chapter  5
11 Pages

Modern theories: the corporatist view

A somewhat similar view to that of the technocrats has been expressed by a group of writers on corporatism (commonly known as corporatists) that has become increasingly prolific, well known and popular in recent years. 1 Corporatism is generally defined as an institutional arrangement whereby public policy is worked out through an interaction between top state elites and the leadership of a limited number of powerful corporate organizations (mainly business and industrial corporations on the one hand and labour unions on the other). Under this arrangement, the corporate organizations are granted a deliberate representational monopoly within their respective areas of interest in exchange for submitting themselves to certain constraints imposed by the state.2 The corporatists are those thinkers who believe that tendencies towards such institutional arrangements have in fact come into being in most modern societies and that the present trends of development are towards greater emphasis on such arrangements. 3

Like the technocratic view, the corporatist view is in some ways an offshoot of the elitist school of thought. For it, too, maintains that there is a small group (or an interlocking set of small groups) of powerholders, that determines more or less unilaterally what happens in state and society. But for the technocrats this group is composed primarily of top techno-administrative personnel, while for the corporatists, it is composed of top state position-holders in conjunction with the top representatives of the most powerful interest groups. The corporatists thus also have something in common with the ·pluralists in their emphasis on the crucial importance of interest groups, and in their recognition that the modern state has had to adjust to substantive power centres outside itself. But the pluralist approach implies that multiple, voluntary, competitive, and self-propelled groups have a major impact on state policy, while the corporatist approach posits that only

a limited number of non-competitive, hierarchically ordered and statelicensed groups have such an impact. (Another school of thought with which a major subgroup of corporatists overlap is that of Marxism or neo-Marxism, as will be seen below.)

As corporatism puts great emphasis on the top leadership of major interest groups in the formation of policy, it has to face the problem of the relationship between that leadership and the rank and file membership of these groups. According to Schmitter (1979b )4 corporatist intermediation does not imply that the association's top leadership is necessarily representative of its membership. On the contrary, the association's leadership may well misrepresent the membership's interests, it may represent interests of its own instead, and it may even 'teach' the rank and file membership what its interests are supposed to be.