Non-canonical degrees of freedom provide one of the most promising routes towards characterising a range of important phenomena in condensed matter physics. Potential candidates include the pseudogap regime of the cuprates, heavy-fermion behaviour, and also indeed magnetically ordered systems. Nevertheless it remains an open question whether non-canonical algebras can in fact provide legitimate quantum degrees of freedom. In this paper we survey progress made on this topic, complementing distinct approaches so as to obtain a unified description. In particular we obtain a novel exact representation for a self-energy-like object for non-canonical degrees of freedom. We further make a resummation of density correlations to obtain analogues of the RPA and GW approximations commonly employed for canonical degrees of freedom. We discuss difficulties related to generating higher-order approximations which are consistent with conservation laws, which represents an outstanding issue. We also discuss how the interplay between canonical and non-canonical degrees of freedom offers a useful paradigm for organising the phase diagram of correlated electronic behaviour.