In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Sanctions

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Defining and Conceptualizing Economic Sanctions
  • The Problem of Selection Bias
  • The Reasons States Impose Sanctions
  • Sanctions and the United Nations
  • Sanctions and Other International and Regional Actors
  • Why policymakers Persist in Imposing Sanctions

International Relations Sanctions
Adrian Ang
  • LAST REVIEWED: 02 March 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 02 March 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0030


The study of sanctions is topical but also contentious and inconclusive in international relations. On the one hand, scholars are deeply divided on the utility of sanctions as foreign-policy instruments. There is an ongoing debate about the “success” or “effectiveness” of sanctions that has yielded a conventional wisdom that they are failed policy instruments. On the other hand, even as the effectiveness of sanctions remains mired in academic debate, its popularity as a policy instrument among policymakers has never been higher. Even among scholars who argue that sanctions can work, there is disagreement about the strategies for achieving success as well as when and why they succeed. The goals of this bibliography are to expose the reader to the debates surrounding the success or failure of sanctions; to explore the conditions under which sanctions might achieve success and the multiple reasons why states impose sanctions beyond mere compliance; to understand why policymakers continue to impose sanctions even if academics denigrate their failure; to explore the costs and consequences of sanctions; and to explore some of the methodological issues related to the study of economic sanctions.

General Overviews

Hufbauer, et al. 2007 is arguably the most well-known study on economic sanctions. Currently in its third edition, the book examines 204 sanctions episodes and analyzes the reasons behind the sanctions, the type of sanctions deployed and their duration, and an assessment of the effectiveness of sanctions. Jentleson 2000 is a chapter that outlines the principal conceptual and methodological issues that surround the study of economic sanctions and how they affect the development of theory and policy. Morgan, Krustev, and Bapat have developed the Threat and Imposition of Sanctions (TIES) Data Page, which collects data on sanctions that have been threatened as well as those that have been imposed.

  • Hufbauer, Gary Clyde, Jeffrey J. Schott, Kimberly Ann Elliott, and Barbara Oegg. Economic Sanctions Reconsidered. 3d ed. Washington, DC: Peterson Institute for International Economics, 2007.

    Utilizing cases of sanctions episodes from World War I to 2000, the authors identify the factors that affect sanction outcomes.

  • Jentleson, Bruce W. “Economic Sanctions and Post-Cold War Conflicts: Challenges for Theory and Policy.” In International Conflict Resolution after the Cold War. Edited by Paul C. Stern and Daniel Druckman, 123–177. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2000.

    Identifies the key conceptual and methodological issues in the study of economic sanctions. Advocates using a coercive bargaining framework, where sanctions are viewed as tools to induce rather than impose compliance. Argues that in order for coercive bargaining to be successful, sanctions need to have economic impact as well as political credibility.

  • Threat and Imposition of Sanctions (TIES) Data Page.

    A database that includes sanctions that were threatened as well as those that were implemented. These data cover the period from 1971 to 2000 and are important to correct for any selection bias inherent in examining only cases where sanctions were actually imposed (see The Problem of Selection Bias in this bibliography).

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