To close out a series of thoughts which emerged in two earlier posts (here and here), let me start by clarifying something a few readers may have missed, namely that corporatism, as a viable model of socio-economic organization, should only be pursued by Catholics to the extent that it conforms to the dictates of the Church’s social magisterium. There is no one, hard set corporatist model to follow. Both Joseph Schumpeter and Pope Pius XI focus on principles, not machinery. What the two men share in common, however, is a rejection of fascist forms of corporatism. John Pollard, in his book The Papacy in the Age of Totalitarianism: 1914-1958 pg. 247, has this to say on the matter:
The difference between Catholic and Fascist variants of corporatism, as spelled out in sections 91-96 of Quadragesimo Anno, was essentially founded on the Catholic social principle of ‘subsidiarity,’ that a higher level of authority, in this case the State, should not usurp the functions of lower-level institutions in civil society such as the family, the Church, local authorities, and corporative syndicates.
Pollard goes on to note that the corporatist models pursued in Europe during the 1930s largely failed to meet the demands set forth by Pius XI, though Austria and, to a lesser extent, Portugal came close. One reason why this may have been the case is due to the political realities on the Continent at that time, and that the level of moral reform which Schumpeter, following Pius XI, thought necessary for a corporatist state to function free of totalitarianism simply did not have time to ferment. There is a lot of room to think through whether or not the arguably inadequate corporatism of 1930s Europe is a better option than the economic liberalism that reigns today or if a limited compromise on corporatist principles can be tolerated until such a time when society has been properly weaned from false ideologies. That project is beyond the scope of these rather modest blog posts.
What’s evident in the text of Quadragesimo Anno and its predecessor, Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, is that the egalitarian, leveling socialism now being suggested in certain Catholic circles as “the way forward” finds almost no support. Those who wish to pay this reality no mind are as guilty as the neoliberals and libertarians who believe, by their own lights, that they are not bound by the Church’s social teaching, which they continually treat as suggestive at best and dangerously naïve at worst. Corporatism, on the other hand, does provide another model that avoids the pitfalls of liberalism and socialism even if it remains, at this stage in the game, under-theorized.