Statist Corporatism and Child Care Unionization

The drive to “unionize” independently owned child-care businesses in Rhode Island raises a question of what to call the form of government that can force private business into a relationship with a union, in order to receive state subsidies. A good candidate that’s used by taxonomists of political economies and political ideologies is statist corporatism.

In the 2012 edition of Blackwell’s “A Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy” (we are nothing here at Anchor Rising/Ocean State Current if not current), the entry titled “Corporatism and Syndicalism“, authored by sociologist Bob Jessop, quotes political science professor Philippe C. Schmitter to provide a basic definition of corporatism…

Corporatism can be defined as a system of interest representation in which the constituent units are organized into a limited number of singular, compulsory, non-competitive, hierarchically ordered and functionally differentiated categories, recognized or licensed (if not created) by the state and granted a deliberate representational monopoly within their respective categories, in exchange for observing certain controls on their selections of leaders and articulation of demands and supports.

Jessop, in differentiating various kinds of corporatism, then adds that…

Statist corporatism is imposed by the state…

…so don’t blame me for the existence of the term.

The child-care “unionization” effort in Rhode Island hits directly most of the points in the second half of Schmitter’s definition. The proposed child-care corporate would be “functionally differentiated”, “recognized or licensed by the state” and “granted a deliberate representational monopoly within [its] respective categor[y]”. I’m not sure you can say selection of leaders has been traded away in return for state recognition, but the public is definitely being told that unionizing child-care businesses involves a limit on their “articulation of demands” (e.g. there will be no demand for state pensions).

The proposed child-care corporate would only be formally “singular” and “compulsory” as applied to providers who accept state subsidies, but this leads immediately to a significant question about the appropriateness of the use of state subsidies to favor and/or impose certain governance forms on organizations which (for now) are outside of the state and part of  “civil society” instead.

Finally, as Monique pointed out below, advocates for corporatized child care refused this week to send anyone to participate in a televised forum to discuss the issue in front of the public — yet they obviously have been very active in engaging the state in pursuit of their “representational monopoly”.  When combined with Schmitter’s acknowledgement of “hierarchical ordering” as a facet of corporatism, a major problem that’s relevant to Rhode Island and in general becomes apparent:  The organization of people by the state  into corporate units can result in a situation where members of a corporate come to believe that only the state sits above them, while the general public sits below.


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