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A boycott is an organized economic, social or political means of coercion or pressure by which a person , an association of persons , a company or a state is excluded from regular business dealings .


Today the boycott generally stands for a declaration of disrepute or ostracism through the expression of a collective stance of refusal. The economic boycott serves in particular to eliminate competition ; the social boycott as a means of exerting pressure on interest groups (e.g. in labor disputes ). The political boycott is predominantly a means of state sanctions against other states.


The word boycott goes back to Charles Cunningham Boycott , an English property manager living in Ireland . During the Land Wars after 1870, Irish nationalist leader Charles Stewart Parnell called on his compatriots to nonviolent resistance. As a result of the action organized by Parnell and the Irish Land League in 1880 , Boycott found no more tenants, he was "boycotted". This first successful boycott gave the name to everyone else.


Some examples of historical boycotts in chronological order:

  • In the German Middle Ages the so-called "Verhansung", that is, the exclusion of a city from the Hanseatic League .
  • The Quaker Benjamin Lay from Pennsylvania , USA, boycotted all goods that were created by slave labor and avoided hosts who kept slaves. In 1758, after a quarter of a century of persistent agitation and individual boycott practice, he was able to set a milestone in the fight against slavery: The Quakers of Philadelphia outlawed slavery.
  • The US boycott of British goods during the American Revolution .
  • The Indian boycott of goods, some of which were under the British trade monopoly, organized by Gandhi (" Campaign of Non-Cooperation " 1920–1922).
  • The Anti-Defamation League organized a successful boycott of the Ford Motor Company in the USA in 1927 because its owner Henry Ford financed the weekly newspaper The Dearborn Independent and distributed it in large numbers nationwide through Ford dealerships. Starting in 1920, the paper had regularly distributed anti-Semitic inflammatory articles, which found their way to Germany as a brochure The International Jew . Not only Jewish, liberal Christian, and non-denominational consumers participated in the boycott, but also shopkeepers who refused to accept goods from Ford delivery vans. In the face of massive sales losses, the company patriarch apologized in 1929 and publicly apologized.
  • The boycott of Jewish shops in Germany initiated by the National Socialists in 1933 , known as the Jewish boycott .
  • The Arab boycott of Israel and companies trading in Israel lasted from 1948 to the late 1990s
  • The bus boycotts carried out by African Americans during the US civil rights movement .
  • The US embargo on Cuba - see Relations between Cuba and the United States .
  • The S-Bahn boycott in 1961 was a protest measure by West Berlin against the construction of the Berlin Wall.
  • The fruit boycott of consumers to draw attention to (then) apartheid in South Africa. It was popular in Europe and especially in Germany and was proclaimed by the Protestant women's work in Germany as well as the anti-apartheid movement.
  • In 1995 numerous consumers around the world boycotted the Shell oil company by not refueling with Shell (“ consumer boycott ” = buyers' strike). They responded to the announced by Shell disposal of the floating oil tank Brent Spar . After a media campaign initiated by Greenpeace for around 100 days , Shell gave in and began disposing of the Brent Spar on land.
  • The transnational anti-Semitic campaign Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions has been campaigning since 2005 to end Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories and give Palestinian refugees a right of return.
  • In 2011, the EU threatened Iran with no longer buying oil from it (“EU embargo ”); in January the EU decided on economic sanctions . A few days later, Iran threatened the EU with an immediate delivery boycott.
  • In 2019, some organic supermarket chains (including Alnatura, Bio Company, Bio Mare and Denn's) removed the products of the Spreewälder Hirsemühle from their range because their boss is active in the AfD and the AfD opposes several important criteria for denying man-made global warming Has positioned sustainability .

Forms of boycott

In a trade boycott, one or more nations refuse to trade with an outlawed state or its economic organs . Consumer boycotts are on a long-term change in the buying behavior on the part of the consumer oriented. An election boycott is the refusal of a group or party to vote; it is a form of informal disapproval . Olympic boycott refers to the decision of individual countries or groups of countries not to participate in the Olympic Games . The divestment is the withdrawal of capital from any company or state and is a form of boycotts that are against the financing deals the business entity.

In terms of industrial action law, a distinction is made between the following forms of boycott:

  • Withdrawal of labor by employees
  • Employer's suspension of employment
  • Paragraph lock
  • Customer block

While the first two relate to the internal relationship between employees and employers and overlap with the labor dispute strike and lockout , the last two relate to the external relationship and involve third parties. The hiring ban can target certain groups of people, such as trade union activists, whose names are recorded on so-called “ black lists ”.

Legal meaning

The Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG) stated in its Lüth judgment that the call for a boycott is a permissible exercise of freedom of expression . However, this only applies to a limited extent in antitrust and fair trading law. In Germany, Section 21 of the GWB prohibits “companies and associations of companies”, other “companies or associations of companies with the intention of unduly impairing certain companies , requesting delivery or purchase blocks”. All actors (disreputable, disreputable and addressee) must be companies here. The call for a boycott is covered by § 4 No. 10 UWG in fair trading law. Such a handicap can represent a specific handicap, whereby in the context of a weighing of interests the above. The standards of the Lüth judgment must be taken into account. After § 7 AWV are boycotting statements , ie statements of residents in foreign trade (not in domestic commerce) at a boycott against another state to participate prohibited. In foreign trade , the boycott is a type of force majeure , which is why the exporters and importers affected by a boycott no longer need to fulfill their contract .


The term embargo ( Spanish “confiscation” ) is used exclusively for states and also applies to state-ordered and enforced exclusion from business transactions, the term boycott, on the other hand, includes - beyond state orders - voluntary, private-sector measures and emphasizes these.


  • David Feldman (Ed.): Boycotts Past and Present: From the American Revolution to the Campaign to Boycott Israel. Springer International Publishing, Cham 2019, ISBN 978-3-319-94871-3 .
  • Gerhard Blinkert: Union boycott measures in the system of industrial action law . Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1981.

Web links

Commons : Boycotts  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Boycott  - explanations of meanings, origins of words, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Christoph Tiemann: Tiemann's verbal network: Boycott. on, September 9, 2013; accessed on December 28, 2016
  2. Marcus Rediker: You'll Never Be as Radical as This 18th-Century Quaker Dwarf , New York Times, August 12, 2017, accessed January 3, 2018
  3. ^ Jewish Daily Bulletin: Boycott Against Ford Rapidly Spreading in Michigan and Missouri , Detroit, March 29, 1927, accessed January 3, 2018
  4. ^ Neil Baldwin: Henry Ford and the Jews - the mass production of hate, PublicAffairs, New York 2002, pp. 213-218
  5., January 26, 2012: Iran wants to turn the oil tap on Europe
  6. Maurin Jost: Organic traders list AfD millet: “No economics suitable for grandchildren”. In: . October 7, 2019, accessed October 27, 2019 .
  7. Brian Burch: Boycotts and Divestment . In: Gary L. Anderson and Kathryn G. Herr (Eds.): Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice . SAGE Publications, 2007.
  8. ^ Gerhard Blinkert: Trade union boycott measures in the system of industrial action law . Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1981, p. 24 ff. The boycott of the West German athletes at the European Athletics Championships in Athens in 1969 , which was not a boycott of the military junta , but a combat measure by amateur athletes against their own team management analogous to the union labor dispute, cf. Arnd Krüger : A Cultural Revolution? The Boycott of the European Athletics Championships by the West German Team in Athens 1969, in: European Committee for Sports History (Ed.): Proceedings Fourth Annual Conference . Volume 1. Florence 1999, 162-166.
  9. BVerfG, judgment of January 15, 1958, Az.1 BvR 400/51 = BVerfGE 7, 198 - Lüth.
  10. ^ Carsten Weerth: Keyword: Embargo. In: Gabler Wirtschaftslexikon. Springer Gabler Verlag, accessed December 28, 2016 .