The Diversity of Democracy: Corporatism, Social Order and Political Conflict edited by Colin Crouch, Wolfgang Streeck
|Reviewed By:||Wyn Grant|
|Reviewed in:||Political Studies Review|
|Date accepted online:||14/01/2008|
|Published in print:||Volume 05, Issue 03, Pages 395-474|
Book Reviews: Political Theory
This book is effectively a Festschrift for Philippe Schmitter. It is therefore organised around the three main areas of his work: corporatism and democracy; democratic transitions and consolidation, with special reference to Latin America but with a chapter by Bruszt focusing on post-communist Eastern Europe; and democracy and European integration, returning in the last chapter by Falkner to the theme of the 'Euro corporatism' debate. She confirms what Schmitter himself admitted, 'that corporatism is not a theory' (p. 237). A postscript by O'Donnell seeks to give a little of the flavour of working with Schmitter. Even a longer piece in cold print would find it difficult to encapsulate the experience of working with a social scientist who I found one of the most inspiring, if occasionally infuriating, of those I have encountered.
Karl is right to pay tribute to the path-breaking character of Schmitter's work on Latin America and it was evident in subsequent work that he was substantially influenced by his experiences of Brazil. In all his work Schmitter brought together his European family origins, his American upbringing and his understanding of Latin America, which is what makes him such a unique social scientist. Like many academics, he eventually fell 'irretrievably, passionately in love with Italy and everything Italian' (p. 245).
For many political scientists Schmitter is associated with his seminal 1974 article 'Still the Century of Corporatism?' which stimulated a research school which was once called a 'corporatist international' (p. 14). As Streeck admits, the corporatist bubble eventually burst, but Schmitter's German collaborator successfully redefines his own position while remaining true to his essential values. Crouch's assessment of neo-corporatism and democracy is more unreconstructed, representing an ingenious, scholarly but ultimately unconvincing attempt to defend the indefensible. Yet he asks whether it is not time for neo-corporatist institutions 'to be consigned to the dustbin of history, along with many other structures which seemed important during the high tide of industrialism, but which are becoming increasingly marginal to a post-industrial society?' (pp. 61-2). This is an important volume by authoritative authors that raises important questions about democracy. It demands extended attention and will stimulate debate.