Laughing for Real? Humour, Management Power and Subversion

Mads Peter Karlsen, Kaspar Villadsen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Management and humour are becoming more closely interlinked in contemporary organizational life. Whereas humour was conventionally viewed as a deleterious, alien element at the workplace, it is now increasingly viewed as a valuable management tool. This development raises the question of whether humour can still be regarded as having critical or subversive potential. This article discusses three research approaches to management and humour: the instrumental, the ideological critical, and contemporary critical organization studies, giving particular emphasis to extending the last tradition. Hence, the article situates itself in the critical debate on the function of humour in the workplace and on ‘cynical reasoning’ recently initiated in organization studies. It seeks to contribute to this debate by defining the features of a critical humoristic practice in a post-authoritarian management context. The point of departure is primarily Žižek’s critique of ideology and its application in recent organization studies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEphemera: Theory & politics in organization
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)513-535
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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