Corporatism or corporativism is an ideology that supports the organization of society by corporate groups, such as agricultural, labour, military, scientific, or guild associations, on the basis of their common interests.
Kinship-based groups are sometimes considered a form of corporatism, emphasizing clan, ethnic, and family identification, and have been a common phenomenon worldwide, especially important in areas where clans are important, notably in many non-European areas.
Corporatist ideas have been expressed at least since Ancient Greece, such as by Plato and Aristotle. Ancient Rome adopted Ancient Greek concepts of corporatism into their own version of corporatism, but also added the concept of political representation on the basis of function that divided representatives into military, professional and religious groups and created institutions for each group known as colegios.
In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church sponsored the creation of various institutions including brotherhoods, monasteries, religious orders and military associations. In Italy, various function-based groups and institutions were created, including universities, guilds for artisans and craftspeople and other professional associations. The creation of the guild system is a particularly important aspect of the history of corporatism.
After the French Revolution, the existing corporatist system was abolished. The new French government considered corporatism's emphasis on group rights as inconsistent with the government's promotion of individual rights. Furthermore, it was associated with the Catholic Church and the old regime. Subsequently, corporatist systems and corporate privilege throughout Europe were abolished in response to the French Revolution. From 1789 to the 1850s, most supporters of corporatism were conservative.
From the 1850s onward, some forms of corporatism became gradually associated with workers' unions that were committed to negotiations with employers, often in contrast with far leftist ideologies supporting violent confrontation and revolutions. The Catholic Church supported these developments.
The concept of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, supporting the value of organizations giving community and belonging, was also an influence.
Corporatism may also refer to economic tripartism involving negotiations between labour and business interest groups and the government to establish economic policy. This is sometimes also referred to as neo-corporatism and is associated with social democracy.
Corporatism and syndicalism
Etymologically, corporatism derives from the Latin "corpus" meaning "human body", indicating the intention that society should be in harmonious functioning when each of its divisions efficiently performs its designated function, such as a body's organs individually contributing its general health. Syndicalism, on the other hand, derives from a French word for "trade union".
Compared with syndicalism, "Both historically and comparatively, syndicalism is simpler and so easier to define. Essentially it comprises an economic and political movement of the working class that is avowedly both anti‐capitalist and anti‐statist; and its ultimate goal is to abolish capitalism and the state in favour of a loose decentralized federation of worker‐owned and worker‐managed production units. Corporatism is harder to encapsulate in a sentence or two. But there is broad agreement that most corporatist projects accept the legitimacy (or, at least, medium‐term inevitability) of both market forces and state institutions but also seek to limit, modify and guide their operation by linking them formally and substantively to functional representation."
- The Chinese Corporatist State: Adaptation, Survival and Resistance https://www.routledge.com/The-Chinese-Corporatist-State-Adaption-Survival-and-Resistance-1st-Edition/Hsu-Hasmath/p/book/9780415640725
- Corporatism and Syndicalism https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/9781405177245.ch23