IN the discussions in the European Assembly at Strasbourg a school of thought has emerged which has come to be described as "functionalism." What those who use this term mean by it is that there is a way of looking at world affairs not in terms of countries but of "functions," or, to use a simpler expression, occupations. If you bring men together as nationals, so the argument runs, as Frenchmen, Italians, Germans and so on, divergent interests will very soon make their appearance. But if you assemble them in terms of their occupations, the deeper they get into the heart of their subject the more conscious they will become of the bond that unites them, whether they are doctors or chemists, or bankers, or electricians or astronomers.
Those who talk in this way sometimes go on to say that they have discovered a new approach to European unity, or even to world unity--unity by functional association. This is of course an exaggerated claim. What they have really done is to use an old approach which can be helpful, as they think, in a new setting, the setting of postwar Europe, where it can be effective in circumventing certain temporary political obstacles. The new Coal and Steel Authority is a case in point. Whether this authority will fulfill the hopes of its creators is not a matter for discussion in these pages. The point for us to note here is that, insofar as it succeeds in doing so, it will be because its operations are carried on in a favorable political atmosphere. Functional organizations cannot solve political problems. The most that they can do is to help to develop conditions in which political problems can be solved elsewhere, by statesmen, whose task it is to grapple with questions of power. It is a dangerous illusion to believe that functionalism by itself can bring about world peace, however fully it is developed. No conceivable multiplication of professional or workers' organizations can do away with the world's need for political organization; for it is only when men meet as citizens, taking responsibility for all