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Do the kinds of political joke that get circulated in a polity depend on the structure - page 3 / 46

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Douglas Ayling

Of the varieties of humour recorded as having occurred under these political systems this

paper specifically examines jokes (as opposed to comic books, films, comic songs,

caricature, cabaret, etc) for a number of reasons. On the practical side, jokes have in many

cases been transcribed and anthologised, they are relatively independent of their tellers and

their immediate context, and thus they are manageable semiotic units of which large

numbers can be processed and compared with relative speed. Of great importance for

theoretical implications, jokes are widely (and often very quickly) circulated and may

therefore offer some insight into an otherwise opaque interpersonal area of cultural

exchange and hidden political activity within the life of the nation.

Hypothesis

Totalitarian regimes have a relatively dominant ideological component – in the Linz

and Stepan typology they are partly defined by their characteristically “Elaborate and

guiding ideology that articulates a reachable utopia”6. This represents a stronger ideological

6

Linz and Stepan (1996), p.44

page 3

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