Democracy, Compromise and the Representation Paradox: Coalition Government and Political Integrity

Government and Opposition, Volume 47, Issue 3, pages 441–465, July 2012

22 Pages Posted: 17 May 2012 Last revised: 22 Oct 2012

Richard Bellamy

University College London - Department of Political Science; European University Institute

Date Written: October 22, 2012

Abstract

Coalitions are often condemned as undemocratic and unprincipled because of the compromises they involve. Politicians are accused of betraying the commitments they made during the election. Paradoxically, proponents of this view suggest that if compromises are to be made they should be pragmatic and based on policy rather than principle. This article disputes this thesis and defends compromise as both principled and democratic. The first section distinguishes a shallow compromise based on the maximal satisfaction of exogenously defined preferences from a deep compromise resulting from reasoning on principle, and argues it proves impossible to avoid the latter. The second section suggests that the obligation to compromise forms part of the ethos of democracy, whereby citizens must agree despite their disagreements. The third section concludes by showing that while representatives will almost certainly betray their electoral mandate if obliged to make only shallow compromises, they can legitimately engage in deep compromises for their voters when they reason as they do.

Keywords: Coalition, Compromise, Democracy, Representation

Suggested Citation

Bellamy, Richard, Democracy, Compromise and the Representation Paradox: Coalition Government and Political Integrity (October 22, 2012). Government and Opposition, Volume 47, Issue 3, pages 441–465, July 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2061838

Richard Bellamy (Contact Author)

University College London - Department of Political Science ( email )

Gower Street
London
United Kingdom
020 7679 4980 (Phone)
020 7679 4969 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/spp/people/richard-bellamy

European University Institute ( email )

Via dei Roccettini, 9
San Domenico di Fiesole (FI), Tuscany 50014
Italy

HOME PAGE: http://www.eui.eu/ProgrammesAndFellowships/MaxWeberProgramme/People/RichardBellamywebpage.aspx

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