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The Origins of Counter-Hegemony in Latin America

Tim Tolka January 24, 2013 American University


Genealogy of a Silence: Hegemony and Counter-Hegemony

Hegemony is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as Leadership, predominance, preponderance, esp. the leadership or predominant authority of one state of a confederacy or union over the others, (Chalcraft and Noorani 2007 3). The term was refashioned to refer to the leadership or predominance of one class over others by Marxist-Leninism, although it had historically involved a dominant political unit and subordinate units in a polity or nation-state (Ibid.). The concept of hegemony can be placed in the level of analysis of the global multilateral system, the individual nation-state, between discrete interest groups or classes in a polity, or at the microeconomic level of the firm in an industry, and it often serves as the goal of a power struggle or the predominance that a group seeks to counteract through counter-hegemony. Antonio Gramsci (1971) watched the subtle discourses and coalition formation in Italy during the rise of Fascism, from which he later articulated and expanded the Marxist-Leninist concept of hegemony in his Prison Notebooks, using innocuous language in order that his subversive writings might not attract the attention of his captors. In these writings, Gramsci sets out to unearth the absent totality by which capital almost always managed to stymie revolution by the proletariat, but which remained elusive. This is partially because hegemony is always a response to a crisis (Laclau and Mouffe 1985, 7) and, as such, may involve public or private decisions by stakeholders that are obscured from public view and even from the historical record, leading Laclau to refer to the study of hegemony as the archeology of a silence, (7). Gramsci referred to the prestige and confidence enjoyed by the dominant group in order to explain spontaneous consent given by the masses to the general direction imposed on social life, although the coercive apparatus for those who do not actively or passively consent is constituted

for the whole of society in anticipation of moments of crisis of command and direction when spontaneous consent has failed, (Gramsci 1971, 12). Spontaneous consent, then, aptly describes the relation between the greater portion of the polity and authority, when that authority enjoys widespread public support. Passive consent or disaffection, resignation, false consciousness, as it has variously been described may be a guise to conceal dissent, over which past Latin American despots have typically obsessed, to the point of trying to eliminate even the possibility of socialist thinking in the case of Pinochet in Chile (Schneider 1995). Because of the emphasis on consent instead of coercion, hegemony can be democratic (Laclau and Mouffe 1985, 69), as long as the democracy is consolidated, meaning hegemonic (Knight in Chalcraft and Noorani, eds. 2007, 26), because unconsolidated democratic regimes rely on coercion more than consent, becoming what Gurr (1988) called garrison states, which has been frequently the norm among Latin American governments historically, although the wave of democratization in the 1980s and 90s sent many authoritarians back to the barracks. The form which counter-hegemony assumes depends on the leadership strategies employed by the hegemon in the political, moral, and intellectual arenas of the society and where the areas of vulnerability exist within the sites of hegemonic articulation, which are the socio-political institutions and authorities (180). Hegemony wears thin as the regime loses legitimacy and is contested by counter-hegemony, which, implies a challenge to hegemony... in some systemic way... beyond limited and particular resistance... [counter-hegemony] challenges the bases of authority, (Ibid. 24). This description suggests that the challenge to the bases of authority can be made both ideologically and through substantial and sustained demonstrations of resistance. It may emerge through the activity of unions, student groups, anarchists, or more broad-based solidarity among social agents, when an accident, disaster, atrocity, scandal, or adverse economic

shock causes a mobilization. Chalcraft deepens and extends the concept of counter-hegemony to ... any practice which diminishes the number of sites of hegemonic articulation, reduces their range of application and makes them disarticulate and break up, thereby exposing (and even necessitating) the growth of violence and coercion in the social, (181). In this respect, it may not be emancipatory, although as a bargaining tool, counter-hegemony brings about conditions in which the subordinate may renegotiate their place in the hegemonic order, (205). Repression, viewed as the response of hegemony to a systemic challenge, is a node along the path of counterhegemonic resistance, which leads not to freedom from hegemony but instead to a renegotiation or shift of the particular form of hegemony. At the time of Gramscis writing, the original bourgeoisie groups who had led the project of social emancipation in the 18th century had gone through a power cycle. Although it had begun by upending the dictatorship of the aristocracy, this formerly counter-hegemonic group of actors evolved into an deeply unpopular ruling alliance which battled for power with organic intellectuals (Gramsci 1971, 12) and the working class who sought to rearticulate the social order. Under these conditions, Gramsci postulated that several strategies could come into play to preserve hegemony, including transformismo, or passive revolution, (Gramsci 1971, 59) by which opposition groups are co-opted, preserving the capacity of the ever more extensive ruling coalition (Ibid. 58) or fundamental class to articulate to its discourse the ideological elements characteristic of a given social formation, (Mouffe 1979, 198). The arena of ideological articulation and the dynamics of each countrys public discourse is particular with respect to the allowance of mobilizations and dissention by opposing groups, which is why many groups operate while remaining clandestine.

The strategy for socialists against hegemony, according to Gramsci, was a guerra di posizione or war of attrition, against the prevailing discourse in the trenches of civil society (1971, 235), which is primary in the process of constructing hegemony, because it involves the formation of coalitions and rhetorical debates which frame the disposition of means and determine the distribution of productive forces and thus structural power over the social. For Gramsci, civil society is a powerful system of fortresses and earthworks, of which the state is only an outer ditch, (238). This trench warfare metaphor as well as Gramscis frequent employment of strategies from military science, may seem antiquated to the contemporary reader, especially when considering how neoliberal globalization rolls back the state, which creates increased demand for the private voluntary services of civil society, even as it civil society destabilized by the forces and discourses of globalization. Gramsci himself acknowledged the limits of military metaphors in the context of civilian affairs. Nevertheless, we shall see that Gramscis writings are a rich source of insight in the context of Latin America, where bureaucratic authoritarian regimes or unconsolidated democracies often target civil society with repression (Auyero in Arias and Goldstein eds. 2010, 108). His war of attrition is a process whereby the hegemonic cultural ideology is disarticulated and rearticulated by an opposing socio-political movement Gramsci dubbed the historic bloc in which precisely the material forces are the content and ideologies are the form, (1971, 377, emphasis in original). The model of the bloc described by Gramsci was a way to conceptualize how groups can be stitched or sutured together by common interests, or broken apart. On this topic, Gramsci wrote: The binding together of the various rural classes could be dissolved, only if support was won from two directions: from the peasant masses... and from the intellectuals and of the middle and lower strata, (Ibid. 71). In the modern context of Latin America, which has

been variously described as polyarchy, (Arias and Goldstein eds. 2010, 10-13), violent pluralism, (19-27) low-intensity democracy, and bureaucratic authoritarian, the binding together of rural indigenous groups is one form of several below which align compellingly with Gramscis model of the counter-hegemony of an historic bloc. The relative success or failure of each example opens a space for comment on the utility of the concept of counter-hegemony in the context of Latin America with reference to more recent analytical work from social movement theory and international relations literature.


The Hegemony of Transnational Capital Analyzing large market transactions gives the researcher the idea that the only higher

synthesis that unifies social agents and imbues them with the collective will is the collusion required to make money. This sort of opportunism, widely distributed among labor sectors, would be a catalyst in the larger project of imperialism, according to Lenin (1933, 96-97, cited in Owen and Moore 2009, 16), who referred to the bourgeoisification of the proletariat as one of the instruments in this process. William Robinson maintained that hegemony was a project pursued by a transnational capitalist class through the private sector, rather than fundamentally through a single nation state or group of nations. In doing so, he extended Gramscis original theses on hegemony and counter-hegemony from the level of analysis of the nation-state to the level of private non-state actors, or what he called a global capitalist historic bloc, (Robinson 2005, 1), which is a compelling juxtaposition of Gramscis concept, because the historic bloc refers to the structuring of social relations (Laclau and Mouffe 1985, 56), which is historically path dependent and, to some extent, prefigured, because hegemony supposes the construction of the very identity of social agents, (59). An historic bloc must be imbued with a collective will,

according to Gramsci, which unifies social agents in a higher synthesis from which moral and intellectual leadership abounds (67). The state plays a crucial role in the promotion of market competition between classes and corporates, even to the point of taking on the form of a private profit-making entity itself as well as carefully crafting the goals, aspirations, and class consciousness of the lower and middle strata of society, especially those who may require discipline, including peasants, ethnic minorities, and other vulnerable or excluded groups. Giorgio Agamben (2005) would identify the decision of which groups to subdue with force with the sovereign prerogative of states of exception. According to Agamben, the sovereign determines which group will be subject to states of exception, or bare life as he referred to it. In Latin America, hegemony is composed of various portion of consent and coercion, varying according to the level of resistance exhibited by the citizenry and the level of repression believed necessary by the state. During periods of higher productivity and rising social expectations, spontaneous or passive consent may be predominant, because social mobility seems within reach for a substantial portion of the population, but unrest and potential civil violence arise when productivity declines and expectations are frustrated. When a protest cycle is underway, retaliation by the state with lethal force will only magnify public grievance, according to the protest repression paradox (Brockett 2005, 295). The third wave of globalization from 1980s until today has been characterized as disciplinary neoliberalism, by Stephen Gill (2004), which harnesses transnational capital (Robinson 1998) disembedded from the social system (Polanyi 1958) to penalize fiscally irresponsible or rogue states. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri (2000) argued that global hegemony has been established by the full-spectrum military domination of the United States, and that all of the discrete social movements against globalization should be aggregated as a

whole and considered as a social movement. Although this concept suffers from the same essentialism criticized in former constructions, it also suggests aspiration against perceived impossibility, embodied in the observation in the ideal form, there is no outside to the world market, (2000, 190), because market forces have pried into the sovereignty of nations, to varying extents, the world over. This global capitalist bloc replicates hegemonic relations between actors (states, corporations, international institutions), between regions (intra-regional) as well as at the state, local (regional) and community level. The result is polyarchy which consists of many state and nonstate actors, many conflicts, and overlapping jurisdictions of local, state, regional, and international judicial bodies, the best of which are capable to provide justice for those dispossessed by globalization. David Plotke summed up the present situation as follows: There is no longer any particular agent naturally entitled to be hegemonic [or counterhegemonic]... The term itself is now yet another question rather than an answer, (1995, 135 quoted in Chalcraft and Noorani 2007, 5). There is a nexus of hegemonic and counter-hegemonic activities among the non-state actors and clandestine organizations that have developed in Latin America, which arose at the level of analysis of a single nation-state in the writings of Gramsci, but which now also come from without and above the nation-state.


Theory of the State: Global Capitalism and State Sovereignty In the global South, fused or diffuse public and private power articulates and re-

articulates geographic space in export processing zones and special investment areas, which localize exploitation of labor and alter the geographic and regulatory landscape to fit industrial needs, redefining the boundaries of state sovereignty in the process. Meanwhile foreign investors pile into domestic equities, privatizing, securitizing, and speculating with leverage on national

assets. Particularly in these peripheral spaces of domination, the relations of production and hegemonic logic of exception clearly demonstrate the role of the state within a global regime of disciplinary neoliberalism, which is to open the economy to transnational capital, promote nationally competitive enterprises (Cerny 1999) and preserve macroeconomic stability in order to facilitate the global, rather than national, accumulation of capital (Cox 1997, 302, quoted in Egan undated, 3). These responsibilities create conflicts and cleavages within the polity, because transnational capital can quickly undermine macroeconomic stability, causing inflation in the currency, creating speculative bubbles, and increasing tensions between labor and management (Hough 2012). Under the new constitution of disciplinary neoliberalism, nation-states are constrained in the allocation of discretionary spending and domestic subsidies, because both can come under attack by technocrats and regulators in the multilateral arena or hedge fund managers and analysts from the private sector. Peripheral and semi-peripheral nation-states who renounce the strictures of disciplinary neoliberalism are punished with the indifference of transnational capital and the international financial institutions (IFIs), although some states voluntarily choose this path by throwing out the humanitarian community and their public and private patrons. The states that acquiesce receive the benefit of official development aid (ODA), increased foreign direct investment (FDI), membership to multilateral institutions, inclusion in international treaties, security assistance, and access to the resources of development banks and civil society organizations (CSOs). The process has been referred to as the internationalization (Cox 1987, 261) or retreat of the state (Strange 1994), because of the way that external state and non-state actors become important stakeholders in decisions that were formerly the sole prerogative of the state. All of the sudden, foreign sovereign wealth funds and central banks own commanding

shares of major national assets and fund managers with the influential structural power of capital behind them advise public officials how to promote economic growth. Not only that, the representatives of transnational capital can access the gatekeepers and keymasters of the local market, by hiring local advisors, like accounting, legal, and public relations firms (Cata Backer 2011), which facilitate market transactions and the formation of the winning coalition to influence discourse before major decisions. Hegemony, in the case of Northern MNCs in Latin America, has multiple layers of authority which collaborate in governing territory and subordinate populations. The most preponderant leadership comes from US political and financial elite, who participate in trade negotiations either through offices & agencies of the US government (US Trade Representative, Federal Trade Commission, US Ambassadors to multilateral institutions), by serving on the board of a company (ex. former Foreign Minister of Canada on Goldcorp board of directors), and/or indirectly as shareholders in extractive ventures (ex. International Finance Corporation invested in the Antamina mine in Peru). The next level is the entity undertaking the project, which sometimes takes the form of a joint venture between multinationals with a local subsidiary, exemplified by the MNC shareholders of Antamina SA which combines Mitsubishi Corporation, BHP Billington, Xstrata, and Teck. The final level is the government of the state where the project is located, which is often imprinted with the character of the multinational from above. If consent cannot be obtained through negotiations, concessions, and local referendums, coercion by national or private military will often pacify local resistance, as we shall see in the case of the activist blockade in Guatemala against the mining project of Kappes, Cassidy, and Associates (KCA) and Xmingua SA. However, if political forces adverse to business interests gain significant power in an area or state, the structural power of capital can


indirectly discipline the state, in response to a deterioration of the business climate (Gill and Law 1989, 481). In Latin America today, the state according to the Westphalian model remains unconsolidated, because the state does not monopolize the means of violence, although several have developed institutionalized party politics (Schamis 2006). However, the reverse of the old axiom regarding domination of the means of violence is becoming more often the norm with violent actors more organized than the state and better articulated and more efficient and competitive than... most legal businesses, (Bobea in Arias and Goldstein 2010, 162-165). Narcotraficantes, or drug-traffickers have become a coercive political lobby, co-opting the security apparatus and the criminal justice system in addition to intervening at various levels of the economy and the political system in nearly every country between Colombia, the former cocaine production center, which was outsourced to Colombias neighbors, and the United States, the main consumer. The globalization of TNC has impacted these countries to varying extents, but drug traffickers have carved a place for themselves, subverting local authorities across vast swaths of Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean. This has led to a restructuring of forces by the U.S.-led coalition of law enforcement and security detachments, as well as collective treaties and multilateral summits focused on the problem. Latin American states have expressed their most vocal dissent to U.S. leadership with regard to U.S. counternarcotic policy, which has grown louder in recent years. Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador government officials have all warned of their weakening hold off their respective territories, which has caused borders to become fuzzy, and often lawless, which has led to hardening, thickening, and securitization of external borders (Walters 2006, 142). The porous borders between Latin American countries enable


nearly unrestricted movement of people, drugs, and commerce, despite considerable expenditure of state resources, especially in Mexico, to turn the tidal migration back. Mexican officials process hundreds of thousands of migrants annually, many of which return several times, eventually moving on to the USA or settling in Mexico illegally. This flow of migrants has given rise to corollary networks to facilitate clandestine movement, such as coyotes, who smuggle people, narcos, who smuggle drugs, and maras, the gang-members who sometimes compete with the former two groups, as well as la migra, the immigration police, who are venal at best and equally as dangerous as mercenaries and gang-members at worst. Although transnational crime (TNC) may necessitate the increase of coercion over the proportion of consent in the polity, which was characterized as counter-hegemonic by Drinot (Chalcraft and Noorani 2007, 205), the loosely organized clandestine cells of TNC defy easy categorization as counter-hegemony or passive revolution, because they frequently have no ideology other than the free movement of commerce and, when loyalty fails, violence. Narcos call it plata o plomo, which stands for silver, meaning money, or lead, meaning bullets, a Mexican reiteration of an offer he cant refuse. In contrast to creating an alternative to hegemony, TNC intensifies the perception of the people that the government is incompetent and illegitimate, because the state comes to rely on domination without leadership, and dictatorship without hegemony, (Cuneo 2007) which, in Mexico, is possible because the state can dominate the weak structure of civil society (Morton 2003, 637) and hire the current and retired state security forces. TNC networks fit the description of uncivil society, because these non-state actors threaten to bring the social order to disintegration or collapse instead of renegotiating and thus preserving that order.


Therefore, TNC cannot be called counter-hegemony. It is a form of passive revolution, which develops because of arbitrage opportunities under the current hegemony of the U.S., globalization, and the free flow of commerce and merchandize, including arms. However, in the process of carrying out arbitrage, TNC acts as a re-territorializing force that causes spatial hegemony to break down, shift, and restructure. Cross-border migrants and the networks that facilitate their passage are countering hegemony, but mass migration, as a social movement within civil society, encompasses a vast nexus of actors that is rising as an historic bloc in the U.S. political arena. With the likes of Marco Rubio and Sonia Sotomayor, the group which has historically struggled for recognition is becoming the state (Gramsci cited in Laclau 1985, 69). However, in Mexico, a different dynamic of migration and demographics is feeding into the political economy under the leadership of Enrique Pena Nieto, but his predecessor has left him a situation verging on counter-insurgency in a failing state, despite the fact that Mexico has been hailed recently as the investment haven for transnational capital. However, uncivil society has taken on startling new proportions with the broad-based rise of civilian defense forces in 13 of Mexicos 31 states (Fox 2013, Wells 2013). In a weak democracy, where the state forces are often terrorized by drug cartels, an effective dictatorship by non-state actors has caused civilians to form a historic bloc, not for the purpose grabbing political power, but to attack non-state, or private authorities, who dominate the means of violence in certain areas. This context may be quite different from Gramscis Italy, but the constitution of political subjectivity, we will see, is not so different.



The Constitution of Political Subjectivity: Colonialism to Globalization When the Western political subject considers the moral values of the contemporary

political order, the inner dialogue will reflect the influence of the education system, the political discourse, and religious institutions, as well as race and gender, which play a larger role today than in the time of Gramsci, who conceived of class development exclusively in national terms. Today, additionally, it is appropriate to conceive of multinational class formations, through global diasporas interconnected by networks which facilitate the migration of labor. Today, identities are less than ever tied exclusively to nations, while race and gender reach across continents. The latter two were the most salient social constructions by which the distribution of resources and the protection or provision of rights have been determined, which is powerfully affirmed in postcolonial (Giroux 1992, Prakash 1994) and feminist literature (Connell and Messerschmidt 2005, Hearn 2004), although these are far from the only disciplines in which this insight arises. Anthropologists, historians, archeologists, as well as professionals from all industries, especially those who have had experience in international development and civil society routinely acknowledge and sometimes repudiate the contradictions in the ruling neoliberal ideology (Perkins 2006, Mosse 2011), but it seldom results in the type of fissures that cause a crisis in governance or collapse in hegemonic leadership. Further employing the conceptual language of Gramsci, a minority ethnic group may be co-opted into consensual governance by a ruling coalition, perhaps not so successfully through political ideology, but through dispossession and privation of rights and means. This creates grievances which generate the kinetic potential for counter-hegemony, because fissures and fault lines develop, both geographically and ideologically, although successive layers of official denial and pacification, representing passive revolution, may temporarily paper over the conflicts


generated by the stratification of the social hierarchy in the development process. In this research, the geographical fault lines of the social order will be illustrated, as will the potential empowerment of political subjectivity through language and discourse. In the model of hegemony we have described, the exploited working class is portrayed as either passively accepting or perhaps violently resisting but ultimately overcome by hegemonic ideology, unless they form a counter-hegemonic historic bloc to oppose it. This formulation gave Gramscis working class a solid advantage in hegemonic leadership because of its intimate proximity to the means of production. However, Laclau criticized the failure of Gramscis conceptual framework to give politics existence outside of economics, by posing political struggle as a zero-sum game and giving economics primacy in the determination of hegemony (Laclau and Mouffe 1985, 69). World systems theorists predicated leadership not primarily by dominating the means of production but also by controlling exchange, which gives consumers leverage as a political subjectivity that can determine the conditions of exchange. Marxists, in contrast, argue that forms of labor in the relations of production are not of secondary importance in the constitution of political subjectivity (Wood 1986, 15). Social movement theorists sometimes harken back to false consciousness and mystification from Marxism, which requires raising consciousness to overcome. James C. Scott argued strongly against these forms of collective denial among peasants, as per the ruling ideology convincing all social agents that the order is just and natural. Instead, Scott puts more nuance into the portrait of the reasoning of exploited groups: No matter how conscious members of a subordinate class may be of having gotten a raw deal, the daily pressure of making a living and the risks of open defiance are usually enough to skew the ethnographic record in the direction of compliance... However, resignation to what seems inevitable is not the same as according it legitimacy, although it may serve... to produce daily compliance (1985, 324).


Despite the hopeful insights of social movement theory and neo-Gramscian scholarship, there has been a breakdown of socialist conviction, as the inadequacy of the counter-hegemonic actors of Gramsci, workers councils and cooperatives, although periodically revived, as well as the obsolescence of historical materialism and Marxist class essentialism have become painfully clear (Chalcraft and Noorani 2007, 5). Contentious arguments over strategy within a would-be counter-hegemonic bloc can prove divisive, as was vividly illustrated by Ellen Woods (1986) criticism of Laclau and Mouffe (1985) for [Their] crude dualism that requires us to choose between simple, mechanical, and absolute determination, on the one hand, and absolute indeterminacy on the other. In practice, this leaves social processes and history in the realm of pure contingency and randomness, (1986, 78). Wood resents how Laclau gives ideology autonomy over class relations, or power bloc versus the people (50-51), which she ascribes to Eurocommunism. Put in the context of Latin America, the power bloc versus the people question has had varied results, as we shall see. During the spirited debate between Laclau, Butler, and Zizek (2000) over the constitution of the political subject in the context of class struggle vs. postmodern identity politics, Laclau opined, the notion of class struggle is totally insufficient to explain the identity of the agents involved in anti-capitalist struggles. It is simply the remainder of an old-fashioned conception which saw in an assumed general proletarianization of society the emergence of the future burier of capitalism, (203). While he dismissed imaginary constructions totalizing a plurality of discrete struggles, (198), which may be a reference to the argument Hardt and Negri (2000) regarding the antiglobalization movement, Laclau contends, class struggle is just one species of identity politics, and one which is becoming less and less important in the world in which we live, (Butler, Laclau, and Zizek 2000, 203). Whether or not this is the case, Zizek dispenses


with the question between identity politics or class struggle as Charlie Chaplain when asked whether he wanted coffee or tea, by answering, Yes, please! (90). One important result of this debate is to show that mechanical conceptions of the political subject which relied on discourse and raising consciousness in order to foment revolution have reduced relevance in the global capitalist regime. This is not only because the international division of labor increases the distance between workers, managers, owners, and financiers, but also because the counter-revolution against capital can be carried out by other means that do not require a life or death commitment reliant on radical consciousness inculcated into great multitudes of workers, although change has come in the that form in prior epochs. This is the territory of counter-hegemonic (re)articulation (Chalcraft and Noorani 2007, 11), which: ...[It] does not take place at the level of culture, or even discourse, if discourse is understood as signifying practice of power productive of subjectivity. Instead, because individuals and groups are located within sometimes contradictory networks of cultural, economic, military and political power, forms of breakdown, conversion, redirection, and linkage take place not merely within cultural structures but within economic and political structures. The actors whose decisions matter in a crisis can be swayed by fractures and shifts in elite alignments, although these are sometimes difficult to make out. However, the history of Latin America is replete with examples of people power that shifted the terms of governance, or caused the resignation of heads of state. Because hegemony involves a dominant identity and corresponding ideology, counterhegemony is obliged to offer an alternative identity and ideology, which in Latin America, often takes the form of a subaltern identity defined by the contours of coloniality. Walter Mignolo characterizes the hierarchy over knowledge-making and identities underlying Western modernity as fundamentally racist and patriarchal (2011, xv). According to Mignolo, one of the chief architects of enlightenment thinking, Kant, was:


... brilliant and committed, but like every brilliant human being, he was just a human being... it would be a crime to hide or undermine his epistemic racism. Highlighting Kants racism, and the racism of the humanitas, is the first step of epistemic disobedience and delinking to liberate the/us anthropos and to join decolonizing forces against the persistence of coloniality of knowledge and of being that can no longer be formulated as a project of the humanitas, (194). The ethno-historical identity of the indigenous people is counter-hegemonic because it challenges the assumptions of the dominant white/mestizo ethnic identity, which under the authoritarian positivist framework of Order and Progress, involves order for the subaltern and progress for the elite. Affirming the inherent racism of modernity opens the door to legitimating the identities colonized by modernity and the discourse of decolonization, which destabilizes hegemony of transnational capital by debunking the assumptions that the underlie the network of sites of hegemonic articulation, such as the World Bank, the IMF, USAID, and the program of private sector led-growth, which could be viewed as another articulation of white mans burden carried out by captains of industry, underwritten by government through the insurance of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and various other lenders that redistribute the risks of FDI. The processes and structures necessitated by FDI have been designed to attract the consent of indigenous people, with the rise of regulatory norms advocating human rights assessments of development projects, but again, such assessments may subtly allow the forces of hegemony to co-opt important local decision-makers into the hegemonic coalition.


Countering Hegemony: Coloniality and Indigenous Identity The precarious existence of the indigenous people in the peripheries of Latin American

society is an acute reminder to the working class of the plight of those who attempt to preserve their indigenous culture in the modern context. Their right to life is very clearly endangered by incursions of the state, other states, and non-state actors in search of natural resources, which


enables contention to be widely seen as legitimate, although activists were labeled terrorists by the President of Guatemala, Otto Perez Molina (Rodriguez Pallecer 2012), as is also the case recently in both Ecuador and Chile (Picq 2013). Nevertheless, Latin American indigenous populations have developed new modes of survival and contention as the forces of globalization have invaded their territories. Any modernization project that could be perceived to threaten traditional ways of life will continue to meet with great resistance among indigenous polities, because their languages, history-making, and ritual link them psychically to the land, to the forest, to animal life, and even to spirits. The incompatibility between the competing interests tends toward conflict and instability because the redoubled onslaught of global capitalist hegemony must be met by innovative and emphatic methods of contention, often carried out directly by the indigenous people themselves, rather than by global civil society or ethnopopulist politicians, although the resources of the latter have proven important in cases such as Ecuador, Venezuela, and Bolivia in the construction of an opposing historic bloc. In order to understand the international indigenous movement, the historicity and historiography of the diverse native ethnic groups sheds light on the roots of counter-hegemony. When the state decides to partition the ancestral homeland of indigenous people, whether it is as a concession to a multinational corporation (MNC) or to create a national park, the same issue of disenfranchisement arises, although in the case of the former involves an internal rebordering with the state apparatus enforcing a contract, usually negotiated without including indigenous groups, for a non-state entity, whereas in the latter it is a case of typical Westphalian state sovereignty. I will give two examples of the latter, one case in Guatemala and another in Bolivia, both involving MNCs, which become hegemonic in the attempt to obtain consent from the most important stakeholders related to resource extraction activities, and another involving


the requisition of the ancestral homeland of the YeKuana tribe by the government of Venezuela for a national park (Whitehead 2003, 15). Part VI will discuss the implications of this analysis with regard to counter-hegemony as a useful conceptual framework.


Counter-Hegemony in Guatemala

The history of Latin America is marked by the battles of private property against expropriation, because popular mobilization against perceived exploitation is common. This often gives rise to the increase of coercion and violence by the state security apparatus, which leads to the deterioration of the legitimacy of state authority, depending on the ability of the mediums of communication to mold how public opinion regards the conflict and the extent of the linkages between opposition groups. The conflict over land and natural resources is ongoing in Guatemala and has gained momentum in recent years because of the discovery of gold and silver deposits. In the case of the El Tambor mine near the communities of San Jose del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc, an American company, KCA, and its subsidiary, Exmingua, are allied with government forces to oppose a civilian blockade by community residents who have the support of CSOs from North America. Only one serious injury has been sustained, in which an activist was shot, but has since recovered. In this conflict, the forces of hegemony and counterhegemony are well-represented, with the local farmers forming an organization, Frente Norte del Area Metropolitana or FRENAM (Rodriguez 2012), which recently created linkages in Washington with the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission, American University students, and officials from the State Department (FRENAM 2012, personal communication), in addition to its work domestically in Guatemala through the official press and community outreach. One strategy pursued by affected communities has been local referendums in order to put projects to a vote, but according to Yuri Melini, director of the Legal, Environmental, and Social Center of

Guatemala, even in cases where communities are consulted and the issue is put to a vote, which has resulted 1.25 million votes against 65 different mining projects since 2005, referendums are ignored by the government (Prensa Latina 2012). Whether these efforts result in the cancellation of operations in the mine is unknown, but it illustrates one framework of the historic bloc. FRENAM considered the stakeholders in the mining project and has hosted five different press and human rights delegations from Canada and the U.S. (Russell 2012), as well as sending its representatives to the Guatemalan government repeatedly and to the U.S. government. Charles Brockett (2005) put these variables into a system that he called a configuration of political opportunities, innovating on the structure of political opportunities from Tarrow (1998a, 76-77) because of the changing nature of political arrangements. Brockett thus modeled and quantified protests and state repression, from which he made generalizations about what configuration of variables would determine the success of contentious political movements. Brocketts analysis of contentious political movements in El Salvador and Guatemala, although not an air-tight explanation of movements success or failure, contributes specificity to the content of the historic bloc, such as the role of emotion, the social construction of grievance, consciousness raising, the availability of resources, the extent of linkages between the rural peasantry and urban students, as well as that between movement organizers and dissident professors and sympathetic elites (16-17). Although this is not to say that Marx and Gramsci did not ponder these topics in their writings, but the configuration serves as an effective model of the historic bloc, which unifies diverse strata of the society against perceived injustices and excesses of the ruling hegemony. Brocketts analysis suggests that passive revolution and economic and social exclusion do have repercussions because of the social construction of grievance, by which vulnerable


groups identify, verbalize, and transmit grievances (37-67), as we will see among the YeKuana in Venezuela, the Guaja in Brazil, and the Makushi in Guyana. Brockett specifies that the discontent of individuals must be transformed into the shared grievances of group participants with some degree of a collective identity, (67). This echoes the ideological cement which brings together the various interest groups of Gramscis historic bloc, although it simplifies the context of what constitutes the bloc. According to Brockett, there are mixed economic, social, and political grievances, both long-standing deprivations, and new threats to economic security, (46-47), which combine and reinforce the commitment and sustained contentious actions of the diverse actors of larger movements. Therefore, we may theorize that counter-hegemony may require solidarity between actors with differing grievances in order to be successful. In the cases of the indigenous practices of mapping and historicity, the success of the renegotiation of hegemonic relations may require, it could be theorized, the indigenous grievances to be widely perceived as legitimate by the urban working class, University students, as well as a number of elites and political officials. Brocketts analysis shows the potential of this insight in the context of the Guatemalan peasant movement, which benefitted from the involvement and inspiration of radical church workers (132), and urban students going to disadvantaged areas with outreach programs (107). As a result of these outreach programs in the law, dentistry, and medical programs in University of San Carlos, the students saw the living conditions of the poor, which had the effect of raising consciousness among the program participants (Ibid.). These students then carried this knowledge of inequality between the indigenous peasant class and the urban petty bourgeoisie into the student movement against the military government of General Romero Lucas Garcia. Brockett asserts with various examples that when the regime eliminated the leaders of the student protests, the effect was not to deter


protest but rather to galvanize the movement of radicals from peaceful protest to armed revolutionary groups. The renegotiation of hegemony can be problematic, even if state terrorism and corruption demythologize and delegitimize a regime, because capital holds institutional and ideological sway, by sponsoring the military or civilian government. The hegemony of U.S. based transnational capital is undergirded by the neoliberal logic of macroeconomic stability, formerly known as the Washington Consensus, and forms of dependent development which allow the technology and knowledge gaps between the core and the periphery to persist, as can be seen in the mining industry between the core North American mining companies and various peripheral countries across Latin America, especially in Peru, Guatemala, and Bolivia. Where resistance is organized and entrenched, a historic bloc can be constructed against hegemony, as has been the case in Bolivia.


Counter-Hegemony in Bolivia

The Central Obrera Boliviana (COB), a union of two million militant workers, successfully opposed the privatization of Bolivias water by Bechtel, and caused the resignation of the President of the nation, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, over the nations natural gas reserves (Lewis 2004). The COB was an outgrowth of the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR) which formed in 1942 and came to power in 1952, attempting to counter the hegemony of the US and leading a far-reaching leftist revolution in the country, including agrarian reform, universal suffrage, and nationalized two mining enterprises, although it was later overthrown in 1964 by a military coup (Weston 1968, 85). The change in public opinion which facilitated the rise of the MNR has been traced to the Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay, which preceded the formation of the MNR. According to Weston (1968, 87), the counter-hegemonic

historic bloc was composed not by Indians, although 200,000 fought in the war, but by whites and mestizos from the middle class. The MNR went through power cycles, issuing several presidents of the republic from among its ranks, although it later became known for corruption, mismanagement, and repression. Thus, we will focus not on the MNR, but on the COB, because the methodology of the COB in resistance against transnational capital is more compelling than the institutional hegemony which developed from the methods of the MNR. In a public remark cancelling COB participation in an national assembly, a spokesman of the organization explicitly affirmed that the members of the COB identity themselves in terms of class and that the COB envisions its goals in the national arena in direct antagonism to the interests of all the actors in the economy and the government of Bolivia (Abi 2011). The clear articulation of this antagonism is a crucial and quintessential characteristic of counter-hegemony. Other forms of resistance, the so-called weapons of the weak, such as foot-dragging, dark humor, and sabotage are unlikely to offer a meaningful alternative to hegemony without the formation of a distinct identity and cultural ideology which resists co-optation by the ruling ideological discourse. Bolivian society has rich soil in which to plant the seed of rebellion, because the history of the region is replete with case studies of hegemonic subjugation and exploitation of the resource wealth buried in the Andes Cordillera by great powers and military/courtesan governments. What distinguished the COB from previous workers organizations such as the Confederacion Sindical de Trabajadores de Bolivia (CSTB) was their overt opposition to cooptation, in contrast to the collaboration with the dominant class that characterized the CSTB. According to Lora (1967): The CSTB entered into conflict with the new organizations, instead of identifying with them. This created a collision not only between two union organizations, but also two


opposing political conceptions. In such circumstances, it would only occur to a backwards person or a victim of textile industry prejudice to propose unity among the proletarian sectors under the CTSB; such an order materializing would mean the political disarmament of the working class, and put them after the petty bourgeoisie of the textile industry (Lora 1967). Political disarmament, may amount to co-optation because it implies alignment with the preferences of the dominant class, which was, in the case of CSTB was the late 1930s and 1940s, the military government of Coronel Toro, which the CSTB endorsed from the moment of its inception at the national labor congress of Bolivia in 1936, sponsoring meetings in support of the regime thereafter (Alexander 2005, 42). In contrast, the COB ideology was remarkably more militant and unyielding, which is solidly represented in the high numbers of strikes sponsored by the COB as well as its collective ideological manifesto, The Ideological Position of the Bolivian Working Class, which advocates social-democratic revolution against private property (Labor Action undated). This persistent leadership and consensus-building among opposition groups is the mark of a counter-hegemonic organization and a cause of its success in renegotiating the terms of hegemony. The subsequent political developments after Bolivias gas war and water war have demonstrated how the forces of ethnopopulism, socialism, and collectivism came to fruition in a counter-hegemonic consensus, reportedly in large part due to the political machinery of the Movimiento Al Socialismo or el MAS, which simultaneously held the opportunity for coca growers and thus cocaine traffickers a production site for antecedent materials, when Evo Morales became the President of Bolivia. In this example of counter-hegemony, which is perhaps the most prominent from Latin Americas recent history, the new order is emancipatory for the Aymara people, and to a slightly lesser extent, the other indigenous minorities, although it signals disadvantageous policies and a loss of prominence to the former hegemony of the MNR. The peasant organizations in Bolivia constructed counter-hegemony from below, with

demonstrations, bargaining, propaganda, and alliances between civil society organizations, although el MAS finally won the largest victory in an election landslide against an incumbent without allying itself to other opposition groups.


Counter-Hegemony in Venezuela

The next example of counter-hegemony involves mapping territory by indigenous people in an effort to preserve ancestral lands against state encroachment in region of the upper Orinoco river in Venezuela. According to Medina, the YeKuana people have faced internal fission, instability, and cultural and social changes that have threatened... environmental resource relations and cultural sustainability, (Whitehead 2003, 5) because of development schemes in the form of new official policies of land use and conservation, illegal gold mining, and uncontrolled tourism development, (4-5). These circumstances galvanized the YeKuana to undertake an extensive cartographical project to map their ancestral lands using their history and myth as a guide. The Venezuelan National Park Service visited a YeKuana village only after the plan had been drafted without their knowledge or consent, although the scheme delimited zones for indigenous usage, fragmenting the YeKuana land into zones usurped for recreation, education, and settlement (12). The lack of ethnic, political, and religious cohesion among the YeKuana villages caused the process of mapping to fracture YeKuana society (5), but the leaders of the tribe developed an ethno-historical approach for self-demarcation, relying on myths to authenticate land claims, which helped the movement overcame internal fissures to unity. An innovation on the part of the YeKuana was to write down their religious narratives and rituals which had been passed down exclusively through oral history (17). The final document was approved in an important YeKuana village meeting uniting for the first time the


different religious factions and traditionalists in a common agenda, putting aside 30 years of religious discord, and focusing on the YeKuana identity and territory, (18). This case illustrates how an analphabetic cultural group spread out over a large territory in competing factions can find unity in the undertaking of cultural articulation through a modern form of historicity previously forbidden by tradition for the collective advantage of the entire ethnic group. Although these sorts of documents are frequently tread under foot by the government, the widespread view of the legitimacy of the cause in Venezuela may confer inviolability against repression, but that does not always equate to bargaining power. Indeed, the bloodthirsty caudillos of the past needed no capital interests to beckon in order to initiate a military campaign against an indigenous group. However, in the past forty years the indigenous cultural identity has come to the fore asserting the right to self-determination over and above the rights defined in the context of the nation-state (Yashar 2005, 3). Collectively and individually, indigenous people have had more contact with technological capabilities and consumer products arriving on the ebbs and flows of globalization into tribal lands. In many cases, modern methods and implements have earned favor among indigenous people across regions, but a consensus has emerged in various collective declarations of indigenous peoples, in the 1970s and 1980s regarding the nature of tribal versus state sovereignty in the context of land and the distribution of resources, such as ... surface, and sub-surface soil, bodies of water, air, and the right to hunt, fish, trap, gather, and harvest. An implication of this is that no state can claim or retain indigenous territories or use the land in any way unless a valid treaty has been agreed to by both parties, (Bice 1994, 37). This consensus, insofar as it is cohesive and resists co-optation by political and economic forces, may result in


more victories for indigenous groups resisting what they see as unjustified exploitation of their patrimonial inheritance. The response of the colonized identity towards the manifold incursions of modernity on their ways of life and thinking have resulted in innovative adaptations which often preserve indigenous mentalities while availing the benefits of technology, such as Inuits using snowmobiles to help them hunt (Ibid.), or an Amazon tribe geo-tagging illegal logging operations on Google Earth (Clark 2012), and the Guaj using shotguns of the Amazonian state of Maranho, Brazil (Cormier in Whitehead ed. 2003, 132). However, far more innocuous aspects of Amerindian epistemic discourses are subversive towards hegemony over knowledgemaking (Riley in Whitehead ed. 2003, 155).


Counter-Hegemony in Brazil

The Guaj are remarkable for their practices of history-making, or historicities, and their particular forms of awareness and time-consciousness (Cormier in Whitehead ed., 128-129). For the Guaj, the past is removed from memory through genealogical amnesia and, naming practices that facilitate forgetting such as, teknonymy, inheritance of names, name recycling, multiple name sets, and outright taboos on the names of the dead, (Ibid. 130), yet the past is reexperienced in dreams, souls have multiple manifestations in different realms, and time is diversified, indeterminate, and consistently transcended through ritual. The Guaja practice a sort of extreme ethno-centricism which insulates them from non-Indian people through their dual existence in the spirit realm which non-Indian people do not possess (131). This protean cosmological framework facilitates a sacred consciousness oriented separately from the influence of Western culture, which the Guaj call the iwa (127). The iwa dimension and other concepts in Guaj belief system, such as ritual dreaming in which the dreamer interacts with various spiritual

beings, facilitate the creation of cultural difference and the amplification of the distinctive features of the Guaj (136). Although many of the Guaj express desires for Western material items, other groups are so averse to contact that intruders in their territory have been killed (135). By incorporating what they want while maintaining the consciousness of cultural difference, the Guaj assert their separate identity against the colonizing influence of Western hegemony. In this and other instances, ritual and historicity are forms of embedded counter-hegemony that do not necessarily need to be constructed, although they could be combined with other practices in order to provide increased political agency, although Cormier claims that Guaj historicity performs this function, as well (136). He supports this claim with the assertion made by Comaroff and Comaroff that ethnicity always has its genesis in specific historical forces, which are simultaneously structural and historical, (1992, 50) which Cormier associates with the Guaj experience of the iwa as a structural form of ethnic historicity (131). It may be considered whether an autonomous ethnic identity, even one represented by a government agency, in this case the Fundao Nacional do ndio, can serve the function of a historic bloc with structural power to match the structural power of capital possessed by a corporation like Companhia Vale do Rio Doce, a Brazilian stateowned railroad company, constructed a railroad directly through Guaj foraging lands in 1985 (124). Against this and other traumatic incursions like that of new infectious diseases and illegal land confiscation, the Guaj have been decimated, although they have negotiated a space for themselves under the hegemony of the Brazilian state by means of the continual reaffirmation of a collective desire among members to remain culturally separate.



Counter-Hegemony in Guyana

Similarly as the Guaj effectively decolonize their conception of the past through the iwa, the Makushi eliminate the history of the non-Amerindian others through their ethnocentric historicity and ritualistic re-enactments which excise historical events embarrassing to Amerindians as well as leaving the existence of others unacknowledged while emphasizing Amerindian traditions and customs (Riley in Whitehead ed. 2003, 153). In addition, what Riley calls just-so stories offer an explanation of past events, [H]ow things came to be the way they are now in the present time, [which] in some ways are the most intriguing because they are relatively innocuous, (150). In these stories, locals will refer to plants, animals, and inanimate objects speaking to each other, often beginning with the phrase, One day... or One morning... (150), which although often labeled by Westerners as mythical, is a rhetorical device to offer alternative explanations for specific phenomena in the indigenous landscape (150-151). According to Riley, in addition to emphasizing a multipolar narrative structure over the unipolar hero of the West, these stories demonstrate that indigenous knowledge about the landscape is exact, detailed, and authoritative, even if the Makushi people are not at the top of the hierarchy in their region, the Rupunni savannas (151). We can situate this story-telling motif of the Makushi in the realm of political strategies, because it implicitly emphasizes Amerindian values and knowledge over the logic of the market and the disposition of natural resources according to capitalism. This may be a weapon of the weak, according to James C. Scott (1985), but it also may be an oddly subversive rhetorical device when situated among other historicities, rituals, and mentalities which all serve as strong vehicles of discourse in the reinforcement the community values and identity against hegemony. Riley cites Urban (1996) who argued that discourse is


the vehicle for cultural stories and meanings but... it also possesses a thinglike quality unto itself, once it is spoken and circulated to others in the community, (149). The process of discourse, for indigenous people, is counter-hegemonic because an alternative identity is embodied and its values articulated in the act of speaking, which then comes to possess the qualities of an object in the interpretation and transmission of speech from one to another in the community (Ibid.).


Conclusion From this research, several observations can be made regarding the viability of the

concept of counter-hegemony in the context of Latin America. In the indigenous land struggles, the strategy of opposition is never through frontal assault on the state or non-state actor. Counterhegemony takes the form of contention, demonstration, ownership claim, intellectual defense, advocacy, and leadership. When hegemony loses moral leadership in the exercise of power, coercion is often the next resort, depending on the capacity and willingness of the state to repress peaceful protesters, which in Latin America has traditionally been high and especially when it involves politically important projects. However, in those circumstances, the state stands to lose the most legitimacy, as demonstrated in the statement by the union movement reacting to the murder by the Chilean state forces of between one and three thousand unarmed workers, wives, and children in Iquique in 1907, which read: Five minutes of officially sanctioned gunfire had done more to destroy [the union movements] patriotism and respect for government authority than a half century of systematic propaganda by thousands of anarchists, as published by the Parliamentary Commission of 1913 (Bergquist 1986, 56 quoted in Schneider 1995, 23). Still, thinking back on the question of power bloc versus the people, it is clear that the people are often victorious when conflict arises, but passive revolution is quick to reverse those gains when the


crisis is over. After constructing a historic bloc of mutual alliances and linkages between civil society, citizen, and state leaders, the people must continually assert their identity against that of the former hegemonic ideology. In the examples we examined, there were cases where outright assault was made on the means of production, in Boliva by the mining union during the epoch of the hegemony of the MNR, and by the community blockade of El Tambor mine in Guatemala. We also observed surreptitious subversion in migration over national borders, human-trafficking networks, and the clandestine connections between TNC and the state security forces. We observed counter-culture in the case of the Makushi in Guyana, the Guaj in Brazil, and the YeKuana in Venezuela. We saw rearticulation by the student movement in Guatemala in the 80s and 90s as well as with the the ideological pamphlets of the COB in Bolivia. Chalcraft and Noorani emphasized these four categories of counter-hegemony, outright assault, surreptitious subversion, counter-culture, and rearticulation, stressing that the last should be extended (2007, 16). Although this research has not explored the clandestine connections that facilitate counter-hegemony from below, it suggests that activists and excluded groups must ascertain the configuration of political opportunities and stakeholders in order to construct a historic bloc, but there is no absolute liberation from hegemony; there is just renegotiation. However, the ability of counter-hegemony to reshape social relations within a thicker hegemonic framework (Drinot in Chalcraft and Noorani Eds. 2007, 221), which in Latin America could mean less repression in the long-term, should not be discounted. Public demonstrations which articulate the position of the rising political subjectivity are a potent vector for shows of resistance, as evidenced by the states frequent attempts to repress them. However, if discursive formations can more efficiently carry the message without


endangering activists, counter-hegemonic actors can use the means of communication as well as clandestine or public meetings and organizations. Although a high degree of borrowing has existed between socialists and social movement theorists, the social movement theorists have done the most to contextualize the insights of socialist philosophers like Gramsci in the contemporary setting. The truth of this can be surmised in the following passage from Tarrow: Organizations develop only to the extent that a mobilization potential in the society gives them a popular foundation. Their survival depends upon their success in creating a resonance between the culture of their mass base and their own ideologies and strategies, (1989b, 15 quoted in Schneider 1995, 209). This is much more explicit than much of Gramscis writing on the historic bloc, but Gramsci is still extremely relevant. More recent scholarship expanded and deepened his ideas (Scott 1985, Laclau and Mouffe 1985, Gill 1993, Butler, Laclau, and Zizek 2000, Robinson 2005, Agamben 2005). In the context of Latin America, hegemony is often absent from governance, although most sources hesitate to call the non-democracies or weak democracies in the region dictatorships. This context has important implications for the practice of counterhegemony. Without hegemony, counter-hegemonic activities are likely to increase repression in the short-term, making even mundane acts of resistance dangerous. Limitations: This research is limited by its brevity and general lack of depth. In order to have an accurate image of what counter-hegemony has accomplished, it is necessary to observe and chronicle events over at least a five to ten year span. With that horizon, it can more clearly be observed whether passive revolution has restructured hegemony after a reform. An additional limitation of this research is that it examines disparate cases separated by geography and time period, leaving some cases such as the indigenous movement without the larger context.



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