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Political Research Exchange - PRX

Compromise and Democracy: How They Get Along

Conflict Resolution
Political Theory
Decision Making
Normative Theory
Panel Number
Panel Chair
Sandrine Baume
Université de Lausanne
Panel Co-Chair
Stéphanie Novak
Universita Ca' Foscari, Venice
Panel Discussant
Dominik Gerber
Stockholm School of Economics in Riga

25/08/2018 11:00 - 12:40
Building: VMP 5 Floor: 2 Room: 2101
This panel intends to focus on the relationship between compromise and contemporary democracies. Our questioning is in line with Kuflik’s question: “Is there a justification in democratic theory for the widespread democratic practice of compromise?” (1979: 41). How is it possible to articulate compromise – as a process or as an output – with theories of democracy, knowing that paradigms are not convergent on that question? On the one hand, some political theorists consider that compromise constitutes a necessary requisite for representative governments. For example, British political thought counts serious and zealous tenants of compromise, among them, John Stuart Mill, who affirms that “an indispensable requisite in the practical conduct of politics is the readiness to compromise, a willingness to concede something to opponents and to shape good measures so as to be as little offensive as possible to persons of the opposite view” (1977: 514). Regarding more recent contributions, Hans Kelsen, Amy Gutmann, Christian Rostbøll, Dennis Thompson and Fabian Wendt can be mentioned, as they consider that compromises play a crucial role in democracies. According to Bernard Manin, compromise is an indispensable source of stability in democratic governments because a “stable form of government […] does not function through the rigid implementation of political program” (1997: 211). However, if the practice of compromise has occupied a significant place in party democracies since the end of the 19th century, the idea of compromise struggles to find a place in political values. Political thinkers, such as Max Adler or Chantal Mouffe, consider that compromises erase or mitigate political divisions and passions and are contrary to a certain conception of democracy, notably the “agonistic” one (1999: 755-766). Moreover, Ronald Dworkin points out the circumstances and conditions in which compromises can be seen as deleterious regarding our respect for integrity: “it must be a compromise about which scheme of justice to adopt rather than a compromised scheme of justice” (1986: 179) Recently, Ruser and Machin (2017) have elaborated on objections regarding compromise, notably how the latter could threaten, on the one hand, the equality among the compromisers and, on the other hand, the political plurality in democratic life.

Main questions
In our workshop, we would like to focus on the following issues:

How do we conceive of the value(s) of compromise in the context of democracy?
What are the (normative and practical) limits of compromising in democracies, and how do we evaluate the objections against compromising in such a context?
What are the conditions of realising the principle of compromise in democracies?
How do compromises operate as a guarantee of pluralism and an agent of moderation, notably in majority–minority relations?
Which institutional mechanisms have been designed in order to foster compromise?

Paper List

Title Details
Agonistic Compromise View Paper Details
Can We Compromise in Public? The Paradoxical Place of Compromise in Democratic Decision Making View Paper Details
Compromise and Virtue in Democratic Politics: A Neo-Aristotelian View View Paper Details
Objections Against Political Compromises: An Attempt at a Typology View Paper Details
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