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On Compromise and Rotten Compromises
Avishai Margalit

Winner of the 2012 Philosophical Book Award, The Hannover Institute of Philosophical Research
Avishai Margalit, Winner of the 2012 Ernst-Bloch-Prize

Paperback | 2013 | $18.95 | £14.95 | ISBN: 9780691158129
240 pp. | 5 x 8
Hardcover | 2009 | $26.95 | £21.95 | ISBN: 9780691133171
240 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
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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 Compromises is full of surprising new insights about war, peace, justice, and sectarianism.


"In a provocative book, Margalit--a professor emeritus of philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the George F. Kennan Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton--claims that 'rotten compromises are not allowed, even for the sake of peace.' Focussing on the political rather than on the personal, he defines a rotten compromise as 'an agreement to establish or maintain an inhuman regime.' Such compromises can be rotten as a result of the terms themselves--such as the provisions in the United States Constitution that allowed for slavery--or as a result of the wickedness of those who determine the terms, as in the case of Hitler and the Munich agreement. 'We should, I believe, be judged by our compromises more than by our ideals and our norms,' Margalit writes. 'Ideals may tell us something important about what we would like to be. But compromises tell us who we are.'"--The New Yorker "Books in Brief"

"The work of Avishai Margalit provides a refreshing and instructive contrast to much that has become conventionally accepted in recent political thinking, particularly about the moral conflicts that arise in pursuit of peace."--John Gray, New York Review of Books

"Margalit's book is an inquiry into the limits of justifiable compromises, not in ordinary democratic bargaining but at times when agreements call on us to accept inhuman regimes for the sake of peace. . . . Provide[s] grist for thinking through the difficulties of compromise in [foreign policy], from tragic choices at desperate moments of history to the routine nastiness in American public life today."--Paul Starr, The New Republic

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Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction: Why Compromise? 1
Chapter 1: Two Pictures of Political Compromise 19
Chapter 2: Varieties of Compromise 39
Chapter 3: Compromising for Peace 69
Chapter 4: Compromise and Political Necessity 89
Chapter 5: The Morality of Rotten Compromises 121
Chapter 6: Sectarianism and Compromise 147
Conclusion: Between Evil and Radical Evil 175
Notes 199
Index 211

This book has been translated into:

  • Dutch
  • Italian
  • German
  • French
  • Serbian

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