This article is a reply to Panizza's recent article, ‘Unarmed Utopia Revisited: The Resurgence of Left-of-Centre Politics in Latin America’. It contests the claims that there are no alternatives to market economies and liberal democracy in contemporary Latin America. It does this by disentangling the conceptual assumptions that underlie the analysis presented, which, it argues, construct a loaded dice that makes the conclusions of the arguments seemingly inevitable and objective. It also explores the internal contradictions within the alternative presented. This analysis is developed through the use of critical social theory and with reference to the ‘movements from below’ engaged in the struggle to re-imagine and reconstruct utopias. This involves bringing to the heart of analysis a theoretical orientation in which structures become a series of concrete social relations, not objects, and power is mediated at a variety of spatial levels. It necessitates a conceptualisation of politics, structure and the agents and nature of structural change that expand the boundaries of traditional political science categories. Such conceptual expansion and theoretical repositioning make visible, and politically central, the movements from below normally categorised as marginal in political analysis.