Dictionnaire de la Science Politique

Authors: Hermet, Badie, Birnbaum & Braud
Summary: In a 320-word entry, a definition of the term is at first proposed and then the main questions about its meaning are discussed.
The authors define consensus as an informal accord, not materialized by vote, in order to avoid opposite opinions and statements.
At a macrosocial level western 19th century societies evolution led to wonder about increasing consensus on political systems and, above all, on wealth production and distribution ways.
This phenomenon, related to marxist movements and class struggles decline and crisis, leads to many further questions: does this new consensus sign the end of politics and the birth of a new social contract?
Is it possible to conceive a society without a minimum agreement on some functioning rules?
The entry concludes that, in the impossibility of eliminating conflict, it can be ruled by democratic law unless a wider consensus does not indicate the presence of so strong a power that it is able to reshape in a radical way the representations people have of their needs and aspirations. If so, this power would be probably a totalitarian one.