Handbook of Social Capital
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Handbook of Social Capital

The Troika of Sociology, Political Science and Economics

Edited by Gert Tingaard Svendsen and Gunnar Lind Haase Svendsen

The Handbook of Social Capital offers an important contribution to the study of bonding and bridging social capital networks, balancing the ‘troika’ of sociology, political science and economics. Eminent contributors, including Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom, explore the different scientific approaches required if international research is to embrace both the bright and the more shadowy aspects of social capital. The Handbook stresses the importance of trust for economies all over the world and contains a strong advocacy for cross-disciplinary work within the social sciences.
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Chapter 6: Humour

Peter Gundelach


Peter Gundelach Introduction Humour is social. ‘We rarely laugh alone and never tell ourselves jokes out loud or play jokes on ourselves’ (Fine, 1983: 176). Everybody enjoys a good laugh and in a book like this it lays near at hand to compare the pleasant effects of humour with the positive effects of social capital. Intuitively humour and social capital seem to be interrelated and have positive social effects. In this sense humour may be seen as an element in creating social capital and thus an asset for instance in relation to the performance of groups. Such positive functions of humour will be considered in detail below but initially it should be noted that both in studies of humour and social capital there is a ‘nice guy tendency’. Researchers tend to overlook the negative sides of jokes and other types of humour (Billig, 2001a). For instance, humour may create seemingly negative, stereotypical pictures of other groups and in other cases jokes may be used to marginalize group members. In totalitarian regimes people have been arrested for telling jokes that are critical towards the regime. Likewise, there may also be a tendency to overlook the downside of social capital (Portes and Landholt, 1996; Portes, 1998) for instance where groups or communities are closed, have a strong exclusion mechanism and may hinder economic and social development. It seems that humour and social capital are reminiscent of each other in the sense that their functions depend on the character of...

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