The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 11, No 1 (2023)

The ambivalent affordances of humour in capitalist organizations

Massih Zekavat


Responding to concerns raised by Michael Billig (2018) regarding the functions of humour in capitalist organisations, this essay strives to convey how humour and satire can have liberating and empowering affordances for subjects in organisational contexts as they can potentially intervene in the negotiation and exercise of power through fostering negative dialectical thinking and estrangement. Revisiting the scepticism of Marcuse, Fromm, Horkheimer and Adorno toward humour, it strives to provide an initial theoretical framework to accommodate a more nuanced understanding of the functions of humour in power structures by locating it within the contingencies acknowledged by Frankfurt School critical theorists. Although humour can be co-opted to serve power and consolidate the status quo, it can also serve as a potential resistance strategy in capitalist societies and organisations.


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