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The Spirit of Compromise: Why Governing Demands It and Campaigning Undermines It Hardcover – April 22, 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2013

"Provide[s] grist for thinking through the difficulties of compromise in [domestic policy], from tragic choices at desperate moments of history to the routine nastiness in American public life today. . . . Until recently, who would have thought it necessary to offer Americans advice in the ways of compromise? We used to enjoy a reputation for being a practical-minded people, our politicians being regarded as an all-too-flexible species. But something has changed, and according to Gutmann and Thompson, the change has to do with the relation of campaigning and governing. . . . Gutmann and Thompson end their book with recommendations to strengthen the spirit and practice of compromise."--Paul Starr, The New Republic

"Gutmann and Thompson articulately identify the conundrum that has made compromise unlikely, if not impossible, in Washington."--Alexander Heffner, Philadelphia Inquirer

"Scholars will appreciate the authors' lucid analysis of the dynamics of political compromise."--Library Journal

"'Compromise is difficult, but governing a democracy without compromise is impossible.' So begins this excellent, much needed corrective to the contemporary political scene, which eschews compromise in politics in favor of war analogies. . . . This excellent book should be required reading for every member of Congress, and deserves a wide readership among the voting public."--Choice

"Astute and timely account. . . . [P]owerful analysis."--Russell Muirhead, Tulsa Law Review

From the Back Cover

"In this 'no excuses' look at Washington gridlock, Gutmann and Thompson offer a clear-eyed examination of the forces that bring warring political leaders together or keep them apart. Far from a Pollyanna-like plea for compromise above all, this book uses fascinating historical and recent examples, and analysis, to expose the sources of dysfunction and to argue for how they can be overcome. I wish every policymaker would read it!"--Judy Woodruff, PBS NewsHour

"In an era of partisan polarization, congressional gridlock, and plunging public trust in government, this book could not be more timely. Deftly weaving together political theory and practical politics, Gutmann and Thompson trace the contours of necessary and honorable compromise, and propose reforms that would make it more likely."--William Galston, Brookings Institution

"Americans tend to think that compromise is opposed to principle, and that there is therefore something dishonorable about it. In this marvelous book, two of our leading theorists of democracy defend the opposite view. Our democracy works only with mutual respect among those who disagree and requires the principled prudence that produces successful compromise. In a world of partisan gridlock and the politics of division, The Spirit of Compromise is a sane voice calling us to a better alternative."--Kwame Anthony Appiah, author of Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers

"America now finds itself the bound prisoner of congressional gridlock. We all honestly know what we must do, but just cannot find the common purpose to do what is obviously necessary to pull the country on the road back to financial well-being and long-term prosperity. In this book, two eminent political scientists show us just why compromise seems more elusive than ever--and yet more importantly--what we can do about it. Oh, one would surely hope that those who cherish the legislative craft will read and heed this book's timely message!"--Alan K. Simpson, U.S. Senator, Wyo. (Retired)

"Gutmann and Thompson have written an incisive and engaging analysis--with many contemporary examples--of why compromise is necessary in democratic politics and why it is increasingly difficult in our democracy. Watching our politicians at work, I can't imagine a more timely book."--Michael Walzer, Institute for Advanced Study

"Gutmann and Thompson rely on both theory and history to show why compromise is essential to good governing. They provide a perceptive analysis of the tensions between campaigning and governing in contemporary democracies, especially the United States. Their account is thought-provoking and timely."--Nannerl O. Keohane, author of Thinking about Leadership

"The Spirit of Compromise advances an urgent and illuminating argument about the essential place of compromise in democratic politics. It offers an incisive account of the predicament of American politics today and shows how, in spite of real disagreements, political leaders might come together for the sake of the common good."--Russell Muirhead, Dartmouth College

"As one would expect from Gutmann and Thompson, The Spirit of Compromise thoughtfully and effectively blends theory with real-life examples to underscore a larger important thesis: the political process of compromise matters."--Norman J. Ornstein, coauthor of The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (April 22, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691153914
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691153919
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,025,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Gutmann and Thompson offer up a thought-provoking combination --- shrewd analysis of our contemporary political dysfunction joined with a rigorous treatment of philosophic first principles --- to make the case not only for the necessity of democratic compromise but for the habits of thought that make it possible and the political and institutional obstacles that make it so very difficult to achieve. Lively examples of success and failure drawn from our recent experience make clear that while the odds against needed compromise are high, the stakes are even higher. Their prescriptions for un-privileging the status quo and making politics the art-of-the-possible once more are smart and sensible and should be required reading in the halls of power.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Amy Gutmann is the president of my university. She does so much, and does it all well. She has so much grace and style and wisdom and advice and generosity, I absolutely love her.

But I did not absolutely love this book.

I had to read it as a part of my political science class, as a part of the topic of compromise in politics, and its importance. I have to say, Gutmann does a great job analyzing the history of political compromise. But I feel she was WAY too idealistic. The way she builds her arguments makes it sound like everything will just work and go along well if everyone works together. Which may be the case in some instances, but is not the case in many. She also gives ways we can fix our compromise problems, each of them being unachievable in our society. These are things like amendments, bills, things that would just never happen or never pass. She is way too idealistic in a world where things just dont happen as they should. Like I said, I love Amy, but I didnt love her arguments here.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In November, we vote for candidates who, in stump speeches and TV ads, most nearly reflect our own values and principles. However, we voters should look beyond election day to assess how these candidates will govern. Will she sign pledges to do or not do X or Y? Will he treat opponents with disdain and disrespect? Will he stand forever firm on his principles, never budging an inch? Or will the candidates work with the opposing party and be willing to compromise in order to pass legislation that serves the greater good?

Gutmann and Thompson in THE SPIRIT OF COMPROMISE clearly and succinctly explain that the uncompromising mindset--while necessary for campaigning and protesting--does not lead to good governance. For that, one needs a compromising mindset. This book, filled with concrete examples from both parties, tells us why compromise is vital to governing, what causes some legislators to refuse to compromise, and how we voters, as well as the media, can effect change.

We can vote for candidates who in deliberations treat opponents with civility, study issues from all sides, and when necessary, compromise. The end result is that the status quo of important issues--health care, economy,immigration--is improved for all of us.

By the way, every member of Congress and the Virginia General Assembly should study and talk about this very readable, powerful red, white and blue book.
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Format: Hardcover
In a democracy with two parties sharing power, any enduring solution to public problems requires compromise. Yet the parties must compete in elections, standing on principle and running against the other side. In a clear and incisive book, Gutmann and Thompson ask how the compromises needed for governing can be reconciled with the campaigning needed for elections. The result is a realistic and nuanced view of compromise, illustrated by many recent and historical examples from Congress.
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What an appropriate book for a Congress that desperately needs to learn cooperation and compromise ... This should be required reading and politicians should write book reports to their constituents explaining why they cannot get along and what they learned that they might wake up and apply. Oh please Lord give them negotiation skills that produce results .
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