A Performative Account of the Use of Oaths to Enhance Integrity Within the Military

Job Timmermans*, Robert Bertrand

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


Taking oaths has been part of military protocol dating back to the Bronze Age. For example, the pledging of allegiance to the flag, or the reciting of the soldier’s creed, mark the connection and commitment of military personnel to the corps and its codes. Also, in the literature on business ethics, oaths have been recognized as a means of raising the level of integrity within organizations. The underlying idea is that the performing of such rituals makes a real difference to the individuals or organization keeping to their commitments. Therefore, a deeper understanding of the performative functioning of oaths as a means to entrench integrity within organizations and in its individual members could offer new insights into the steering of organizations towards integrity both theoretically and practically. To this purpose, this chapter takes a closer look at how oaths function in the education and training of military officers: on the one hand, officers taking oaths as part of their own training and induction, and as part of their future role as an officer administering oaths on the other hand. Conceptually the assessment draws on the speech-act theories of Austin 1975 and Searle 1989.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNL ARMS Netherlands Annual Review of Military Studies 2019
EditorsWim Klinkert, Myriame Bollen, Marenne Jansen, Henk de Jong, Eric-Hans Kramer, Lisette Vos
Place of PublicationThe Hague
PublisherTMC Asser Press
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)978-94-6265-315-3
ISBN (Print)978-94-6265-314-6
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019


  • integrity
  • oaths
  • performativity
  • business ethics

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