While many of the political philosophies of the Experimental Duchies met with success, a number of them failed either partially, or entirely (see esp. Agnosia). This political disorder ended in ruin for many of the duchies, but many flourished, usually by adopting one or more new forms of government to supplement their existing leadership, or lack thereof.
Corporatism was a common answer to weak or failing government. Guild leaders and promanent merchants have political power under any system, and with the weakening of political control, they often found themselves as governmental figures, whether they intended to or not.
Dispute continues over which duchy first converted to a corporatist government. However, corporatism is not distinct, and one can speak of a state as being more or less corporatist. It is reasonable to say that a certain level of corporatism existed in many duchies, and that it emerged early.
Particularly notable examples of corporatism are easier to identify. The guilds of the Duchy of Tesso are perhaps the most absolute example of corporatism, holding nearly absolute power in their duchy for hundreds of years, with only minor interruptions. More usually, corporatism existed alongside other forms of government. The success of the guilds of Tesso may be due to their limitations of power, with only 12 guilds having nominal power at any given time. More often, power was shared between many more guilds, occasionally numbering in the hundreds. The most notable example of this sort of corporatism was the duchy of Kapinnale, where at the height of its influence, the corporatist guilds held power with no fewer than five other forms of government, and the guilds themselves numbered well over three hundred.
Corporatism is notable for being a political system of no theory - that is, while it was widely practiced, it was not the result of measured political speculation. Instead, it represents a common result of economic actors filling a political vacuum.
The traditional hallmarks of corporatism are when guild leaders or wealthy merchants provide judicial, lawmaking, or policing services to the state. Cases where guilds built private armies, but were uninvolved in governance, are not typically considered corporatist.
In its most basic form corporatism is simply rule of money, but in a guild-dominated economy, interesting features arise. Power is unevenly distributed between the guilds, but it is always distributed. Monolithic power is not possible, as the needs of the populus for multiple goods and services keep balance between different guilds.
Corporatist states tend to be very lawless, as the guilds have little interest in passing laws unrelated to commerce. In the best cases this led to an over-regulation of trade and an under-regulation of private matters. In the worst cases, it resulted in all-out war between the guilds, with no protection for the common citizen from either the guilds, or from common thugs. Occasionally, criminal guilds were even founded.
Merchant corporatism (where guilds play a small role or no role) tend to be more mild in all these respects.