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Do the kinds of political joke that get circulated in a polity depend on the structure - page 4 / 46





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Douglas Ayling

commitment than the struggling faith and disaffection of post-totalitarian regimes; and

contrasts with the loosely articulated “mentalities”7 of authoritarian regimes.

The following theory articulated by Henry Jenkins represents one of a number of

explanations for how and where jokes occur – in this case, with relation to ideology:

Jokes, tend to cluster around points of friction or rupture within the social structure, around places where a dominant social discourse is already starting to give way to an emergent counter-discourse; jokes allow the comic expression of ideas that in other contexts might be regarded as threatening.8

If the Jenkins assessment holds true then one would expect most ideology-based joking

within the post-totalitarian regimes since it is within post-totalitarian regimes that there is a

“growing empirical disjunction between official ideological claims and reality”9.

Conversely, if the ideal type of the authoritarian regime truly embodies a weaker

relationship to ideology within the regime compared with both totalitarianism and

post-totalitarianism, then ceteris paribus this should be reflected in a comparatively

diminished incidence of ideology-related political jokes within authoritarian regimes as

against totalitarian and post-totalitarian regimes. This latter hypothesis depends on an

assertion. It posits that different degrees of regime-ideological engagement across different

7 8 ibidem Henry Jenkins, What made Pistachio Nuts? (Columbia: New York, 1992), p.251; cited by Maggie Andrews, ‘Butterflies and Caustic Asides: Housewives, comedy and the feminist movement’, Because I Tell a Joke or Two: Comedy, Politics and Social Difference, ed. Stephen Wagg (London: Routledge, 1998), p.51 Linz and Stepan (1996), p.48 9

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