Compromise, Negotiation and Morality

18 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2010 Last revised: 21 Oct 2010

See all articles by Carrie Menkel-Meadow

Carrie Menkel-Meadow

University of California, Irvine School of Law; Georgetown University Law Center


This review essay (on Avishai Margalit’s new book On Compromise and Rotten Compromises) discusses the philosophical, moral, ethical and practical dimensions of negotiating with “evil” geo-political partners (those who would establish or maintain inhumane regimes) or those who would do evil things. Although compromise is often thought of as unprincipled and amoral, if not immoral, this essay discusses the moral justifications for some compromises, separating out different categories of permissible, justifiable, or immoral and unjustifiable promises. Although Margalit focuses primarily on macro, large geopolitical negotiations, this essay applies thinking about compromise and morality to more everyday and “micro” negotiations as well. Since compromises often give us some peace, if not full, justice, when are we justified in compromising? What does it mean to “compromise” with those who might be evil, or seek to do evil things? When should we walk away? When can't we walk away?

Keywords: Negotiation, Compromise, Morality, Ethics

Suggested Citation

Menkel-Meadow, Carrie J., Compromise, Negotiation and Morality. Negotiation Journal, Vol. 26, pp. 483-499, October 2010; Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 10-63; UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2010-27. Available at SSRN:

Carrie J. Menkel-Meadow (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

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Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

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