Corporate state

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The corporate state (also corporation state ) is a political concept of the 20th century, when various anti- liberal theorists and regimes , predominantly against a Catholic background, used the ideological recourse to the premodern estates . H. aimed at the corporatist reorganization of contemporary states and societies based on group membership and the abolition of party pluralism.


The precursor of the corporate state in the romantic state theory z. B. by Adam Henrich Müller . After the end of the First World War, the main thrust of the idea was directed against the organized labor movement: employers and employees should organize themselves together within the professions, which should make an independent trade union movement impossible. Overcoming the class struggle was an urgent goal. The encyclical Quadragesimo anno (1931) by Pope Pius XI called for this professional balance between capital and labor . Furthermore, the idea of ​​the corporate state was directed against parliamentary democracy and liberal individualism.

The Austrian philosopher Othmar Spann , the most important propagandist of the concept, spoke in 1929 at the University of Munich of an authoritarian “corporate state” as the third path between democracy and Marxism . Together with Walter Heinrich, he was the initiator of the Institute for Estates in Düsseldorf from 1933 to 1936, which was supported by Fritz Thyssen .

As Arthur Benz observes, the concept of the corporate state is actually a contradiction in terms , as the corporate status precedes modern statehood and has been replaced by it.

Realization attempts

The tension between self-governing corporations (estates) and state-authoritarian interventions also shaped the (unsuccessful) attempts to implement a corporate state. While the papal encyclical made a strict distinction between the role of corporations and families, the so-called "members of the social body", and that of the state, and wanted to limit the former to their economic role, thus granting them a great deal of independence from state intervention in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity Othmar Spann, like the theorists of Italian fascism, emphasized the primacy of the whole over the individual. The National Socialists , on the other hand, could not make friends with the idea of ​​the corporate state, since it stood in the way of the ethnic and racial ideology.


The Italian Carta del Lavoro ( Labor Constitution) of April 21, 1927, which came into force under Mussolini , is a basic document of the principles of the fascist corporate state. It elevated corporatism to doctrine, proclaimed a syndicalist ethic of industrial relations, and laid down the main features of a fascist political economy. In addition to the role of the chambers of estates organized according to industries or professional groups, in which employers and employees were represented, the role of private property and collective employment contracts were also laid down in the Carta . There was also its own ministry of estates.

The Carta was influenced by the ideas of the socialist Alceste de Ambris , an opponent of Mussolini who had voluntarily gone into exile in France as early as 1923. The text itself was drafted and edited by Justice Minister Alfredo Rocco and the conservative lawyer Carlo Costamagna, who was influenced by Hegel . The business lawyer Rocco, a former Marxist, came from the Associazione Nazionalista Italiana , founded in 1910 , whose ideas shaped Mussolini's fascist party. Last but not least, Rocco's aim was to strengthen Italy economically against the dominant European powers. The philosopher and lawyer Sergio Panunzio , who also came from the Marxist camp, also called for syndicalism to be further developed into corporatism through stronger intervention by the state. However, unlike Costamagna, he saw the corporations not as independent representations, but as state organs. This made him one of the most important theorists of Italian fascism.

According to Franklin H. Adler, behind the (incomplete or contradictory implementation) attempt to establish an Italian corporate state is the endeavor to counter the increasing fragmentation and conflicts of political and social forces in the liberal Nightwatchmanstate (night watchman state) by bundling these forces according to industries, occupational groups, regions and prevent communities. This should counteract the negative effects of an increasing functional differentiation of the economy and society and bring about a social mobilization and modernization.

In fact, the Italian “corporate state” limited itself to symbolic forms of representation. In practice, the competence of the individual structures proved to be minimal; the state seized all legal power. In doing so, at least, he contradicted the aims of the Vatican, which is expressed in nos. 91–95 of the encyclical. Behind the curtain of corporatism, especially in southern Italy, old, semi-feudal power structures that came into conflict with the ever increasing state interventions and technocratic attempts at modernization survived.


The idea of ​​the corporate state to pacify class disputes was given a boost across Europe in particular by the global economic crisis. The dictatorship of the Austrian Dollfuss / Schuschnigg regime from 1934–1938 also claimed to establish such a corporate state in Austria . The "in the name of God," adopted on 1 May 1934 never actually entered into force Austrian May Constitution should be the basis for a "social, Christian, German State Austria on corporative basis" who opposed the militant class struggle thoughts. It aimed at a class feudal model of society supported by the Catholic Church (so-called Austrofascism ).

After Austria was annexed to the German Reich in 1938, the theorists of the corporate state working there, such as Othmar Spann and Walter Heinrich, came into conflict with the National Socialists, among others. a. because their ideas of a hierarchically structured society with an elite at the top were not compatible with the concept of a unified national body and the National Socialist racial doctrine.

Other states

In the scientific literature, the term is also used for the social goals pursued by Salazar's Estado Novo in Portugal (1933–1974) or the Tisos regime in Slovakia (1938–1945). These regimes are often considered to be fascist. In Spain under Francisco Franco and in Latin America, which was badly hit by the global economic crisis, corporatist structures were created, for example in Mexico , in Brazil under Getúlio Vargas and in Argentina under Juan Perón . Sometimes these structures weakened and sometimes strengthened the unions.

In a weakened form, a corporate state was also established in Estonia under the authoritarian rule of Constantine Päts .

Individual evidence

  1. Arthur Benz : The modern state: Foundations of the political analysis. 1st edition. Oldenbourg, Munich / Vienna 2001, ISBN 3-486-23636-9 .
  2. Julius F. Reiter: Origin and constitutional theory of the Italian Carta del Lavoro. Essen 2005.
  3. ^ Franklin Hugh Adler: Italian Industrialists from Liberalism to Fascism: The Political Development of the Industrial Bourgeoisie, 1906-34 . Cambridge University Press, p. 349.
  4. Fernando Rosas (ed.): From the corporate state to democracy. Portugal in the 20th century. Trans. V. Gerd Hammer, Munich 1997.
  5. ^ Klaus Neumann: 'Corporatist state' and enhanced authoritarian dictatorship: The Austria of Dollfuss and Schuschnigg (1933-38). In: Antonio Costa Pinto (Ed.): Corporatism and Fascism: The Corporative Wave in Europe. London 2017.


  • Carlo Costamagna: Manuale di diritto corporativo italiano. Fonti e motivi della legislazione sulla disciplina giuridica dei rapporti collettivi del lavoro. With a foreword by Alfredo Rocco. Turin 1927.
  • Paolo Buchignani: Fascisti rossi. Mondadori, Milan 1998.