Are compromises more inclusive of non-liberals?

by Olsen, Tore Vincents, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Dept. of Political Science, Aarhus University, Denmark

Consensus theories of political legitimacy have been criticized by proponents of compromise for being too demanding in terms of what they require of citizens entering into processes of public reasoning. Supposedly, consensus processes require that citizens relate to their beliefs, value and identity commitments in a particularly reflexive manner and that they withhold certain parts of their convictions and express themselves in the form of ‘rational’ argumentative speech. However, these requirements allegedly privilege liberal citizens and exclude or alienate non-liberal citizens, e.g. religious citizens, from the political process. Proponents of compromise argue that compromise is less demanding in this regard and therefore more inclusive of non-liberals. The paper compares the requirements of consensus and compromise and argues that compromise in general is not less demanding than consensus and that compromise therefore is unlikely to be more inclusive of non-liberal citizens than consensus. The paper does not take sides in the debate between consensus and compromise theories. Nor does it enter into the discussion of whether there are intrinsic or only instrumental reasons for seeking compromise. However, the analysis and argument of the article have implications for these discussions. For if the argument for compromise rests its inclusiveness towards non-liberals and it can be demonstrated that it is not more inclusive, this argument is seriously weakened.

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