Soldiering on: Exploring the role of humour as a disciplinary technology in the military

Godfrey, Richard (2016). Soldiering on: Exploring the role of humour as a disciplinary technology in the military. Organization, 23(2) pp. 164–183.

Abstract

This article considers the role of humour as a disciplinary technology. Using the British military as an organizational context, and drawing on data from the published memoirs of recently serving military personnel, the article makes three arguments in this regard. First, it is argued that the disciplinary apparatus of the military, as an example of a rule-bound and hierarchical organizational structure, creates the conditions that allow for a controlled form of resistance (through humour) to be enacted by organizational subjects; but ultimately, such acts work to serve the requirements of the organization. Second, it is argued that humour contributes to the establishing of social cohesion through disciplinary practices of inclusion and exclusion and the drawing of lines of normalization, both at the local level and at a wider institutional level. Third, it is argued that humour permeates the power relations that structure organizational life: both those governed by rank and position and those that arise through the modes of self-regulation through which much organizational disciplining is enacted. This article concludes by drawing attention to the dialectic and dynamic nature of humour while also offering suggestions for the wider applicability of the disciplinary role of workplace humour.

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