This delightful book tackles the prevailing assumption that
laughter and humour are inherently good. In developing a critique
of humour the author proposes a social theory that places humour -
in the form of ridicule - as central to social life. Billig argues
that all cultures use ridicule as a disciplinary means to uphold
norms of conduct and conventions of meaning. Historically, theories
of humour reflect wider visions of politics, morality and
aesthetics. For example, Bergson argued that humour contains an
element of cruelty while Freud suggested that we deceive ourselves
about the true nature of our laughter. Billig discusses these and
other theories, while using the topic of humour to throw light on
the perennial social problems of regulation, control and
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