Events & News


Towards another Return of Neo-functionalism? Ontological Security as the ‘on-off button’ of Spill-Over

Dr Trine Flockhart, Danish Institute for International Studies

04 Oct 2011

PS Lounge, AS1/04-01 Arts Link, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117570

10.30am – 12.00 noon

In her research seminar, Dr. Trine Flockhart presented a revision of Ernst Haas’ theory of neo-functionalism (which was used to explain European integration in the early years of the European Coal and Steel Community, and later as the European Economic Community), highlighting the psychological concept of ontological security as essential, along with other conditions for lasting spill-over in the neo-functionalist sense to occur.

For this, she looked at the processes that contributed to change and stability, specifically in the field of security and defense of the European Union, especially in light of the developments in this field as a result of the Treaty of Lisbon. She cited the examples of NATO and the EU (through its Common Defense and Security Policy), which both operate within comparable structural environments, pursuing comparable goals, yet have rarely cooperated, precisely because of a lack of ontological security.

Taking from social identity theory and narrative theory, Dr Flockhart presented a theoretical framework to explain the processes of change and spill-over – a model which explains that change only happens where ontological security is achieved. This comes about as a result of events and the agent’s practices and actions. They influence its own narrative and identity, contributing to its ontological security, which then in turn reinforces its practices and actions. Ontological security develops best then in an absence of crisis.