Difference Between Consensus and Unanimity

Key Difference – Consensus vs Unanimity


Although most people tend to confuse between consensus and unanimity, these are not synonymous and there are differences between consensus and unanimity in their meaning. It is very rarely that we encounter situations where everyone agrees upon a single decision or a choice. In most cases, there are a lot of arguing and disagreements involved in making decisions. It is in such a context that the words consensus and unanimity come to light. Consensus refers to a general agreement. On the other hand, unanimity refers to a situation where everyone agrees upon a single decision. This is the key difference between the two words. Through this article let us examine the difference in depth.

What is Consensus?

The word consensus can be understood as a general agreement of a group. When arriving at a consensus, the members of the group pay attention to the ideas of the others before arriving at a decision. Here the key feature of consensus is to meet all the necessities of the group although it may fail to please each and every individual member. Members who do not completely agree with the decision will also give their consensus as they realize that it is the best for the group.

According to some sociologists, mainly the functionalists, consensus is at the heart of every society. Members of a particular society have an agreed upon code of conduct with the society. This is a form of consensus. The individual members give priority to the group and behave accordingly. Although there may be situations where the individual ideas go against the group ideas, the individual members go along with the group.

When speaking of consensus, cooperation and team effort is of extreme significance. In order to create a consensus among groups, it is necessary to share ideas with others. These may not always be positive, supportive ideas. Nevertheless through effective and honest communication the group develops cooperation in their efforts to arrive at a consensus.

Difference Between Consensus and Unanimity

What is Unanimity?

Unanimity can loosely be defined as agreed upon by everyone involved. This clearly shows a difference between consensus and unanimity. In consensus not everyone agrees, but in unanimity this is not the case. There is a definite agreement of all parties involved.

It is also necessary to highlight that unanimity is mostly achieved when taking decisions. This is not a process. However when observing consensus, it is a process that progresses as people provide new ideas and work towards a general agreement. In unanimity, the individuals do not work towards any achievement but merely agrees upon a suitable decision. Gaining unanimity in decisions or agreements is often a rather difficult task because in most situations people have different ideas from one another. This emphasizes that consensus and unanimity should not be confused as the same, but should be understood as two different words.

Main Difference - Consensus vs Unanimity

What is the Difference Between Consensus and Unanimity?

Definitions of Consensus and Unanimity:

Consensus: Consensus is a general agreement.

Unanimity: Unanimity is agreed upon by everyone involved.

Features of Consensus and Unanimity:

Nature of Agreement:

Consensus: In consensus not everyone agrees.

Unanimity: In unanimity everyone agrees.


Consensus: Consensus is more of a process.

Unanimity: Unanimity is more of a decision.


Image Courtesy:

1. People in small discussion group meeting By Harless Todd, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

2. GYSD 5th Training Day1 Sec4 Group Discussion By Rico Shen (Rico Shen) [GFDL , CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons