On Recuperation

a cluster proposal by Andrea Liu in conversation with Tom Trevatt, Margarita Tsomou, Sami Khatib and Ivor Stodolsky

Recuperation is an inexorable feature of late capitalism. Art movements and modes of cultural expression that were thought to be resistant, oppositional or antagonistic from the 1960’s and 70’s have been gradually absorbed by capitalism and its attendant apparatus, such that a certain generation has no idea what even constitutes “political dissent” because they have never seen examples of it. From the commodification of dissent (consumer as “rebel hero”) and blatant Western commercialization of former Eastern Bloc “democratic” revolutions (i.e. Serbia’s Otpor on MTV), to the recuperation of queer activism into queer consumerism (“pink money”), to the recuperation of a “postmodernism” of resistance, an oppositional epistemology that destabilized the grand narratives of Enlightenment into now a cynical a-historical “anything goes” postmodernism disemboweled of any element of critical resistance, complicit with neoliberal capitalism (as prognosticated by Frederic Jameson), to Boltanski & Chiapello’s analysis of how the May 1968 Marcusian critique of the alienation of capitalist bureaucracy was simply recuperated into a more expansive, ingenious mode of capitalism—namely, post-Fordist networks of flexibility. In light of this, we must ask “Is there no ‘outside’ position?” How can we theorize or historicize this phenomenon where the hollow shell of an oppositional form is preserved but it has been disemboweled of any actual oppositional content? How do we escape the conundrum of our inevitable yet unwilling complicity with neoliberalism?