The two research questions of this paper are: How does the rhetorical situation trigger the accounting communication in a case of conflict? Which persuasive strategies are chosen to alter the situation? The paper accordingly combines Bitzer’s theory of the rhetorical situation with the Aristotelian framework of persuasive appeals and insights from argumentation theory. The paper empirically demonstrates the usefulness of this framework to deepen our understanding of accounting communication in a historical case study. The historical case is the change of monetary policy of a public financial institution, the Bank deutscher Länder BdL, and its conflict with the government in 1955/56. The analysis of the rhetorical discourse focuses on the narrative part of BdL’s Annual Report 1955, the Gürzenich hall speech of German Chancellor Adenauer on 23 May 1956, and the Monthly Report of May 1956. The paper demonstrates how the rhetorical situation triggers the accounting communication of the BdL. It also reveals changes in the argumentation strategy and the affective appeals as reactions to the new rhetorical situation created by the Chancellor’s speech.
Keywords: Accounting communication, new rhetoric, rhetorical situation, argumentation theory, public accountability, central bank.