Downloadable Chapters Task Force on Negotiating Agreement in Politics

Chapter Summaries

Click on the title of the chapter to get PDF versions for individual chapters.

Negotiating Agreement in Politics, Jane Mansbridge and Cathie Jo Martin, eds.


Chapter 1: Negotiating Political Agreements

Negotiating Political Agreements  -- Cathie Jo Martin

This chapter summarizes the insights of the volume, by exploring both how political negotiation is constrained by negotiation myopia and how procedural rules of collective political engagement help to overcome this myopia.  Rules of engagement that incorporate a formal role for nonpartisan, technical expertise in policy deliberations may facilitate a collective “meeting of the minds.” Repeated interactions among participants establish informal punishments for deception and bloated claims while nurturing norms of trustworthy behavior. Penalty defaults in consequence of inaction help to prevent stonewalling behavior. Allowing negotiations to take place in private settings encourages pondering rather than posturing. The adoption of these rules of engagement may facilitate deliberative negotiation, in which participants may recognize the positive-sum possibilities that are frequently overwhelmed by zero-sum conflicts. Deliberative negotiation is possible only in situations in which some potential common ground or zone of possible agreement exists and participants have a genuine desire to achieve a deal.  


Chapter 2: Causes and Consequences of Polarization 

Causes and Consequences of Polarization -- Michael Barber and Nolan McCarty 

Congress’s ability to successfully negotiate policy innovation and reform has been hampered by a long term rise in the level of partisanship and ideological polarization.  Using both quantitative and qualitative evidence, scholars have dated the origins of the surge in polarization to the mid-to-late 1970s.  Since then, legislative coalitions have become increasingly partisan, and the partisan ideological divide has extended to greater and greater numbers of policy issues.

     Although polarization in Congress is not a simple reflection of polarization among voters, it is clearly related to a much tighter alignment between voters’ policy preferences and those of the parties with which they identify.  Polarization is also associated with many large historical trends such as the post-Civil Rights realignment of Southern politics and increased levels of economic inequality.  The increasing numbers of ideologically-oriented campaign donors did not originally cause polarization, but did exacerbate it. Existing evidence, however, does not support many common claims such as the polarizing effects of Congressional gerrymandering and partisan primaries. 

     The trend towards more ideologically distinctive parties may provide some benefits through enhancing the representation of voters with non-centrist preferences.  But the bulk of the evidence suggests that polarization has negatively affected the congressional capacity to govern.  Congress has been less productive in legislation, more prone to delays in appropriating funds, and increasingly slow in handling executive and judicial appointments.  There is suggestive evidence for a decline in the quality of legislative deliberation and legislation, and this reduction in legislative capacity may have contributed to a shift in the constitutional balance as it enhanced opportunities for executive and judicial encroachments on legislative prerogatives. 


Chapter 3: Making Deals in Congress

Making Deals in Congress  -- Sarah Binder and Frances Lee

How do politicians with diverse, often conflicting, interests and policy preferences reach agreements on public policy in a legislative body of co-equals?  In this chapter, we explore the limits of spatial models of bargaining and suggest an alternative perspective on deal making in the contemporary Congress.  We argue that deal making in Congress is not merely a matter of finding the ideological sweet spot between competing coalitions.  Instead, common ground is typically a joint function of lawmakers’ policy views and political calculations: lawmakers’ electoral considerations, coupled with leaders’ responsibility for protecting their party’s brand name, shape the conditions under which legislative policy deals are possible.  Given the political context of congressional negotiations, we evaluate the tools and institutional arrangements that make deals in Congress more likely—emphasizing that conflicting incentives and interests place a premium on negotiating out of the public eye.  We conclude with a broader assessment of the prospects for negotiation in a party-polarized Congress, concluding that major legislative deals are more elusive than ever.


Chapter 4: Negotiation Myopia 

Negotiation Myopia – Chase Foster, Jane Mansbridge, and Cathie Jo Martin

Negotiation myopia is our term for the constellation of cognitive and emotional blind spots to which the human brain is prone and which lead negotiators to fail to see their own advantage, thereby missing opportunities for coming to agreement. Fixed-pie bias keeps negotiators from seeing the ways that they can share information and think together to create value for both sides. Even a simple set of instructions to take the perspective of the other side can reduce this bias dramatically.  Self-serving bias comes in many forms, running from natural and perhaps innate over-optimism to deep-seated convictions about justice. Self-serving bias is hard to correct through instructions but can be greatly reduced through repeated trustful relationships with others who hold opposite perceptions.  The chapter also covers briefly other cognitive biases as well as the anger that often can impede successful negotiation.


Chapter 5: Deliberative Negotiation 

Deliberative Negotiation – Mark Warren and Jane Mansbridge, with André Bächtiger, Maxwell A. Cameron, Simone Chambers, John Ferejohn, Alan Jacobs, Jack Knight, Daniel Naurin, Melissa Schwartzberg, Yael Tamir, Dennis Thompson, and Melissa Williams

The normative theory of democratic negotiation and compromise is in its infancy, in part because democratic theory has undervalued the collective capacity to act. Without the capacity to act, a people cannot rule itself. For this reason, negotiation belongs at the center of democratic theory and practice. Building on democratic theory with the central role of negotiation in view, we develop the concept of deliberative negotiation. Neither pure deliberation nor pure bargaining, deliberative negotiation calls for continuing interactions, through which parties share information, link issues, engage in joint problem-solving, and reach compromises that are relatively fair to both sides. When parties engage in deliberative negotiation, they can often discover or create possibilities of which they had no idea before beginning the process.  They can craft compromises that leave the least residue of bitterness behind.  Of the institutional practices that favor deliberative negotiation, many of which are analyzed in other chapters, we focus on three—closed-door meetings, long incumbencies, and side-payments.  These practices can make political negotiation more effective, thereby enabling democracies to act, but they also in various ways may contravene democratic principles. We identify the criteria by which the practices should be evaluated in order to be consistent with democratic norms.


Chapter 6: Conditions for Successful Negotiation: Lessons from Europe

Conditions for Successful Negotiation:  Lessons from Europe – Cathie Jo Martin, with Andrew Moravcsik, John Ferejohn, Torben Iversen, Alan Jacobs, Julia Lynch, Kimberly Morgan, Christine Reh, and Cornelia Woll  

This chapter explores how political actors in other countries find the means to engage in deliberative negotiations that produce agreements on collectively beneficial policy solutions.  We briefly review obstacles to both deliberative negotiation and the production of collective goods, such as negotiation myopia and distributional conflicts. We then consider how rules and institutions for collective political engagement—that is, the practices governing how people come together to negotiate political deals—help to overcome these obstacles and to shape actors’ incentives for cooperation. We analyze particularly the positive effects on negotiation of a careful incorporation of technical expertise, repeated interactions, penalty defaults, and relative autonomy in private meetings. These distinctive rules of collective engagement not only help parties reach agreement but also, when combined with broadening the scope of representation, can have positive impacts on patterns of democratic struggle.  Some countries rely routinely on cooperation and compromise in their daily practice of politics because their political institutions incorporate these rules of collective engagement. These countries have both greater needs for cooperation that make them organize and greater capacities for deliberative negotiations to meet these needs.  Yet even countries that lack coordinating institutions may adopt rules of collective engagement that are conducive to negotiation; and this adoption may alter the logic of how interests come together to solve their political problems,  to engage in deliberative negotiations and to produce compromises that previously seemed beyond their capacities. This is why policy-making processes sometimes surprise us, and these rules of engagement may offer inspiration for expanding the political openings for negotiated reforms.


Chapter 7: Negotiating Agreements in International Relations

Negotiating Agreements in International Relations – John S. Odell and Dustin Tingley, with Fen Osler Hampson, Andrew H. Kydd, Brett Ashley Leeds, James K. Sebenius, Janice Gross Stein, Barbara F. Walter, and I. William Zartman

A central message of this chapter is that the study of international negotiation presents many opportunities for fascinating new research.  Although international negotiation has been one of the most pervasive processes in world politics since the dawn of recorded history, it has been the subject of far less political science research than other aspects of international relations, such as war and international institutions.  This chapter builds on diverse traditions.  It first identifies different obstacles to negotiation and bargaining success between countries.  Next it documents more than a dozen ways through which negotiators have overcome these obstacles, using a range of historical examples.  For instance, it highlights how agreeing on principles to guide a negotiation is useful before grappling with difficult details; how selective exchanges of private information have helped create joint gains despite distributive conflict; how confidentiality has been beneficial in light of the constraints of domestic politics; and how parties have attenuated commitment problems.  The chapter walks through the phases of international negotiations to give non-specialists and scholars of domestic politics a fuller understanding of what generally takes place in negotiation.  We conclude with recommendations for future research, ranging from experimental tests of relevant propositions from international relations, to theoretical questions about the effects of having multiple international mediators, to thorny normative debates relating to procedural versus distributive justice internationally.  


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