The concept of the corporate state closely relates to pluralist philosophy. As opposed to monist philosophy, pluralist philosophy claims the existence of more than one ultimate principle that may serve as the basis of decision and action at the same time. Monist philosophy, in contrast, recognizes that all decisions and actions proceed from one consistent principle; otherwise, action would be impossible.
The core of state corporatism is to integrate different social classes and groups—often with contradictory interests—into the policy-making process. As a theory of social partnership closely connected historically to Catholic social theory, it also served as a basis for utopian socialists such as Saint-Simon to argue that the working classes should be included in decision- and policy-making processes. Catholic social theory seeks to reconcile social classes and conserve the existing social order by mitigating the radicalism of social conflicts. Utopian socialists, however, want to overcome social classes by establishing, in the long run, a socialist society.
During two periods in modern history, the concept of the corporate state became popular. In the 1890s, under pressure from growing working-class and socialist movements, the Catholic Church tried to popularize the concept against the opposing concept of class conflict or war. In the 1970s the concept (neo-corporatism) again became popular, particularly among academics responding to the growing influence of international socialist and communist movements. Each time the goal was to incorporate the usually excluded working classes, subordinate cultural groups, and extra-parliamentary movements into the decision- and policy-making processes.
The concept of the corporate state found voice among fascists. Mussolini, for example, claimed to have a corporate theory of the state. Similar but less explicit claims may be found in German fascist theories of the state. Marxists, however, find this to be merely demagoguery to conceal the real aims of fascism. They maintain that, if neoliberalism is the most radical polity under representative democracy to enforce the interests of the monopolist bourgeoisie, then fascism is the most radical and open polity with military force and violence to the same end. In other words, fascism is the most radical conservative and monist theory of politics, despite its efforts to conceal its ideology.
Marxism explores a monist theory of politics also. However, it differs from fascism radically in that it wants, like utopian socialists, to change the existing social order rather than to conserve it. It seeks to take political power in the name of the working classes and subordinated groups to establish a socialist society without any subordinated social classes or groups. In this view, socialism is the essential solution to all structurally caused social problems, offering the kingdom of freedom as opposed to the kingdom of subordination and suppression.
- Crouch, Colin and Wolfgang Streeck, eds. 2006. The Diversity of Democracy: Corporatism, Social Order and Political Conflict. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.
- Williamson, Peter J. 1989. Corporatism in Perspective: An Introductory Guide to Corporatist Theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
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