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The joke-secret and an ethics of modern individuality: From Freud to Simmel

Smith, Daniel 2021. The joke-secret and an ethics of modern individuality: From Freud to Simmel. Theory, Culture and Society 38 (5) , pp. 53-71. 10.1177/02632764211000121

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Why has comedy become one of our most abiding ethical preoccupations as well as a dominant mode of political critique? It is suggested that comedy appeals to contemporary persons because it provides an apt social-aesthetic form through which to face up to living with others at a time when it is hard to bear others or otherness. The article outlines an ethics of modern individuality by developing a theory of comedy as more about building social bonds and finding out what could be shared knowledge and experience than the toppling of dominant modes of thought or repudiating our mutuality with others. Drawing on Georg Simmel’s ‘The Law of the Individual’, the article develops a Simmelian reading of Freud’s Jokes to argue that comedy is one solution to resolving our mutual un-alikeness by way of forging knotted paths toward recognising how we could be alike.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Publisher: SAGE Publications
ISSN: 0263-2764
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 16 February 2021
Date of Acceptance: 12 February 2021
Last Modified: 18 Oct 2021 17:13

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