Summary: In approximately 1400 words, this entry describes corporatism, distinguishes between liberal and authoritarian forms of corporatism, and provides examples of different kinds of corporatist systems.
Traditionally, corporatism was closely associated with fascism and authoritarianism. Recently, however, a new kind of corporatism is emerging within capitalist democracies. Corporatism's core is functional representation, a system which gives organized socioeconomic interests a privileged position in public policy making, providing these interests can compel acceptance of such policies among their members.
Authoritarian corporatist systems include the dictatorships of Mussolini and Salazar as well as some Latin American political regimes, including post-1964 Brazil, Mexico and Peru. All of these systems share very limited liberal democracy and popular participation, underdeveloped industrial economies, and a dominant ruling elite. Under these conditions, corporatist institutions become intermediaries between the state and economic producers. Liberal corporatism, on the other hand, emerges from representational monopolies, which tend to form from interest organizations in mature capitalist countries. These monopolies, which represent both labor and capital, have the power to compel their membership through coercive sanctions.
Austria is the classic example of a corporatist state, but the Scandinavian countries, most particularly Sweden, are a close second. Holland and West Germany are less stable examples.
Even where the national context is hostile to corporatism, it is still possible for corporatist systems to exist on a micro level. Agriculture is a clear example. This is an industry that enjoys a privileged status and is protected from market forces and bureaucratic intervention. Most academic and public attention focuses on corporatism at the macro rather than the micro level, despite the real consequences flowing to macro-level governments from micro-level corporatist systems.