Corporatism:Some crude definitions

Xxxx Xxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx at
Mon Feb 26 15:47:23 MST 2001,5716,26824+1,00.html


also called CORPORATIVISM, Italian CORPORATIVISMO, the theory and
practice of organizing the whole of society into "corporations"
subordinate to the state. According to the theory, workers and employers
would be organized into industrial and  professional corporations
serving as organs of political representation and controlling  to a
large extent the persons and activities within their jurisdiction. In
actual practice,  however, as the "corporate state" was put into effect
in Fascist Italy between World
Wars I and II, it reflected the will of the dictator rather than the
adjusted interests of economic groups.

Although the corporate idea was intimated in the Congregationalism of
colonial Puritan New England and in mercantilism, its earliest
theoretical expression came after the French Revolution and was
strongest in eastern Germany and Austria. The chief spokesman for this
corporatism, or "distributism" (as it was later called in Germany),  was
Adam Müller, court philosopher for Prince Metternich. His attacks on
 egalitarianism and on the economics of Adam Smith were vigorous
attempts to find a modern justification for traditional institutions and
led him to conceive a modernized Ständestaat ("class state"), which
might claim sovereignty and divine right because it would be organized
to regulate production and to coordinate class interests. Its classes,
or estates (Stände), though roughly equivalent to the feudal classes,
were to
operate as guilds, or corporations, each controlling a specific function
of social life. Müller's theories were buried with Metternich, but after
the end of the 19th century they regained life. On the European
continent they served movements analogous to guild socialism, which
flourished in England and had many features in common with corporatism,
though its sources and aims were largely secular. In France, Germany,
Austria, and Italy, Christian syndicalists revived the theory of
corporations in order to combat the revolutionary syndicalists on the
one hand and the socialist political parties on the other. The most
systematic exposition of such theory was made by the Austrian economist
Othmar Spann and by the Italian leader of Christian Democracy, Giuseppe

The advent of Italian Fascism gave an opportunity to put the theories of
the corporate state into practice, for in order to gain power Benito
Mussolini and his associates in 1919 at Milan needed the support of the
syndicalist wing of the Nationalist Party. The Fascists viewed
corporations as a useful form of social organization that could provide
 the vehicle for a broad-based and socially harmonious class
participation in economic production. Mussolini's aim in adopting
corporatist doctrines was to strengthen his claim to nationalism at the
expense of the left wing of the centrist parties and the right  wing of
the syndicalists.

The practical work of creating Italian Fascist syndicates and
corporations began  immediately after Mussolini's march on Rome in 1922.
At first, Italian industrial employers refused to cooperate in mixed
syndicates or in a single confederation of  corporations. A compromise
was therefore arranged that called for pairs of syndical  confederations
in each major field of production, one for employers and one for
employees; each pair was to work out the collective labour contracts for
its field, and these contracts would be binding for all workers and
employers in that field. The confederations thus organized were to be
unified under a ministry of corporations in the government, which would
have final authority. This so-called constitution for the corporate
state was promulgated as law on April 3, 1926.

The formation of mixed syndical organs or corporations, which was the
central aim of the corporative reform, had to wait until 1934, when a
decree created 22 corporations--each for a particular field of economic
activity (categoria) and each responsible not only for the
administration of labour contracts but for the promotion of the
interests of its field in general. At the head of each corporation was a
council on  which employers and employees had equal representation. The
22 corporations were
the following: (1) grains; (2) fruits, vegetables, and flowers; (3)
vineyards and wine; (4) olive oil and products; (5) sugar beets and
sugar products; (6) animal products and fish; (7) lumber; (8) textiles;
(9) metals and machinery; (10) chemicals; (11) clothing; (12) paper and
printing; (13) building and construction; (14) water, gas, and
electricity; (15) mining; (16) glass and ceramics; (17) banking and
insurance; (18) liberal professions and arts; (19) marine and aviation;
(20) internal transportation and  communications; (21) theatre; and (22)
hotels. To coordinate the work of these  corporations the central
corporative committee was created, which turned out in practice to be
indistinguishable from the ministry of corporations. In 1936 the
 Council of Corporations met as successor to the Chamber of Deputies and
as supreme legislative body in the state. It was composed of 823
members, 66 of whom represented the Fascist Party; the remainder
comprised representatives of the employer and employee confederations,
distributed among the 22 corporations. The creation of this body was
heralded as the completion of the legal structure of the corporate
state. However, the autonomous corporations had barely begun to
function, and the national council had barely begun to sit, when World
War II broke out and the
system broke up.

Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx
Ph.D Student
Department of Political Science
SUNY at Albany
Nelson A. Rockefeller College
135 Western Ave.; Milne 102
Albany, NY 12222

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