Compromise is routinely evoked in everyday language and in scholarly debates across the social sciences. Yet, it has been subjected to relatively little systematic study. The introduction to this inter-disciplinary volume addresses the research gap in three steps. First, we offer three reasons for the study of compromise: its empirical omnipresence in politics, its theoretical potential to bridge the rationalist-constructivist divide, and its normative promise to recognize the plurality of society. Second, we introduce different approaches to the coherence, legitimacy and limits of compromise found in the existing explanatory and normative literatures. We discuss why these literatures need to speak to one another, and identify possible applications in empirical research. Third, we conceptualize compromise as one possible solution to a conflict. Distinct from both dissensus and consensus, all compromises share three characteristics: concessions, non-coercion and continued controversy. However, different types of compromise can be distinguished by how mutual, costly and painful concessions are; by whether all forms of coercion are absent; and by the degree to which the relevant parties’ grounds for conflict are transformed. We conclude by discussing the challenge and appeal of ‘politics as compromise’ in plural and complex societies.