On Compromise and Rotten Compromises

On Compromise and Rotten Compromises

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 240
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    On Compromise and Rotten Compromises
    Book Description:

    When is political compromise acceptable--and when is it fundamentally rotten, something we should never accept, come what may? What if a rotten compromise is politically necessary? Compromise is a great political virtue, especially for the sake of peace. But, as Avishai Margalit argues, there are moral limits to acceptable compromise even for peace. But just what are those limits? At what point does peace secured with compromise become unjust? Focusing attention on vitally important questions that have received surprisingly little attention, Margalit argues that we should be concerned not only with what makes a just war, but also with what kind of compromise allows for a just peace.

    Examining a wide range of examples, including the Munich Agreement, the Yalta Conference, and Arab-Israeli peace negotiations, Margalit provides a searching examination of the nature of political compromise in its various forms. Combining philosophy, politics, and history, and written in a vivid and accessible style,On Compromise and Rotten Compromisesis full of surprising new insights about war, peace, justice, and sectarianism.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3121-0
    Subjects: Philosophy, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION Why Compromise?
    (pp. 1-18)

    Albert Einstein is credited with the warning “Beware of rotten compromises.”¹ My book is an effort to explain and support this warning.

    But the book is about much more. It is about peace and compromise.

    More specially: what compromises we are not allowed to make for the sake of peace.

    The short answer is: rotten compromises are not allowed, even for the sake of peace. other compromises should be dealt with on a retail basis, one by one: they should be judged on their merit. Only rotten compromises should be ruled out on a wholesale basis. Even though the book...

  5. 1 Two Pictures of Political Compromise
    (pp. 19-38)

    On September 29, 1938, Hitler, Chamberlain, Daladier, and Mussolini met in Munich and reached an agreement to transfer from Czechoslovakia to Germany the Sudetenland, a narrow strip of land populated by ethnic Germans. In return, Hitler promised not to make any further territorial demands on Europe. In March 1939, the German army seized all of Czechoslovakia; the rest is history, horrendous history.

    The Munich agreement became the symbol of a rotten compromise, a compromise one should not sign under any circumstances. “Appeasement” became the label for the policy that led to the Munich agreement. Since the agreement was perceived as...

  6. 2 Varieties of Compromise
    (pp. 39-68)

    A curious puzzle arises here. The notion of compromise hardly ever appears in the most elaborate conceptual account of the relation between competition and cooperation, namely, game theory.¹ Compromise has two meanings: anemic and sanguine. The anemic sense is covered by game theory, though not under the name “compromise”; the sanguine one is not. In the anemic sense of compromise, any agreement within a bargaining range is a compromise.

    Abraham wants to buy a burial place from Ephron (Genesis 23:7–9). Let us assume that the worth of the burial site is 450 silver shekels for Abraham and 200 silver...

  7. 3 Compromising for Peace
    (pp. 69-88)

    Kant, in his justly celebrated essay “Toward Lasting Peace,” contrasted truce, as a suspension of hostilities, with lasting peace. His first article reads, “No treaty of peace shall be held valid in which there is tacitly reserved matter for future war.”¹ Otherwise, he says, the treaty is only a truce.

    I shall deal here with the territorial aspect of a peace agreement that might undermine lasting peace. It could be termed theirredentismclause or, more forcefully, therevanchismclause in a peace agreement. Irredentism is a foreign policy aiming at regaining lost territories; revanchism adds an element of revenge...

  8. 4 Compromise and Political Necessity
    (pp. 89-120)

    A rotten compromise is an agreement to establish or maintain a regime of cruelty and humiliation—in short, an inhuman regime, in the literal sense of inhuman, unfit for humans. Regime has two meanings: one refers to government, the other to a regular pattern of behavior. A rotten compromise has predominantly to do with a pattern of rotten behavior, and only derivatively to do with the government responsible for creating such a pattern.

    Not every compromise with a rotten regime is rotten. A compromise is rotten only if it establishes or maintains an in-human regime. The “or” is nonexclusive; an...

  9. 5 The Morality of Rotten Compromises
    (pp. 121-146)

    “My brother and I are against my cousin. My cousin and I are against the whole world” is a Bedouin proverb. It captures the human condition much better than does Plautus’s proverb, made famous by Hobbes, that “man is wolf to man.”

    The succinct Bedouin proverb expresses a powerful picture of human life and politics, a picture that for obvious reasons I shall calltribalism. Tribalism is the idea that solidarity is based solely on the closeness of blood relations. It is intensified by a state of permanent hostility to the rest of the world. Tribalism suggests a much-needed distinction...

  10. 6 Sectarianism and Compromise
    (pp. 147-174)

    Let us return to our two pictures of politics: politics as economics and politics as religion.

    In principle, everything in the economic picture is subject to bargaining, everything is negotiable, whereas in the religious picture centered on the idea of the holy, the holy is nonnegotiable. Commodities are divisible either physically or in terms of the duration of their use. What is divisible can be subject to compromise. We can split the difference. The sacred—at least in monotheistic religions—is the idea of that which is indivisible and hence not subject to compromise. If a fetus’s life is sacred,...

  11. Conclusion Between Evil and Radical Evil
    (pp. 175-198)

    From the reality of recent sectarian wars and civil wars, we return to the formative event of the Second World War and its antecedents. The issue is simple. If having an agreement with Hitler in Munich was rotten, was it also rotten to side with Stalin against Hitler?

    Note that siding with one rotten regime against an aggressor, as in the case of Nazi Germany invading the Soviet Union, is not exactly signing an agreement that can technically be rendered rotten. It was not a compromise: it was collaboration against a common enemy, which was unmistakably the aggressor. However, the...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 199-210)
  13. Index
    (pp. 211-221)