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Corporatism is political and economic philosophy that defines and promotes the role in society of corporations—i.e., collectives whose members have similar needs and purposes, such as the military, labor unions, and religious groups.
A person who espouses corporatism is a corporatist.
Types of corporatism
Corporatism is often associated with Italian fascism. In that meaning, Corporatism is the union of representatives of labor/trade unions, the government, and companies with the goal of creating a unified industrial policy which works towards the best interests of labor, management, and the government (in theory, the government represents society as a whole). In practice, the exact opposite occurred, with the government strong-arming labor into doing whatever the companies want, closing down independent unions and replacing them with state-run ones that were toothless.
The doctrine of corporatism has its roots in the trade guilds of the middle ages where people of the same profession grouped themselves together, negotiated strict rules that would apply to all corporate members, and then sought recognition as a legitimate trade organisation by the crown. These guilds had a hierarchical structure, but the members often had organic ties to each other, working closely together. They regulated prices and production to suit the needs of society, being largely independent from the crown, even to the degree of protecting their corporate members from the crown. These guilds were gradually banned before the advent of capitalism and economic liberalism. The idea of corporatism resurfaced gradually in far-right circles when syndicates became legalised in most western countries at the end of the 19th century. The idea is that worker syndicates and employer syndicates belonging to the same profession are grouped together into a trade corporation/organisation. Corporatism was applied in modern times in most fascist states, but far from being independent or serving as counter-weight to the state, these trade organisations became largely directed by the state. Corporatists often argue that there was much more security and stability in these trade guilds before the advent of economic liberalism, which lead to the creation of the proletariat during the 19th century.
"Social corporatism" has sometimes been used to describe social democratic economic models, where both private property and labour interests are protected. While this has been used by some libertarians and communists including Stalin as "proof" that liberals are actually "deep cover fascists" (the communists under their theory of "social fascism"), it doesn't explain why Angela Merkel hasn't worn a toothbrush moustache, suspended the Bundestag and bombed Greece yet. One famous example is Peronism, which has divided Argentinian politics ever since World War II ended.
What it is not
Corporatism is frequently (possibly deliberately) misidentified as "rule by companies" to 'prove' that all modern governments are fascist, ergo Bush did 9/11 or whatever other nonsense they're peddling. The term is derived not from 'corporation', but rather from the Latin corpus, corporis ('body'), as Fascism, once a theoretical basis for it was retconned into place, believed that the people of a country and the State constituted a single body, with all elements of society meant to be members in support of that body (and anyone not deemed to be in support had better make themselves scarce before they were made scarce).
- "National Corporatism", Italy, 1922-1945, Benito Mussolini
- "Country, Religion, Monarchy", Spain, 1923-1930, Miguel Primo de Rivera
- "National Socialism", Germany, 1933-1945, Adolf Hitler
- "National Syndicalism", Spain, 1936-1973, Francisco Franco
- "New State", Portugal, 1932-1968, Antonio Salazar
- "New State", Brazil, 1933-1945, Getulio Vargas
- "New Deal", United States, 1933-1945, Franklin Roosevelt
- "Third Hellenic Civilization", Greece, 1936-1941, Ioannis Metaxas
- "Justicialist Party", Argentina, 1943-1955, Juan Perón