Consensus

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(From consent: L. consentio, to be in agreement). Unanimous acceptance by all those who make up a corporation or group. A contract formed by agreement of all parties. This coincidence of opinions regarding a problem of mutual interest allows the undertaking of common action. A certain level of c. of opinion and actions is necessary to any form of social relations. In the broadest sense, c. represents the degree of harmony and conscious solidarity, the overcoming of conflicts, differences, and enmity. C. is also a way of achieving objectives; it reflects compromise, reaching agreement, a desire for mutual understanding, and a minimizing of contradictions among the parties. In positivist sociology, c. was interpreted as solidarity conceived of rationally. The principle of c. or unanimity is widely used in parliamentary activities as well as diplomatic relations. Achieving the principle of c. renders moot the procedure of voting, which imposes the will of the majority and disregards the point of view of the minority. In this sense, the attainment of c. reinforces human solidarity, because it respects the experience and legitimate interests of all parties, and not merely one part of society. There is no complete and absolute c., just as there is no way of assimilating and identifying all of the interests in play. Any given c. is relative and frequently short-lived. C. by formal majority can abuse the interests of the minority. The principle of c. is a method to avoid voting, allowing full and exhaustive discussion in order to resolve disagreements and thus to ensure a spirit of cooperation within a group. There is no social process that does not include different forms and degrees of c. The richer and more consistent the degree of c. that is achieved, the more harmonious the social development will be. In today’s world, a humanist orientation may well be the healthiest form of social c.