Acton Institute Powerblog

Corporatism Redux: Latin America, the Left, and the Church’s Challenge

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Many are alarmed as Latin American countries such as Venezuela and Bolivia veer toward leftist class-struggle politics and socialist economic policies. But, as Sam Gregg points out, the potent combination of state-authoritarianism, populism, nationalism and xenophobia — or “corporatism” — seen today in Latin America was also present in European fascist governments in the 1930s, and later during the regime of Argentina’s Juan Peron. One encouraging sign: Catholic leaders are now speaking out against this corporatist agenda.

Read the complete commentary here.

Jonathan Spalink


  • Kurt Brouwer

    Dr Gregg:

    I enjoyed the article and agreed with your points in general. The term you used to encompass socialist policies ranging from Peron to Chavez stuck in my craw a bit though:

    ‘…Up to a point, this is a fair depiction of affairs. But a more accurate description would be to say that Bolivia and Venezuela are experiencing a resurgence of “corporatism.”…’

    Why corporatism? Why not unionism or nationalism or whatever? The term corporatism suggests a link with corporation that perhaps you did not intend–I hope.

  • Samuel Gregg

    Dear Kurt:

    Thanks for the note. I appreciated your comment. Just to clarify – I used the phrase "corporatism" (which is nothing to do with the modern corporation) because this term is the technical phrase that has been used to describe (from about the late 1890s as far as I can tell) the very specific combination of factors that I mentioned (nationalism, militarism, nationalization, extensive suffocation of civil society, hostility to foreigners etc etc etc) which is manifesting itself – again – in parts of Latin America. Corporatism was the form of political society and economy that took shape (to greater and lesser extents) in Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, Franco’s Spain, and Peron’s Argentina. Presidents Chavez and Morales would no doubt be greatly offended at anyone making an analogy between them and these regimes, but, in terms of policies, I think it is accurate.

    I’ve just finished the final draft of a book, entitled "The Commercial Society: Foundations and Challenges in a Global Age" One of the challenges I identify is that of corporatism and neo-corporatism. The latter has been especially influential in shaping much of the post-war economies of continental Western Europe, and is fundamental to understanding much of its economic stagnation and political inertia. I go much further into the history of these terms and developments in the book than I can obviously do in an Acton commentary.

    Thanks again for your contribution.

    Sam Gregg

  • Rabbi Louis J. Feldman,Ph.D.

    Outstanding article! It brought more clarity, in one simple page than many of the books I have read. I would love to receive more of your scholarly work.

  • Gandalin

    Dear Dr. Gregg:

    Thank you for such an outstanding essay. It is concise and straightforward, and very clearly shows the Chavez project for what it is. Corporatism is exactly the right word, although it may confuse many readers today. More than a few people think that the "corporatism" of, for example Fascist Italy, showed that Fascism was a right-wing phenomenon, aimed at increasing the power of the corporations. As you clearly show in your essay, and in your comment, "corporatism" was a decidedly statist, i.e. left-wing phenomenon. The "corporations" included the labor unions and the other organs of a society conceived of as a single body.

    Not to belabor the point, but one of the great lies of leftist propaganda is that, although it may be admitted that communism was the totalitarianism of the left, Fascism and Naziism were totalitarianisms of the right.

    In fact, all of the statist ideologies that ravaged the world during the 20th century were left wing. Fascism and Naziism (National Socialism, after all, promoted by the National Socialist German Workers’ Party) were self-consciously anti-capitalist, revolutionary movements. Nazi Germany employed more economic planners than did the Soviet Union.

    It should go without saying that none of these monstrous movements ever resulted in the benefits they promised to the common people they pretended to cherish.

    The opposition of the Church to the emergence of corporatist tyrannies in South America would indeed by welcome. All too often, Catholic intellectuals, some of them priests and bishops, have championed ill-considered leftist movements.

  • Dr William Gissy

    It’s hard to believe that there are still those who try to paint facism as left wing…..all political extremes are statist in nature..the far left and the far right…they differ as to the supposed role of the authoritarian state….Mussolini and Hitler would laugh if anyone suggested that their parties were left wing….they were very anti-communist, anti-socialist and, for that reason, had the full backing of the corporate leaders….who made and kept large profits…granted it wasn’t market capitalism but it was a system with privately owned businesses where workers were little more than serfs…

    so dear are wrong….Corporatism is far right statism for the economic benefit of the few….as opposed to far left statism which claims to seek (without finding) the economic benefit of the many….

    Corporatism (or Command Capitalism) is the Right at its worst… is also a term prefered by conservatives who want to deflect attention away from the fact that it too is a system of privately owned businesses….in fact today the term Command Capitalism is frequently used by economists to describe the economic system…..

  • Claudio

    I would like to share your optimism about the change in the bishops’ view in Latin America. It’s not what I can see in Brazil…yet.

    I hope I could be wrong.

    Best Wishes,


  • Jude Chua

    Dear Sam, thanks for this very lucid and enlightening article. Look forward to your new book.