Middle Powers and International Sanctions, Generic Theory Reconsidered

IR Working Paper 1991/2

Author/s (editor/s):

Kim Richard Nossal

Publication year:


Publication type:

Working paper

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IR Working Paper 1991/2

Kim Richard Nossal, ‘Middle Powers and International Sanctions, Generic Theory Reconsidered’, IR Working Paper 1991-2, Canberra: Department of International Relations, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University, 2 May 1991.

Orthodox theories of sanctions, reflecting liberal assumptions about political behaviour as rational utility maximising by states and individuals, assume that sanctions serve essentially the same purposes for all states, large or small. The paper argues that an examination of the experience of Australia and Canada in the 1980s, when both imposed sanctions against an array of states, suggests that there is a need for a more differentiated explanation of the sanctions policies of such middle powers, taking account of the disincentives as well as the incentives to impose sanctions. It pays special attention to four factors: the pros and cons of punishment; alliance politics; domestic politics; and the views of individual leaders.

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