional Theory of Politics ( London: LSE/Martin Robertson, 1975 ), p. 248.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1999

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  • John H. Eastby

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