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Corporatism and syndicalism

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Abstract

Corporatism and syndicalism have a certain family resemblance as political philosophies and political projects committed to functional representation, but they also differ in other, more fundamental respects. Viewed as forms of economic and political interest intermediation, their crucial common feature is explicit organization in terms of the functions performed in the division of labour by those represented through such organizational forms. Such representation can be organized in various ways, however, which enables one to distinguish syndicalism from corporatism and their variant forms. 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.