Political Studies 57:54-74 (2009)

This article examines when economic sanctions should be imposed on liberal democracies that violate democratic norms. The argument is made from the social-liberal standpoint, which recognises the moral status of political communities. While social liberals rarely refer to the use of economic sanctions as a pressure tool, by examining why they restrict military intervention and economic aid to cases of massive human rights violations or acute humanitarian need, the article is able to show why they are likely to impose strong restrictions on the use of economic sanctions as well. After reconstructing the social-liberal case against economic sanctions, the article develops the argument that liberal democracies have reasons to support sanctions on other liberal democracies, even when they perpetrate injustices on a smaller scale. Liberal democracies share especially strong ideological, cultural and institutional bonds, and these peer group relations open them to mutual influence. When one liberal democracy commits serious injustices while still proclaiming allegiance to the democratic ethos, it can adversely affect the vitality of the democratic culture in those other liberal democracies with which it maintains close relations. Other liberal democracies therefore have the right and the obligation to condemn this behaviour, in order to preserve their allegiance to their values. The article defends the use of economic sanctions in light of some recent critiques, and concludes by providing an overall assessment of the factors which liberal democracies ought to take into account when they consider imposing economic sanctions on other liberal democracies.
Keywords Democracy  Sanctions
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