Subversion  

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"I know of no bomb other than the book" --Stéphane Mallarmé

This page Subversion is part of the politics series.Illustration:Liberty Leading the People (1831, detail) by Eugène Delacroix.
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This page Subversion is part of the politics series.
Illustration:Liberty Leading the People (1831, detail) by Eugène Delacroix.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Subversion refers to an attempt to overthrow the established social order and its structures of power, authority, and hierarchy. The word (from Latin sub + verto) is present in all languages of Latin origin, originally applying to such diverse events as the military defeat of a city. Subversive (adj.) is first recorded in the English language in 1644; the noun subversion is from 1887. (source: Etymology Online)

As early as the 14th century, it was being used in the English language with reference to laws, and in the 15th century came to be used with respect to the realm. The term has taken over from ‘sedition’ as the name for illicit rebellion, though the connotations of the two words are rather different, sedition suggesting overt attacks on institutions, subversion something much more surreptitious, such as eroding the basis of belief in the status quo or setting people against each other.

Subversive activity is the lending of aid, comfort, and moral support to individuals, groups, or organizations that advocate the overthrow of incumbent governments by force and violence. All willful acts that are intended to be detrimental to the best interests of the government and that do not fall into the categories of treason, sedition, sabotage, or espionage are placed in the category of subversive activity.

Postmodern and poststructuralist traditions

Recent writers, in the postmodern and poststructuralist traditions (including, particularly, feminist writers) have prescribed a very broad form of subversion. It is not, directly, the governing realm which should be subverted in their view, but the predominant cultural forces, such as patriarchy, individualism, and scientific rationalism. This broadening of the target of subversion owes much to the ideas of Antonio Gramsci, who stressed that communist revolution required the erosion of the particular form of ‘cultural hegemony’ in any society.

Modern uses

At the turn of the 20th century, anger at the invasion of public space by outdoor advertising and corporate interests prompted a social movement to subvert corporate advertising, especially the ubiquitous corporate logos that inundate public space. "Subvertising" involves subtly changing posters and advertisements to alter the intended meaning of corporate slogans and logos, usually in an attempt to highlight the company's unethical practices. In this context, the authority figure subverted has ceased to be the state and has become the all-powerful corporation.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Subversion" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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