Compromise and majority rule: How their dynamic affects democracy

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Majority rule and compromise are both core elements of democratic politics: democracy would mean little without the majoritarian principle and compromise is required in pluralistic societies rife with fundamental moral and political disagreement. Although clearly opposed, there are also unexpectedly close ties between the two elements. Compromises are struck to make actual majority rule possible, but also to prevent majority decisions or to soften the impact of their (legal and administrative) interpretation and implementation. The very dynamic between majority rule and compromise poses dangers for the quality of and support for constitutional democracy. This is particularly visible in the case of referendums. Because citizens only see the outcomes of majoritarian procedures, they may regard the compromises struck to create majorities, to prevent majority decisions, and to mitigate their impact as elitist gaming, if not as democratic betrayal. Since arguably the quality of a democracy depends on how it treats its minorities, the majoritarian principle needs to be mitigated so as to break the negative spiral of raising expectations and growing disappointment and to preserve, in the end, constitutional democracy itself.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCompromises in Democracy
EditorsSandrine Baume, Stéphanie Novak
Place of PublicationCham, CH
PublisherPalgrave / MacMillan
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9783030408022
ISBN (Print)9783030408015
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NamePalgrave Studies in Compromise after Conflict


  • compromise
  • democracy
  • majority rule
  • referendums

VU Research Profile

  • Governance for Society


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