Subversive rearticulation between radicalism and reform: The case of ecologism

Benjamin Glasson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Ruling ideologies typically erect binaries between acceptable and non-acceptable discourses that work to marginalize dissenting voices. Critical political projects are then forced to choose between ‘purity’, which typically reinforces marginality, and ‘realism’, with its ever-present danger of co-optation. This article contends that a third option exists. The premise of ‘subversive rearticulation’ is that a single, apparently innocuous, articulation can begin the process of undermining an exclusionary binary from within. This single articulation—to a ‘pivot term’—does not in itself threaten an ideological edifice. But it can underpin a signifying chain that ultimately circumvents the binary prohibitions that reproduce dominant social orders. To demonstrate the operation of subversive rearticulation I pursue an emerging stream of radical Green political theory, as well as the example of the Chinese market reforms under Deng Xiaoping. The central contribution of the article is the proposed ‘rearticulatory arcs’, chains of signifiers that appear not to directly challenge the governing binaries, thus guarding against immediate marginalization, while subverting the binaries themselves. In the unique way that they ‘bend the space’ of ideological discourse, these arcs ‘deconstruct’ the choice between radicalism and reformism. I conclude that subversive rearticulation presents realistic possibilities for political movements, but requires careful planning and strategic discipline.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-178
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Political Ideologies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

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