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The Spirit of Compromise

Why Governing Demands It and Campaigning Undermines It

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To govern in a democracy, political leaders have to compromise. When they do not, the result is political paralysis—dramatically demonstrated by the gridlock in Congress in recent years. In The Spirit of Compromise, eminent political thinkers Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson show why compromise is so important, what stands in the way of achieving it, and how citizens can make defensible compromises more likely. They urge politicians to focus less on campaigning and more on governing. In a new preface, the authors reflect on the state of compromise in Congress since the book’s initial publication.

Calling for greater cooperation in contemporary politics, The Spirit of Compromise will interest everyone who cares about making government work better for the good of all.

From Publishers Weekly

Mar 05, 2012 – Nonstop electioneering and the attitudes it fosters has given us a logjam in Washington instead of a government, argues this bland brief for a principled pragmatism. UPenn president and political scientist Gutmann and Harvard political philosopher Thompson (coauthors of Democracy and Disagreement) blame partisan gridlock on the “permanent campaign”—politicians’ need to constantly position themselves for the next election by staking out bright-line dogmas and demonizing opponents. The result is an “uncompromising mindset” of nonnegotiable tenacity, mistrust, and cynicism that’s antithetical to the “compromising mindset” of prudent give and take, mutual respect, and cooperation that good governance requires. The lucid but dry discussion mixes political theory—uncompromising standoffs, they contend, help no one’s interests and privilege the status quo over feasible improvements—with recaps of congressional dogfights, along with half-measure remedies, like making it easier to vote so that moderates will swamp zealots at the polls. Their case for the importance of compromise is impeccably high-minded and logical, but doesn’t quite register the atavistic force of intransigence, or that sabotaging government might be the goal, not the by-product, of a faction’s immovability. Gutmann and Thompson’s take on America’s intense political rancor amounts to a set of truisms—familiar and unarguable, but somehow beside the point.
The Spirit of Compromise
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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Politics & Current Events
  • Published: Apr 27, 2014
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Seller: Princeton University Press
  • Print Length: 304 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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