The alba-tcp: Looking with Keen Eyes
Christopher David Absell

Although in most cases it is not explicitly defined as “counter-hegemonic,” the ALBA-TCP is often described in terms of a rival structure; it is a “response” or a “challenge” or the “containment” or an “anti-thesis” of US hegemony (Ruiz et al., 2004; Kellogg, 2007; Serbin, 2007; Borbón, 2009). The definition of the ALBA-TCP as counter-hegemonic was best articulated in a series of articles by Muhr, in which he posited that as a “counter-hegemonic globalization project”, the ALBA-TCP “…competes with capitalist globalization across the global, regional and national and a range of subnational/local scales” (Muhr, 2010a: 6). According to Muhr, this definition of the ALBA-TCP is dependent upon a neo-Gramscian understanding of hegemonic globalization whereby “…a ‘historical congruence’ of material forces, ideologies and institutions under globalization may allow speaking of a Gramscian ‘transnational historical bloc’…” In this sense, Muhr referred to the role of a “transnational capitalist class” whose hegemonic role in the international system became institutionalized in “a global regulatory (‘disciplinary’) governance structure” which was manifested by an international web of multilateral institutions, agreements and policy networks. Given the structural and ideological dominance of capitalist globalization, Muhr argued that it is possible to posit that, “Successful collective resistence…has the potential to transform social relations in the creation of a rival structure or an alternative configuration of forces (Muhr, 2010b: 32). The ALBA-TCP, as Muhr observed, is such a rival structure.

Muhr’s definition of the ALBA-TCP’s counter-hegemonic role developed an interesting critique of anti- and alter-globalization theory. He observed that the anti-globalization movement, populated by a heterogenous collection of protest groups and exemplified by the anti-World Trade Organization protests in Seattle in 1999, was criticized as being “negative-oppositional and even nationalist,” by failing to bring concrete alternative proposals to the table. On the other hand, the alter-globalization movement, as exemplified by the World Social Forum, attempted to redefine globalization by distancing itself from neoliberal consensus towards “…the notion of ‘progressive globalization’ or ‘globalization-from-below’ through the empowerment and organizing of local people to take control over their resources and the construction of transnational social movements” (Muhr, 2010b: 36). Muhr argued that both approaches overlooked the role of the State in the process of the development of counter-hegemonic movements: “…the absence of adequate theories of the State and power in the respective literature has led to a similar over-estimation of the transformational potential of anti-capitalist transnational social movements.” The ALBA-TCP as “…an alliance between the ‘State-in-revolution’ and ‘organized society’ in resistence to global capitalism…” is an exemplary case of how the State may be factored into the development of counter-hegemonic globalization. Here both State and non-State actors collaborate, “…through sets of mutually constitutive and reinforcing political, economic, cultural and social processes” (Muhr, 2010b:42) to construct what Muhr refers to as a “transnational revolutionary class” in an emergent “transnational revolutionary governance regime.” Such an alliance may effectively counter the manifestations (whether ideological or institutional) of hegemonic capitalist globalization, “…simultaneously from the inter-State, inter-governmental and the transnational scales…” (Muhr, 2010b: 43).


In a comparative study of the FTAA and the ALBA-TCP, José Gerson Revanales Monsalve observed that neither proposal made reference to the creation of supra-national institutions like the European Union or the Andean Community of Nations (CAN), and this institutional ambiguity somewhat hampered the process of integration: “…although President Chávez himself has said that the ALBA is a new form of integration, we find that in its current state, it presents some structural and institucional weaknesses that hinder the development of its objectives.” The author argued that in terms of pre-existing categories of integration, the ALBA-TCP should be considered more as “…an agreement of friendship, help and cooperation…” rather than a model of economic integration (Revanales Monsalve, 2007: 448). This definition reflected not only the institutional ambiguity of the ALBA-TCP, but also the theoretically restrictive nature of pre-existing categories of economic integration. The error of such theoretical reductionism, Revanales Monsalve argued, was that it failed to recognize the role of social elements in the process of integration:

…many politicians make the mistake of thinking that integration can be based on political alliances and some economists think that there could exist processes of pure economic integration without political implications, without accepting that to a large degree integration is achieved by the people, the citizens, striving day by day, on the basis of common interests and decisions… (Ibid.: 450).