On Compromise and Rotten Compromises

On Compromise and Rotten Compromises

On Compromise and Rotten Compromises

On Compromise and Rotten Compromises


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.


Albert einstein is credited with the warning “Beware of rotten compromises.” 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 is about compromises that we should avoid, come what may, its main goal is to leave the widest (morally) possible room for compromises made for the sake of peace, including cases in which peace is achieved at the expense of justice. the book is in pursuit of just a peace, rather than of zjust peace. Peace can be justified without being just.

This is not an easy claim to make, but this is the claim I am making.

The compromises discussed in the book are political compromises, rather than personal ones. the distinction is not always clear. Some personal deals have immense political . . .

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