Modus Vivendi and Religious Conflict

  • John Horton
Part of the Studies in Global Justice book series (JUST, volume 7)


This paper explains and advocates a political theory of modus vivendi, and specifically explores how it might work in the context of problems arising from religious conflicts. The account of modus vivendi that is defended is distinguished both from that of John Rawls and that of John Gray, and is conceived primarily as a matter of bargaining, negotiation and compromise. It is not merely to be understood as a simple reflection of the balance of political forces but a 'pragmatic' approach that mobilises whatever resources are available to effect a workable political settlement that is broadly acceptable to the contending parties. In the final part of the paper the merits of this conception are considered in the context of religious conflicts, with the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland taken as one exemplar of a political theory of modus vivendi in action.


Political Theory Political Theorist Political Force Comprehensive Doctrine Religious Believer 
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I am very grateful for comments, suggestions and advice in relation to an earlier version of this paper to the participants in the ESRC seminar held at Keele University in June 2008 in the series, ‘Recognition and the Dynamics of Social Conflict: Toleration, Recognition and Diversity’; and in particular for their written comments to Veit Badar, Cillian McBride and, especially, Monica Mookherjee. I am also grateful to two anonymous referees for the Springer Press. There is some overlap between this article and a series of other papers that I have written on various aspects of the political theory of modus vivendi. As a result, this article has also benefitted from discussions of those papers, and I am particularly grateful to, inter alia, Esther Abin, Sorin Baiasu, Richard Bellamy, Thomas Fossen, Peter Jones, Cecile Laborde, Glen Newey, Avia Pasternak, Enzo Rossi and Ryan Windeknecht.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Politics, International Relations and Philosophy, Keele UniversityStaffordshireUK

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