In contemporary political discourse, you will often hear two terms thrown around in a rather arbitrary manner: corporatism and corporatocracy. The main reason for this arbitrariness lies in the fact that they are often conflated with one another, as if what they refer to is one and the same. This could not be further from the truth…
Before breaking down the definitions of each system in the most simplified terms, it is worth exploring the etymology of the term corporation. Derived from the Latin “corpus” in its origins, this term simply refers to a body, although more often than not, a social body. Throughout history, the conception of society as a body or “body politic” dates back as far as the ancient world, and references to it can be seen in philosophical and religious texts from around the world (e.g. the dialogues of Plato, the Bible, the Vedas, etc..). Interestingly enough, one finds that the term company also has its etymological origins in a much more generalized use of the term.
The term corporation has itself been applied in many different contexts throughout history other than the publicly traded, joint-stock corporations we know today. The term corporation simply refers to any legally recognized body, and has referred to many different organs, offices, and institutions within the government itself. There have been crowned corporations, chartered corporations, government-linked corporations, state-owned corporations; and as far as offices go, the lower houses in the parliamentary system of government can be referred to as the corporate body, just as the Queen is the Corporation Sole. In some respect, one could even argue that the government itself is essentially a corporation.
With that being said, the government is not always the same thing as the State, which, to paraphrase the definition of Max Weber, refers to the corporations that “claim a monopoly of violence in a given territory” (i.e. it refers to the corporations that have power). Sometimes the power of “the State” can lay outside the government itself, which is where terms like the “Deep State” come from.
And this brings me to my main points…
1) Corporatism refers to a system where state power is exercised through the government to unify the interests of labor and capital. In other words, the State controls the market.
Corporatocracy refers to a system where the Deep State exercises power over the government (which serves as a dummy corporation) to represent the interests of capital over labor. In other words, the market controls the State.
2) A good example of the difference between these two systems can be shown when one looks to China vs. America:
In China, if corporate interests start acting against the interest of the government, billionaires go missing.
In America, if the government starts acting against the interest of billionaires, politicians get assassinated.
And at the end of the day, even American corporations cannot help but cede to the power of the Chinese government by virtue of appealing to its standards on censorship.
3) The real questions are:
Why does the American government seem to operate under the assumption that it is better off under the interests of billionaires?
And why do present-day American billionaires think they’ll be any better off under the thumb of the Chinese government?
Ultimately, there is a lot to be learned from the Chinese government in terms of the power of the position it takes when it comes to exercising corporatism over corporatocracy.
With that being said, the corporatocratic system we live under today is itself already evolving beyond the liberal-democratic, nation-state… Perhaps the only thing that will be able to save the nation-state (or any government entity that wants to maintain sovereignty) depends on whether it can evolve beyond liberal-democracy.
In summary, the real conflict and tension does not and should not lie between “nationalism” and “communism,” but rather, between nation-states (and the citizens therein) against multi-national corporations, global investment banks, and private equity firms (and the shareholders therein). We can either have state-nationalization or private-monopolization… Liberal-democracy is merely the playing field on which the game is carried out between the two sides (watch what happens when one gains enough momentum…).