Corporatism and Civil Society

24 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2016

See all articles by Erwin Dekker

Erwin Dekker

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)

Date Written: August 30, 2016


This paper develops an alternative view of corporatism. The dominant view of corporatism, as espoused by Edmund Phelps in his recent book Mass Flourishing, views corporatism as an advanced form of state capture. The alternative view developed here instead argues that corporatist institutional arrangements are aimed at curbing special interests. Corporatist institutional arrangement seek to achieve this, not by insulating the state from special interest groups as traditional models of interest groups often implicitly try to do. Instead these institutional arrangements are aimed at channeling the interest of powerful (encompassing) interest groups toward the common good, or rather away from harm and domination. Through a historical case-study of the school struggle in the Netherlands this paper demonstrates that corporatism is closer to private-interest self-governance, than state capture. Although corporatism has been associated with episodes in which the state mobilizes civil society for its own goals, the perspective developed here emphasizes that 2 we can learn from current and historical corporatist institutional arrangements, which have been able to limit state power. Building on recent work by Levy in his Rationalism, Pluralism and Freedom which distinguishes between rationalist liberalism and pluralist liberalism, we argue that the view developed here is closer to the pluralist tradition of liberalism which emphasizes the constructive role of civil society and its role in limiting state power. The standard account on the other hand is suspicious of social power and hence of interest groups, and is closer in line with what Levy calls rationalist or individualist liberalism.

Keywords: Corporatism, Pluralism, Interest Groups, Polycentricity, Channeling of Interests

JEL Classification: H1, H7, P1

Suggested Citation

Dekker, Erwin, Corporatism and Civil Society (August 30, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Erwin Dekker (Contact Author)

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) ( email )

Burgemeester Oudlaan 50
3000 DR Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland 3062PA

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