The evidence suggests that business corporations have considerable power in the market, but they may also be constrained by competition in the market, and by the state. Corporate groups are interdependent. In the 1970s, it was argued that a corporatist relationship existed between employers associations and trade unions, who, along with the state, were jointly involved in economic decision-making. Corporatism was especially evident in West Germany, the Scandinavian countries, and to a lesser extent Britain. Corporate groups were said to enjoy a say in making national policy decisions in return for controlling their members. In relation to the trade unions, there has been much debate as to whether corporatism was a form of working-class incorporation, or an expression of worker power. In the harsher economic climate of the 1980s, however, corporatism all but disappeared, especially in Britain, when trade unions were almost entirely excluded from the policy process. The various interpretations of corporatism are spelled out fully in Order and Conflict in Contemporary Capitalism (1984), edited by John H. Goldthorpe, a collection of essays which is based on a series of excellent comparative studies of political and industrial conflict in advanced capitalist societies during the post-1945 era.
It should be noted that theories of corporatism are sometimes called ‘neocorporatist theory’, to distinguish them from the normative theory of the corporate state espoused in the early twentieth century by the Roman Catholic Church, Italian Fascist Party, and others.
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