Coffee and the business of pleasure: the case of Harbucks vs. Mr Tweek

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Journal Article
Culture and Organization, 2002, 8 (4), pp. 293 - 306
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In this paper, I examine the representation of organizations in the television cartoon series South Park . In particular the South Park episode 'Gnomes' is reviewed - this episode contains a direct parody of the role and conduct of organizations in society as its story revolves around a 'fictitious' coffee chain, Harbucks', attempt at a hostile takeover of a small town coffee shop. Drawing on the episode's roman a clef (or perhaps cartoon a clef ) depiction of the global coffee retailing organization Starbucks, it is argued that this popular culture representation offers opportunities to critique and debate organizational behaviour in a way not available to modes of representation common to Organization Studies. Following Bakhtin's model of the carnival, South Park is read as exemplary of a subversive culture of folk humour that mocks, satirises and undermines official institutions - a culture rich in understandings of contemporary organizations and their relationship with society.
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