Recuperation (politics)

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In the sociological sense, recuperation is the process by which politically radical ideas and images are twisted, co-opted, absorbed, defused, incorporated, annexed or commodified within media culture and bourgeois society, and thus become interpreted through a neutralized, innocuous or more socially conventional perspective.[1][2][3] More broadly, it may refer to the cultural appropriation of any subversive symbols or ideas by mainstream culture.

The concept of recuperation was formulated by members of the Situationist International, its first published instance in 1960.[4] The term conveys a negative connotation because recuperation generally bears the intentional consequence (whether perceived or not) of fundamentally altering the meaning behind radical ideas due to their appropriation or being co-opted into the dominant discourse. It was originally conceived as the opposite of their concept of détournement, in which images and other cultural artifacts are appropriated from mainstream sources and repurposed with radical intentions.


Some former means of countercultural expression that have been identified by critics as recuperated (at least in part) are: punk music[5] and fashion like mohawk hairdos, ripped jeans, and bondage accessories like dog collars;[6][7] tattoos;[8] street art and participatory art.[9][10]

Environmental justice proponents who center social movements and resistance in the transformation to environmental sustainability see the language of transitions to sustainability being recuperated by those seeking to delay and manage the transition.[11][12]

Pointing to "the erosion of publicly owned media", and capitalist realism, Aaron Bastani wrote of the "recuperation of the internet by capital," saying that the consequences of this persistent corporate media recuperation included a reinforcement of status quo, repression of dissent and artistic expression.[13]

Social justice advocates have identified the popular discourse of The New Jim Crow as recuperative, saying that it obscures an analysis of mass-incarceration in the United States by adhering to a counterrevolutionary contextual framework.[14][15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kurczynski, Karen Expression as vandalism: Asger Jorn's "Modifications", in RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics No. 53/54 (Spring - Autumn, 2008), pp.295-6. Quotation:

    the process by which those who control the spectacular culture, embodied most obviously in the mass media, co-opt all revolutionary ideas by publicizing a neutralized version of them, literally turning oppositional tactics into ideology. [] The SI {Situationist International} identified the threat of revolutionary tactics being absorbed and defused as reformist elements. [] The SI pinpointed the increasingly evident problem of capitalist institutions subverting the terms of oppositional movements for their own uses [] recuperation operated on all fronts: in advertising, in academics, in public political discourse, in the marginal discourses of leftist factions, and so on.

  2. ^ Taylor & Francis Group (1993) Textual Practice: Volume 7, p.4. Quotation:

    the negative harmonization attributed to media society. [] revolutionary artists of the late twentieth century are faced with problems of intelligibility, accessibility and recuperation radically different from those of their predecessors. [] current concern with radical writers and media recuperation is the possibility that avant-garde revolutionary art may not be possible, recognizable, or even desirable right now.

  3. ^ Radical Media: Rebellious Communication and Social Movements, p. 59. Quotation:

    recuperation, namely, that the ruling class could twist every form of protest around to salvage its own ends. [] Détournement [] is the revolutionary counterpart to recuperation, a subversive plagiarism that diverts the spectacle's language and imagery from its intended use.

  4. ^ Canjuers, Pierre and Debord, Guy, Préliminaires pour une définition de l’unité du programme révolutionnaire, English translation available here: Preliminaries Toward Defining a Unitary Revolutionary Program.
  5. ^ Gelbart, Matthew (2011-05-01). "A Cohesive Shambles: The Clash's 'London Calling' and the Normalization of Punk". Music and Letters. 92 (2): 230–272. doi:10.1093/ml/gcr037. ISSN 0027-4224. S2CID 192057531.
  6. ^ Bestley, Russ (2017), Bull, Greg; Dines, Mike (eds.), "How Much Longer? Punk Styles, Punk Aesthetics, Punk Conventions", And All Around Was Darkness, Portsmouth: Itchy Monkey Press, pp. 188–207, ISBN 978-1-291-74025-7, retrieved 2020-07-26
  7. ^ Dunn, Kevin (2016). Global Punk: Resistance and Rebellion in Everyday Life. Bloomsbury. p. 222. ISBN 9781628926057.
  8. ^ Hotson, Elizabeth. "How workplaces are phasing out the tattoo stigma". Retrieved 2020-07-26.
  9. ^ Clements, Paul (2011). "The Recuperation of Participatory Arts Practices". International Journal of Art & Design Education. 30 (1): 18–30. doi:10.1111/j.1476-8070.2011.01678.x. ISSN 1476-8070.
  10. ^ TSANGARIS, MICHAEL (July 2018). "Re-adapting radical forms of expression in the digital era -Investigating new aspects of recuperation 1". XIX ISA World Congress of Sociology / RC57 Visual Sociology. Toronto, Canada.
  11. ^ Temper, Leah; Walter, Mariana; Rodriguez, Iokiñe; Kothari, Ashish; Turhan, Ethemcan (2018-05-01). "A perspective on radical transformations to sustainability: resistances, movements and alternatives" (PDF). Sustainability Science. 13 (3): 747–764. doi:10.1007/s11625-018-0543-8. ISSN 1862-4057. S2CID 158395999.
  12. ^ O'Reilly, Dermot; Allen, Stephen; Reedy, Patrick (2018). "Reimagining the Scales, Dimensions and Fields of Socio-ecological Sustainability" (PDF). British Journal of Management. 29 (2): 220–234. doi:10.1111/1467-8551.12278. ISSN 1467-8551.
  13. ^ Bastani, Aaron. "The Communication Commons: resisting the recuperation of the internet by capital," OpenDemocracy, 25 May 2011.
  14. ^ Thomas, G. [1], Vox Union, 2012.
  15. ^ Osel, J. Toward Détournement of The New Jim Crow, or, The Strange Career of The New Jim Crow, International Journal of Radical Critique, 2012.

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