Pub. date: 2011 | Online Pub. Date: October 04, 2011 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412994163 | Print ISBN: 9781412959636 | Online ISBN: 9781412994163| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Unlike many concepts in political science whose meaning is quite contentious—for example, democracy, ethnicity, and state—the concept of consensus is among the simplest and most transparent in the discipline. It is universally agreed that the term denotes agreement or unanimity. It is often used in phrases and in conjunction with qualifiers, such as near-consensus, consensus building, international consensus, moral consensus, consensus-based approach, permissive consensus, and cross-party consensus. Although there is strong agreement on the meaning of consensus, there are many concepts that refer to its absence, including cleavage, conflict, competition, contestation, division, majoritarianism, pluralism, and polarization. The concept of consensus has played a key role in four areas of research within political science: political philosophy, where John Rawls proposed the term overlapping consensus to describe a framework for reconciling fundamentally divergent comprehensive worldviews; comparative politics, where Arend Lijphart proposed the term consensus democracy as an ideal type within the Rawls ...