The economic crisis in Greece is heading towards yet another showdown today. The Greek electorate threatens to strike a serious blow against neoliberalism and its European offshoot. At the same time, these elections promise to unravel the Greek state’s monopoly on the structures of violence and fear.
Sociologist Charles Tilly drew a compelling analogy between the state as the place of organized means of violence, and racketeering. He defined the racketeer “as someone who creates a threat and then charges for its reduction,” in order to gain control and consolidate power. In this regard, a state and its government differ little from racketeering, to the extent that the threats against which they protect their citizens are imaginary or are consequences of their own activities.
Considering the pain, the humiliation, and the social degradation that the economic and political policies of the Greek government have inflicted upon the country the past four years, Tilly’s analogy may offer us a useful tool to both describe and evaluate the current crisis and the regime of fear that the state has unleashed on the Greek public.
The Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), which is now a democratic socialist party in name only, governed Greece for almost 30 years, moving steadily from Keynesian economic policies in the 1980s to rampant neoliberalism in the 1990s. New Democracy (ND), which had dominated the political scene until PASOK’s first electoral victory in 1981 and alternated in power with it ever since, professed its ideology to be “radical liberalism.” Today, after three decades of cronyism, unbridled corruption and economic scandals, the ideological convergence of the two parties is complete.
Despite its initial apprehension towards the European Union, membership in the organzation enabled PASOK to implement its policies and boost the Greek economy. With the help of substantial financial inflows from the European Economic Community, PASOK was able to redistribute wealth.
Despite the growing government deficits, the emphasis remained on sustaining employment and modernizing the welfare system. In the meantime, democratic socialism – enveloped in patronage and nepotism – evolved into a process for democratizing corruption. Deputy . . .
Read more: The Greek Crisis as Racketeering