For the similar term used in sociology, see Neofunctionalism (sociology).
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Neofunctionalism is a theory of regional integration, building on the work of Ernst B. Haas, a German-born American political scientist, and also Leon Lindberg, an American political scientist. The explicit purpose of the neofunctionalists was to utilize the pioneering European experience of integration to generate hypotheses for testing in other contexts.[1]:243 Jean Monnet's approach to European integration, which aimed at integrating individual sectors in hopes of achieving spillover effects to further the process of integration, is said to have followed the neofunctional school's tack. Haas later declared the theory of neofunctionalism obsolete, a statement he revoked in his final book,[2] after the process of European integration started stalling in the 1960s, when Charles de Gaulle's "empty chair" politics paralyzed the institutions of the European Coal and Steel Community, European Economic Community, and European Atomic Energy Community.[3] The theory was updated and further specified namely by Wayne Sandholtz, Alec Stone Sweet, and their collaborators in the 1990s and in the 2000s (references below). The main contributions of these authors was an employment of empiricism.

Neofunctionalism describes and explains the process of regional integration with reference to how three causal factors interact:[4][5]

Early neofunctionalist theory assumed a decline in importance of nationalism and the nation-state; it predicted that, gradually, elected officials, interest groups, and large commercial interests within states would see it in their interests to pursue welfarist objectives best satisfied by the political and market integration at a higher, supranational level. Haas theorized three mechanisms that he thought would drive the integration forward: positive spillover, the transfer of domestic allegiances and technocratic automaticity.[6]

Neofunctionalism was modified and updated in two important books that helped to revive the study of European integration: European Integration and Supranational Governance (1998),[8] and The Institutionalization of Europe (2001).[9] Wayne Sandholtz and Alec Stone Sweet describe and assess the evolution of Neofunctionalist theory and empirical research in their 2009 paper, Neo-functionalism and Supranational Governance.[10]


Intergovernmentalism is an alternative theory of political integration, where power in international organizations is possessed by the member-states and decisions are made unanimously. Independent appointees of the governments or elected representatives have solely advisory or implementational functions. Intergovernmentalism is used by most international organizations today. An alternative method of decision-making in international organizations is supranationalism.

Intergovernmentalism is also a theory on European integration which rejects the Neofunctionalist mechanisms of integration. The theory, initially proposed by Stanley Hoffmann and refined by Andrew Moravcsik suggests that governments control the level and speed of European integration. Any increase in power at supranational level, he argues, results from a direct decision by governments who make decisions based on a domestic agenda. The theory rejects the spillover-effect argument and the idea that supranational organisations wield political influence on par with that of national governments.

Neofunctionalists have criticized intergovernmentalism on theoretical grounds as well as on the basis of empirical evidence, which they claim demonstrates that intergovernmentalism is incapable of explaining the dynamics and trajectory of European integration.[10] Today, approaches with affinities to neofunctionalism dominate the study of European integration, and especially regarding the European Union's legal system, while research on intergovernmentalism is sparse.[11]

In the last decades Haas' theory has been revived by several authors, who describe the neofunctionalist theoretical legacy left by him as able to speak directly to current EU studies and comparative regionalism, if it is seen as a dynamic theory that corresponds to established social scientific norms with disciplinary openness.[1][12]



  1. 1 2 Rosamond, Ben (April 2005). "The uniting of Europe and the foundation of EU studies: Revisiting the neofunctionalism of Ernst B. Haas". Journal of European Public Policy, special issue: The Disparity of European Integration: Revisiting Neofunctionalism in Honour of Ernst Haas. Taylor and Francis. 12 (5): 237–254. doi:10.1080/13501760500043928.
  2. Haas, Ernst B. (2004) [1958], "Introduction: Institutionalism or constructivism?", in Haas, Ernst B., The uniting of Europe: political, social, and economic forces, 1950–1957 (3rd ed.), Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, p. iii, ISBN 9780268043476.
  3. Haas, Ernst (1975). The obsolescence of regional integration theory. Berkeley: Institute of International Studies, University of California. ISBN 9780877251255.
  4. Sandholtz, Wayne; Stone Sweet, Alec (September 1997). "European integration and Supranational governance". Journal of European Public Policy. Taylor and Francis. 4 (3): 297–317. doi:10.1080/13501769780000011. Pdf.
    See also: Branch, Ann P.; Ohrgaard, Jakob C. (September 1999). "Trapped in the supranational-intergovernmental dichotomy: a response to Stone Sweet and Sandholtz". Journal of European Public Policy. Taylor and Francis. 6 (1): 123–143. doi:10.1080/135017699343838.
    Sandholtz, Wayne; Stone Sweet, Alec (September 1999). "European integration and supranational governance revisited: rejoinder to Branch and Ohrgaard". Journal of European Public Policy. Taylor and Francis. 6 (1): 144–154. doi:10.1080/135017699343847.
  5. Haas, Ernst B. (1961). "International Integration: The European and the Universal Process". International Organization. Cambridge Journals. 15 (3): 366–392. doi:10.1017/S0020818300002198. Pdf.
  6. Haas, Ernst B., ed. (2004) [1958]. The uniting of Europe: political, social, and economic forces, 1950–1957 (3rd ed.). Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press. ISBN 9780268043476.
  7. Rosamond, Ben (2000). Theories of European integration. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 9780333647172.
  8. Sandholtz, Wayne; Stone Sweet, Alec, eds. (1998). European integration and supranational governance. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198294641. Details.
  9. Sandholtz, Wayne; Stone Sweet, Alec; Fligstein, Neil, eds. (2001). The institutionalization of Europe. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199247950. Details.
  10. 1 2 Sandholtz, Wayne; Stone Sweet, Alec (6 April 2010). "Neofunctionalism and Supranational Governance". SSRN. Social Science Research Network. doi:10.2139/ssrn.1585123. SSRN 1585123Freely accessible.
  11. Stone Sweet, Alec (2010). "The European Court of Justice and the judicialization of EU governance". Living Reviews in EU Governance. Living Reviews. 5. doi:10.12942/lreg-2010-2. Colour pdf.
  12. Börzel, Tanja A., ed. (2006). The Disparity of European Integration: Revisiting Neofunctionalism in Honour of Ernst B. Haas. Journal of European Public Policy Special Issues Series. Abingdon, UK New York: Routledge. ISBN 9780415374903.
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