‘Can you pass the salt?’ The legitimacy of international institutions and indirect speech

Matthew D. Stephen
  • European Journal of International Relations, March 2015, SAGE Publishing
  • DOI: 10.1177/1354066114563417

Indirect speech in international politics

What is it about?

Indirect speech happens all the time in international politics. Yet, it has not yet been recognized or theorized. This paper explains what indirect speech is, how it works, and gives examples from international politics. It then applies the theory to understand how states debate the legitimacy of international institutions.

Why is it important?

The paper for the first time introduces linguistic theory on indirect speech acts to international politics. By applying the theory to legitimacy claims about international institutions, it also provides an alternative rationalist explanation for moral appeals in international politics.


Dr Matthew D. Stephen (Author)
Berlin Social Science Center

The paper could be interesting for scholars researching legitimacy in international politics, the UN Security Council, and linguistic approaches in International Relations.

The following have contributed to this page: Dr Matthew D. Stephen