[Authors' original abstract]
This developmental paper argues for integrating rhetorical analysis with institutional theory as a complement to existing approaches to executive pay. The paper briefly outlines the theoretical and methodological foundations of prevalent structural institutionalist approaches to the study of executive remuneration practices. It is argued that the quantitative methods typical of structural institutionalist studies are effective tools for mapping the diffusion of practices, but may not be able to give an account of the social construction of institutions. It is suggested that institutional theory must re-engage with linguistic phenomena to explore the meaning of, and motivation for, the adoption of practices. Rhetorical institutionalism is presented as an approach that enables the analysis of language, meaning and motivation within an institution-theoretic context. In recognising that the production of the rational myths required to sustain institutionalised practices depends on rhetoric, we can develop a more nuanced understanding of the legitimation of executive remuneration.