The Social Science Encyclopedia

Authors: Kuper & Kuper
Summary: The entry considers corporatism in its historical dimensions, and assesses its strengths and weaknesses as a concept of governance. Corporatism is an effort to manage conflicts within the state. It presupposes the existence of fundamental economic conflicts which can be mediated with the help of the state. The concept first appeared in Scandinavian writings after the Second World War, but soon spread widely, due largely to the work of Schmitter. The concept proved attractive in countries in which unions had achieved some considerable measure of power, and in which the state had a tradition of sponsoring trade unions. Corporatism offered itself as an alternative to syndicalism, which sees conflict between a multitude of antagonistic groups as symptomatic of the modern capitalist economy and the modern state. The entry notes some limits to what corporatism can achieve. Where many economic interests are involved, or disputes center on incompatible ideological alternatives (as in environmental policy), corporatism's emphasis on negotiated settlements and compromise tends to meet with strong opposition.