The Theory of Functionalism and Support for the European Union

Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Gilbert Scott Building - Room 134 (University of Glasgow)
Nicholas Clark , Political Science, Susquehanna University
The study of the European Union began with elite-driven theories that elaborated on the benefits a country might gain from joining the EU, but rarely addressed public opinion. Research about the EU has largely moved beyond these theories to empirically identify and explain the conditions (e.g. economic performance or the EU’s perceived effect on national identity) that lead some individuals to support the EU. This work does not often consider the theoretical grounds for supporting the EU that were offered in earlier works. This paper serves to connect these two bodies of scholarship, arguing that there is a functionalist dimension to support for European integration similar to the theory developed by David Mitrany. Some individuals may perceive the EU as important for addressing certain cross-border problems (such as combatting pollution or organized crime) that cannot be resolved by any state acting in isolation. To test this possibility, the paper relies on survey data from Eurobarometer 72.4, conducted in the fall of 2009. The results suggest that, in addition to the established predictors, the perception that the EU fulfills essential non-economic functions also drives EU support.
  • Clark_CES.pdf (371.8 kB)