Mixing Carrots with Sticks: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Positive Incentives

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Dorussen, Han (2001) Mixing Carrots with Sticks: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Positive Incentives , Journal of Peace Research 38(2): 251–262.

Several recent studies argue that positive incentives have become important policy instruments allowing states to meet their post-Cold War security challenges. The leading research question is the effectiveness and efficiency of incentives relative to (economic) sanctions. Whereas earlier work often treated incentives merely as weak sanctions, these studies present a theoretical perspective in which incentives become powerful instruments to turn conflict into cooperation. The essay is constructed around four major issues: (1) the comparison of the effectiveness of incentives and sanctions, (2) the identification of conditions under which incentives are effective, (3) the use of the comparative case studies method to test these conditions, and (4) the identification of policy implications. A principal argument in this essay is that incentives need to be distinguished very carefully from sanctions. Moreover, none of the studies derives the conditions under which we expect incentives to matter more than sanctions. The books are good examples of both the strengths and weaknesses of the comparative case studies method. Expert knowledge provides valuable insight into the various cases, but lack of logical and inferential constraint remains a problem. Nevertheless, the studies offer important policy lessons for the successful implementation of incentives. This essay suggests various ways in which research on sanctions and incentives could progress. In particular, older work by Knorr (1975) already proposes how sanctions and incentives can be distinguished. Finally, it is indicated how selection bias could have been avoided.


Han Dorussen

Han Dorussen

Lecturer in International Relations, Department of Government, University of Essex, UK.