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Do the kinds of political joke that get circulated in a polity depend on the structure - page 18 / 46





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Douglas Ayling

none of the above)?” It must be noted that not only are these topics prone to overlap, but

also many jokes are inherently ambiguous as to their object. While this is true generally of

jokes, it could be said to be particularly true of political jokes under repressive regime types.

Therefore a degree of subjective judgement necessarily enters the process of categorisation

at this stage.

The state/regime distinction used follows as closely as possible that elaborated by

Robert M. Fishman in ‘Rethinking State and Regime’32:

Regimes are more permanent forms of political organization than specific governments, but they are typically less permanent than the state. The state, by contrast, is a (normally) more permanent structure of domination and coordination including a coercive apparatus and the means to administer a society and extract resources from it.33

Following from this, jokes which seemed to address state apparatuses (including the secret

police, bureaucracy, the military, official organs of state media, etc) and jokes which spoke

to issues bearing upon the infrastructure of the state (including actual mechanisms of voting,

supply-side issues with the economy and procedures of appointment to the civil service)

were all categorised (where appropriate) as jokes relating to the state. Jokes whose proper

object could reasonably be regarded as political figures, parties and the mechanisms of

32 Robert M. Fishman, ‘Rethinking State and Regime: Southern Europe’s Transition to Democracy’, World Politics, Vol. 42, No.3 (April 1990), pp.422-440 Fishman (1990), p.428 33

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