Talking Oil: A Study of Speech Acts Performed by Saudi Arabian and Norwegian Oil Ministers

This paper studies the rhetoric of Norwegian and Saudi Arabian oil ministers on the basis of John Searle's typology of speech acts.

ARENA Working Paper 13/1999 (html)

Dag Harald Claes

The study of how we speak and write about the world is an important part of social science. There are, however, different approaches to this topic. Most social scientists would distinguish between what is said and what there is, while some post-modernists would argue that what is said is all there is. The discussion of speech acts in this paper is primarily based on the works of John Searle and John Austin. Searle's work refers to what could be called the philosophy of language; here, we will primarily be concerned with the act element of speech. The empirical focus of the paper is speech acts performed by former Saudi Arabian oil minister Sheik Ahmad Zaki Yamani, and some of his Norwegian colleagues. The data consist of 46 interviews with Sheik Yamani, from July 1977 to June 1986, reproduced in Middle East Economic Survey. In addition I will present three cases in which different Norwegian oil ministers have performed or tried to perform, speech acts influencing the international oil market. While empirical analysis of speech tend to be either idiosyncratic or excessively general, this paper tries to find a middle way in connecting the cases under study with theoretical assumptions and broader empirical presence.

Tags: international trade, political economy, Norway
Published Nov. 9, 2010 10:52 AM