Coercion and Communication: Frameworks for Evaluation of Economic Sanctions

Kenneth W. Abbott

Arizona State University


NYU Journal of Int’l Law & Poitics, Vol. 19, p. 781, 1987

A symposium on "Trade Sanctions and International Relations" raises the fundamental question: What are the functions that economic sanctions perform for states? How we answer this question will determine our evaluations of past experience with sanctions and our policy recommendations for the future. This is essentially a political and economic question, not a question of law. We must turn to disciplines such as political science, economics, and international relations to answer the question and to clarify the analytical frameworks within which our thinking takes place.

This article discusses two recent works on economic sanctions from non-legal disciplines: Economic Sanctions Reconsidered, by Gary Hufbauer and Jeffrey Schott, and Economic Statecraft, by David Baldwin. Both works are in the Realist tradition of international relations scholarship. Hufbauer and Schott and Baldwin both challenge the conventional wisdom that economic sanctions do not work very well. The two works are significantly different, however, in the way in which their authors think about sanctions, especially the fundamental question of function or purpose. Hufbauer and Schott focus on the use of sanctions to force the immediate target state to act as the sanctioning state wishes it to act: the "coercion" in the title of this article. While Baldwin also addresses the direct, coercive use of sanctions, he focuses primarily on their symbolic use, referred to in the title of this article as "communication." The contrast between these two approaches should help to clarify the frameworks within which we make our own analyses.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 22

Keywords: International relations, Economics, Sanctions

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Date posted: May 18, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Abbott, Kenneth W., Coercion and Communication: Frameworks for Evaluation of Economic Sanctions (1987). NYU Journal of Int’l Law & Poitics, Vol. 19, p. 781, 1987. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1402816

Contact Information

Kenneth Wayne Abbott (Contact Author)
Arizona State University ( email )
Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States
480-965-5917 (Phone)
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