Are Economic Sanctions Morally Acceptable?

Course summary

Are Economic Sanctions Morally Acceptable?


Economic sanctions, such as the withdrawal of trade, are imposed when the state (or organisation) imposing the sanction wants to change the behaviour of the state on which the sanctions are imposed. For example the EU and the US have had sanctions in place against Russia since it annexed the Crimea in March 2014. Those sanctions have been intensified on several occasions since. Their aim is to undermine the Russian economy. But do such sanctions work? Do they hurt only those they are supposed to hurt? It seems not: UNICEF estimated that the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq in the 90s, for example, led to the deaths of 500,000 children aged under five from malnutrition and disease. Recently there have been attempts to ‘target’ sanctions, freezing the assets, for example, of those believed to be responsible for the behavior deemed unacceptable. Economic sanctions raise huge moral and political problems – yet until recently philosophers have not been discussing them. Come and help us put that right this weekend. There will be plenty of opportunity to discuss the issues with other participants and with the speakers.

Programme details


2.45pm Course Registration

3.00pm Introduction to Economic Sanctions

4.30pm Tea / coffee

5.00pm Sanctions and Clean Hands

6.30pm Break / bar open

7.00pm Dinner

8.15pm- The US v rest of the World: Global Sanctions


8.15am Breakfast (residents only)

9.30am Punitive Sanctions

10.45am Coffee / tea

11.15am Q & A
Questions directed by MARIANNE TALBOT

12.30pm Break / bar open

1.00pm Lunch

2.00pm Course disperses

Recommended reading

Biersteker, Thomas J. "Targeted sanctions and individual human rights. International Journal: Canada's Journal of Global Policy Analysis 65 (2010): 99-117
Christiansen, D. and Powers, G. F., 'Economic Sanctions and Just War Doctrine', in D. Cortright and G. A. Lopez (ed.), Economic Sanctions: Panacea or Peacebuilding? (Oxford: Westview Press, 1995).
Cortright, D. a. L., George A., 'Are Sanctions Just? The Problematic Case of Iraq', Journal of International Affairs 52 (1999): 735.
Damrosch, L. F., 'The Collective Enforcement of International Norms Through Economic Sanctions', Ethics & International Affairs 8 (1994): 59-75.
Ellis, E. A., 'The Ethics of Economic Sanctions', Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2015), available at
Gordon, J., 'A Peaceful, Silent, Deadly Remedy: The Ethics of Economic Sanctions', Ethics & International Affairs 13 (1999): 123-42.
Pape, R. A., 'Why Economic Sanctions Do Not Work', International Security 22 (1997): 90-136.
Pattison, J., 'The Morality of Sanctions', Social Philosophy and Policy 32 (2015): 192-215.
Pierce, A. C., 'Just war principles and economic sanctions', Ethics and International Affairs 10 (1996): 99–113.
Winkler, A., 'Just sanctions', Human Rights Quarterly 21 (1999): 133-55.
Zohar, N. ‘Boycott, Crime and Sin: Ethical and Talmudic Responses to Injustice Abroad’, Ethics and International Affairs 7 (1993).


Accommodation for this weekend is at Rewley House for Saturday night only.

Depending on availability it may also be possible to extend your stay, please enquire at the time of booking for availability and prices.

All bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.

Unfortunately it is not yet possible to book twin room accommodation online, so if you wish to book a twin room, please send in your completed enrolment form or contact the Day & Weekend Events Office, Email:; Telephone: + 44 (0) 1865 270380 / 270368.


includes coffee/tea: £76.50
Single B&B Saturday: £72.60
Single Room only Saturday: £62.00
Twin B&B Saturday (per person): £52.10


If you are in receipt of a state benefit you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

If you do not qualify for the concessionary fee but are experiencing financial hardship, you may still be eligible for financial assistance.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Ms Marianne Talbot

Director of Studies

Marianne Talbot B.A., B.Phil., has been Director of Studies in Philosophy at Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education since 2001. She has written several of Oxford’s popular short online courses on Philosophy, and her podcasts (notably on critical reasoning) have been downloaded over 5 million times. Marianne specialises in logic, ethics and the philosophy of mind. The topic of knowledge is her particular current interest.  


Dr Elizabeth Ellis


is a Teaching Fellow and Consultant in Applied Ethics at Leeds University, and divides her time between teaching and undertaking external consulting in applied ethics. Before taking up her post at the IDEA Centre, Elizabeth completed her PhD in Applied Ethics at the University of Edinburgh. Her PhD thesis concerned the ethics of economic sanctions and addresses the issue of how we can justify imposing (or not imposing) economic sanctions in various different contexts. She is interested in all areas of applied ethics and political philosophy but her particular research interests are just war theory, collective responsibility and the ethical issues surrounding punishment and coercion.

Professor Cécile Fabre


is a Senior Research Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. She completed her doctorate at Oxford in the late 1990s, and has taught at the London School of Economics, the University of Edinburgh, and the University of Oxford. She has published widely on democracy, social justice, the rights we have over our own body, and the ethics of war.