Societies Under Siege
Exploring How International Economic
Sanctions (Do Not) Work
Oxford University Press, 2015
Today, international economic sanctions are imposed in response to
virtually every serious international crisis, whether to promote regime
change and democratisation, punish armed aggression, or check nuclear
proliferation. But how exactly is the economic pain inflicted by sanctions
supposed to translate into political gain? What are the mechanisms by
which sanctions operate - or fail to operate? This is the first comparative
study of this vital question.
Drawing on Gramscian state theory, Societies Under Siege provides a
novel analytical framework to study how sanctions are mediated through
the domestic political economy and state-society relations of target states
and filter through into political outcomes - whether those sought by the
states imposing sanctions or, as frequently occurs, unintended and even
highly perverse consequences. Detailed case studies of sanctions aimed
at regime change in three pivotal cases - South Africa, Iraq and Myanmar
- are used to explore how different types of sanctions function across
time and space. These case studies draw on extensive fieldwork
interviews, archival documents and leaked diplomatic cables to provide a
unique insight into how undemocratic regimes targeted by sanctions
survive or fall.
Provides a comparative analytical framework for how sanctions
Draws on previously unused interviews, archives and diplomatic
cables, including internal records of Saddam Hussein's regime
Covers comprehensive and targeted sanctions across three iconic
1: A Political Theory of Economic Statecraft
2: South Africa: Sanctioning Apartheid
3: Myanmar: Sanctioning Military Rule
4: Iraq: Sanctioning Dictatorship
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Proponents of international sanctions regimes usually argue that by restricting economic interactions and thus creating
popular discontent, sanctions can put pressure on governments to change their policies. But in closely examining the
various ways in which sanctions affect the interests, resources, and strategies of different political groups, Jones finds
that things don’t always turn out that way... Jones’ central message is that enthusiasm for sanctions should be tempered
by an appreciation of their complex, unpredictable, and sometimes counterproductive effects. Past performance is no
guarantee of future results.
- G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs, May/June 2016.
[A] sophisticated account... [with] convincing arguments... He applies his theory with a degree of sophistication which is
impressive... [The case studies] are each informed by and greatly strengthened by the author’s historical approach...
written... with verve, passion, and a moral commitment, without losing the chance for a joke or witticism... [The]
recommendations for policy advocates and policy makers... [are] good, common sense...
- Robert H. Taylor, Asian Affairs 47(3), 2016, 471-6.
[A] seminal study...
- Derek Tonkin, former British ambassador and editor of Network Myanmar.
[B]oth timely and timeless. It is an extremely timely wake-up call reminding any remaining intervention optimists of the
moral and practical responsibility that follows from using sanctions without a qualified idea of how they will work on the
ground. Highlighting the importance of local conditions is also a timeless message to an IR audience that far too often
disregards qualitative difference in the search for quantifiable measurements... Buy the book, or ask your library to do
so. You will have the pleasure to read an unusually elegant and thought-provoking piece of solid scholarly work.
- Elin Helquist, Freie Universität, Berlin/ Stockholm University, The Disorder of Things.
The volume undoubtedly makes a key contribution to the field – indeed, one that was sorely needed: an evaluation of
how sanctions interact with the economic and political dynamics in the target society, and more specifically, how they
affect domestic power relations... an excellent contribution to the literature... it closes a long identified, overdue gap
while putting in place a highly useful analytical framework... [that] can be readily employed by policy-makers interested
in assessing the situation in the target society and crafting a sanctions strategy.
- Clara Portela, Singapore Management University, The Disorder of Things.
Thanks to this work, I understand the world in ways that I did not before... It has also helped me to develop a research
agenda... From pro-Palestinian activism to the politics of vaccine refusal, this book has something for everyone... Let
Lee Jones shatter your illusions one perfectly crafted sentence at a time.
- Katie Attwell, Murdoch University, The Disorder of Things.
[T]he question of how economic coercion translates into political change has remained under-examined. Lee Jones’
book addresses this void... This book is characterised by several strong points. First, the book’s conclusion is
convincing and important: foreign policy outcomes are always driven by a target state’s internal socio-political conflict.
While sanctions may influence this conflict, they are unable ‘to overwhelm local conditions’ (p. 175). Second, the book’s
theoretical perspective proves well-suited to unravel the complex ways in which sanctions impact on target states’
internal power relations. Moreover, by carefully embedding his study in sanctions theory, the author illustrates the
usefulness of theory for applied sanctions research. Third, the three case studies are empirically and historically rich, as
they build on a large number of qualitative interviews and archival data. The study’s in-depth historical–sociological
analyses challenge several conventional truths and help to generate a better understanding of the cases. While the
book’s small-N design makes it hard to generalise findings beyond the three cases, further research can and should
apply Jones’framework to additional cases.
- Andreas Boogaerts, Political Studies Review 15(2), 2017, 280