David Mitrany and International Functionalism
OF all the ideas of the twenty years' crisis, international functionalism must surely deserve a special place. It was the one bit of 'idealism' that survived nationalism, totalitarianism, and appeasement relatively unscathed. It was an important conceptual component in the creation of the numerous international organizations established after the war, and it was one of few 'idealist' ideas that won explicit 'realist' approval. 1 That it should have been developed by an anti-socialist, expatriate Romanian, with an interest in small states may, accordingly, reflect badly on the rest, British as they were, most socialistic if not socialist, and concerned with the large state in an imperial setting. But Mitrany's Continentalism was schooled in English ways. The ideas he purveyed into the international arena were rooted in a thoroughly English political theory.
David Mitrany was born in Bucharest in 1888. In 1912, at a time when most of his fellow nationals preferred Paris, he came to the London School of Economics. His purpose was to study the new discipline of sociology, a discipline which he intended to apply to the peasant problem in eastern Europe. It was an experience at a social settlement in Hamburg modelled on Toynbee Hall which had brought him to London, and he supposed himself, he later noted, destined for a career in social policy, when war intervened.
His experience of war and its consequences for his ideas were shared by most of his fellow scholars in Houghton Street. The
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Publication information: Book title: Thinkers of the Twenty Years' Crisis:Inter-War Idealism Reassessed. Contributors: David Long - Editor, Peter Wilson - Editor. Publisher: Clarendon Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 1995. Page number: 214.
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