Between conflict and consensus: Why democracy needs conflicts and why communities should delimit their intensity

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Abstract
The contemporary agonist thinker, Chantal Mouffe argues that conflicts are constitutive of politics. However, this position raises the question that concerns the survival of order and the proper types of conflicts in democracies. Although Mouffe is not consensus-oriented, consensus plays a role in her theory when the democratic order is at stake. This suggests that there is a theoretical terrain between the opposing poles of conflict and consensus. This can be discussed with the help of concepts and theories that seem to be standing between the two, namely compromise, debate and the borders of democracy. I will argue that we can reveal this position with the theoretical analysis of compromise in the works of F. R. Ankersmit on the historical origin of representative democracy, and Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson on the role of compromise in divided communities. J. S. Mill’s view of colliding opinions offers a moderate agonistic understanding of politics, while the concept of debate plays a similar role for Márton Szabó, a contemporary Hungarian political theorist. Finally, Mouffe’s position stands at the conflictual end of this spectrum, although conflicts are delimited on the normative ground of democracy.
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First archival date: 2019-06-26
Latest version: 2 (2019-10-26)
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2018-10-12

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