Othered, Europe Enlisted, Europe Possessed

Though their supposed ‘absence’ at times of societal crisis is stereotypically lamented, public intellectuals (academics, prominent journalists, artists, novelists, poets, and musicians) have always been influential in the Greek public sphere. During the post‐war decades, when the left was politically repressed, left‐wing intellectuals became the voice of the politically excluded. Through the engagement of its public intellectuals, the losing side of the civil war (1945–9) established an ideological hegemony in Greek society, which took its toll after the 1974 transition to democracy and lasted well into the late twentieth century – some would say into the twenty‐first. Thus a societal practice of seeking the opinion of personalities holding some intellectual authority was nurtured – though selection criteria obviously varied. In a socio‐political system typically characterized as statist and partitocratic (Mouzelis 2002; Mouzelis and Pagoulatos 2005), public intellectuals have developed symbiotic relations with the Greek state, close ties with political elites (often joining their ranks), and a tendency to declare political preferences. That said, it should also be stressed that the country’s principal strategic and ideological choices are defined by the political, not intellectual, leadership. The national agenda‐setters whenever it came to Greece’s relations with ‘Europe’ (whether to pursue EC accession as with Constantine Karamanlis in the 1970s, or to criticize it as with Andreas Papandreou in the 1980s, or to fully embrace the EU as with Costas Simitis post‐1996) have invariably been national political leaders.

Almost three decades since its 1981 accession to the EC, Greece as member‐state has graduated from the ‘reluctant partner’ of the 1980s to becoming a more or less committed European. This development not only summarizes the (p.184) country’s socio‐economic and political transformation, but also testifies to the EU’s success in helping bring it about. Underlying this seemingly linear course, a less concordant domestic public debate over the EU and Greece’s position in it has evolved, both actively framing public stances and profoundly affected by the country’s ongoing ‘Europeanization’. This chapter attempts to sketch some of the main features of this debate, tracing ideas to their principal public exponents (public intellectuals, as defined in this volume), and attempting conceptual taxonomies that will help us locate ideas and perceptions within their proper ideological and cultural universe.

Right versus left, independence versus integration: The cross‐cutting cleavages

Following a standard comparative taxonomy (Hix 1999), we can locate ideas and conceptualizations of the EU on a two‐dimensional space defined by two cross‐cutting lines of cleavage. First, a horizontal axis, corresponding to the traditional left–right cleavage. While representative of the standard European left–right ideological division, this division in Greece has been particularly informed by the experience of the civil war, whose aftermath placed the left in the position of the defeated. Subject to varying degrees of political persecution through the post‐war era, culminating with the 1967–74 dictatorship, the left emerged after the 1974 democratization as bearer of a legitimate claim to a higher moral ground and ideological hegemony over Greek society; especially so in the areas of academia, culture, and the mass media (Voulgaris 2008).

The left and its intellectuals have naturally viewed the EU through distinctly Marxist, anti‐imperialist, anti‐capitalist lenses (e.g. Psyroukis 1986). In the 1970s, such views were also represented by intellectuals close to or identified with the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), which at that time subscribed to a tiers‐mondiste, post‐colonial, anti‐imperialist, anti‐capitalist worldview and rhetoric that sustained a negative image of the Common Market. Since around the mid‐1980s, such reception of the EC went gradually out of fashion with PASOK, as will be later discussed. Today it is sustained by the communist and leftist pole of the ideological spectrum, whose intellectual appeal, however, re‐baptized as it is in the current anti‐globalization discourse, exceeds the sum of the electoral following of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) and the post‐communist/post‐Eurocommunist constituent of the Coalition of the Left party (SYRIZA). Indeed, anti‐EU leftism is rampant within a minority but influential section of the Greek intelligentsia, who rarely miss an opportunity to decry the EU and its institutions for pandering to world capitalists, multinationals, and the United States.

The second, vertical axis and line of cleavage is that of nationalism versus cosmopolitanism, or independence versus integration (Hix 1999), or, to put it (p.185) in the terms adopted in the introduction to this book, statist/national versus supranational or transnational. It makes sense, for the case of Greece, to present this ideological antithesis in binary terms since the third, ‘transnational’, school of thought, has been relatively underrepresented until recently and subsumed in the pro‐integration ‘Europeanist’ or supranational section of the debate. That said, it is also the case that the reality of Greece’s participation in the EU, and the obvious benefits derived, eventually turned some earlier exponents of the national/statist school of thought into ‘transnationalists’. By the same token it can also be claimed that the Euro‐pessimism following the rejection of the Constitutional Treaty has been encouraging earlier enthusiastic federalists towards ‘transnationalist’ realism. In both cases, transnationalism can be said to represent the middle, bridging ground between the two conflicting poles of independence versus integration or statist/national versus supranational.

This vertical cleavage in Greece gained renewed momentum and salience under the post‐Cold War international environment of the 1990s and 2000s. Rather than an ‘end of history’, as had been frivolously proposed by the Fukuyamas of this world, the collapse of the former communist bloc and especially of the former Yugoslavia awakened dormant historical ethnic nationalisms, ‘re‐Balkanizing’ Greece’s immediate neighbourhood. Thus, while the Cold War had resolved Greece’s identity dilemma by placing her decisively with the Western camp, the post‐communist Balkan implosion opened a can of worms, reviving nationalistic reflexes and Eastern orthodox cultural allegiances that the country’s Europeanizing elites had often in the past sought to contain. As we shall see further on, this cleavage can be argued to run even deeper in Greek culture and society than the one between left and right. The left–right division (the left’s intellectual capital notwithstanding) has experienced relative erosion during the last several decades (at least until the 2008–9 economic crisis) by the forces of dynamic socio‐economic mobility in a Greek society largely composed of expanding middle‐class and petty bourgeois strata. On the contrary, the tension between nationalism and cosmopolitanism has drawn both on deep cultural undercurrents of Greek society, and on a recent global context that tends to accentuate it.

The cultural undercurrents

The reception of Europe by Greek intellectuals and public opinion is framed by the main competing worldviews, serving as mental frameworks ‘within which human beings can order and understand the entire world in which they live’, frameworks that furnish ‘abstract guidelines, a general outlook, a manner of thinking’ (Berman 1998: 20). Scholars such as Diamandouros (1994 and 1997) and Kitromilidis (2000) have asserted the existence of two powerful and sharply (p.186) conflicting cultural traditions. These originated from the highly contested process of Greek nineteenth‐century state‐building, in which Western European liberal political institutions were introduced and grafted onto the traditional pre‐capitalist indigenous structures resulting from the Byzantine and Ottoman heritages (Diamandouros 1994: 8). The older culture originated from the traditions of the Eastern Orthodox Church, while parochial local structures were inherited from Ottoman state organization. This traditionalist ethnocentric, or (under current terms) nationalistic culture is characterized, amongst other things, by a pervasive anti‐Western (and anti‐Catholic) stance of suspicion and hostility towards the more advanced capitalist countries, and views Hellenism and Orthodoxy as subject to constant external threats (Kitromilidis 1995). This culture involves ‘a siege mentality1 combined with a distinctly defensive perception of the international environment’, ‘a pronounced sense of cultural inferiority towards the Western world, coupled with a hyperbolic and misguided sense of the importance of Greece in international affairs and, more generally, in the history of Western civilisation’ (Diamandouros 1994: 13).

True, nationals of nearly every country in the world can assert the existence of certain features on the basis of which their country stands out as different from the others, as somehow ‘exceptional’. National histories are often constructed as mythologies to accommodate a sense of national ‘distinctness’ or even ‘uniqueness’ through bold juxtapositions with ‘the others’ or through cultivating an ethnocentric understanding of the world. In that sense, a worldview of national exceptionalism (Pagoulatos 2004) is far from exceptional to Greece. Speaking of Greece, Spain, and Portugal, Malefakis (1995) noticed a deeply ingrained common culture of self‐contempt originating from a rather miserable recent past and present, as painfully contrasted with a historically glorious farther past. Ethnocentrism tends to exaggerate both past glory and present misery.

Young pupils in Greece learn from the first classes of grammar school that they are direct descendants of ancient Greeks and, consequently, the heirs of the culture that discovered poetry, history, philosophy, theoretical mathematics, and physics and, above all, democracy (Davies 1993). They also learn that Greek civilization inspired the Renaissance and Enlightenment in the Western world, in other words that civilized humanity as a whole owes Greece almost everything (Varouxakis 1997: 33). Greek intellectuals, of course, are not solely responsible for these kinds of perceptions. European Romanticism and the humanistic tradition also enthusiastically embraced these views, which have been widely accepted by a plurality of European intellectuals from Lord Byron in the early nineteenth century to Jacqueline de Romilly (1992) today. Back in the late seventeenth and eighteenth century, West European travellers to (p.187) Greece ‘discovered’ Athens as the birthplace of European civilization (Giakovaki 2006). Geography and language support a perception of uninterrupted continuity, but history poses more complicated questions. From the classic period to the 1831 establishment of the modern Greek state, the geographical area of what was to develop as contemporary Greece became subject to the Roman conquest, the dominance of Christianity, eleven centuries of the Byzantine Empire, and – most damagingly – four hundred years of Ottoman occupation. Roman rule and Christianity were easily absorbed by the Greek classical tradition: Rome contributed to law and public administration, while Christianity brought a code of ethical values compatible and complementary – though not without tensions – with classical Greek civilization. In contrast, Byzantine theocratic despotism and the Ottoman Muslim multi‐ethnic state meant fifteen centuries of continuous coexistence of the Greek people with modalities and principles that had very little to do with the classical tradition and values transmitted to the Western world. As Castoriadis (2006–8) has argued, ancient Greece represented an autonomous entity which shared constructed and changeable values, whereas Byzantine and Ottoman societies were heteronomous entities that believed in revealed and unmovable principles.

There were of course valiant intellectual efforts to establish the unbroken continuity of Hellenism. The direct heritage of the Eastern Roman Empire and the continuity of language and religion through the Ottoman occupation were the founding stones for the ideological construction of the so‐called Helleno‐Christian civilization. The great nineteenth‐century historian Constantine Paparrigopoulos (1858) elaborated a powerful narrative concerning the unique, continuous, and unitary character of the Greek nation from ancient times to the modern era. This achievement was of great importance for the consolidation of the modern Greek state, and still constitutes the official ideology. More recent historiography, initiated by Nicos Svoronos (1973), brought some relativism to these artificially coherent stories, tracing the modern Greek nation back to the eleventh–fifteenth (Byzantine) centuries, and attributing the resistance and survival of Greeks during prolonged periods of occupation to the administrative skills of the Byzantine Empire and the vigour and persistence of the Hellenic Diaspora. Contemporary challengers of the ‘axiomatic identification of progress with the West European canon’ include the political science professor Georgios Kontogeorgis (2005), who contests that ‘the Greek nation cosmosystem created the Greek nation‐state’ and not the other way round. Kontogeorgis defends the continuity of an anthropocentric Hellenism that spared Greece from Western feudalism, arguing that nineteenth‐century Greece was a forerunner of the West in many ways, by introducing universal (male) suffrage in one of the first Constitutions (1844) of the independent Greek state at a time when (1832) only 7 per cent of the British people had the right to vote, or by launching non‐class, non‐ideological, catch‐all political parties, a century or more before they were introduced in Western societies (Kontogeorgis 2005: 16).

(p.188) The traditionalist, ethnocentric cultural stream overlaps heavily with what the introduction to this book identifies as statist/national school of thought. Diamandouros (1994) has coined the term ‘culture of the underdog’, juxtaposed to its opposite, Enlightenment‐inspired, European‐minded, liberal‐leaning, reformist‐driven culture. The ‘culture of the underdog’ carries a xenophobic and defensive view of the world, sees the state as protector of the weak and least competitive socio‐economic strata and defender of traditional local structures from the opening of the economy and society to the forces of internationalization and change. This culture promotes a narrow particularistic allegiance (to family, close friends, and fellow‐villagers) at the expense of universal values of citizenship, rights, and the rule of law. It contains values and stances that sustain Eurosceptic attitudes.

A sophisticated version of the traditionalist ideology is represented, among others, by the neo‐Orthodox philosopher Christos Yannaras (1983, 1990, and 1992). This communitarian2 intellectual tradition tends to oppose modern Western Enlightenment values by juxtaposing the egoistic individualism of the West to the warm collectivity of the Greek Orthodox tradition. The debate has been going on for over two centuries, beginning with the antithesis between the Greek Enlightenment scholar Koraïs and the military general Makriyannis at the turn of the nineteenth century;3 continuing with the conflict between Western‐leaning historians and philosophers such as Renieris, Rigopoulos, and Vrailas‐Armenis on one side and Romantic intellectuals like Yannopoulos and Dragoumis on the other at the turn of the twentieth century; and culminating with the debate held by Psycharis and his followers in the first quarter of the twentieth century that opposed folk culture, demotic language, and the cult of Byzantium to European influences (Varouxakis 1995: 27). Some representatives of the traditionalist intellectual stream, once led by the professor of legal history in Thessaloniki N. Pantazopoulos (1967 and 1993) and C. Karavidas (1931), sought to defend the main values of Greek Christian community life; others, like the essayist Costas Zouraris (2009),4 set out to embody the rebellious Greek soul and proud spirit. Viscerally anti‐European, this school of thought is also a minority in Greek society. Today, the ultra‐right‐wing populist party LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally) aspires to represent the Orthodox nationalist ideological tradition in political terms, although traditionalist culture still cohabits with more modernistic elements inside the (p.189) New Democracy (ND) party, and even – to a far lesser extent today – inside PASOK.

It is worth noting here that the same conflict between an inward ethnocentric and an outward‐looking cosmopolitan worldview is also present in Greek literature. There have always been writers who emphasized the peculiarities of Greek life, and others who used them in a more distant and relativistic manner. The pairs Stratis Myrivilis versus Cosmas Politis (cosmopolitis = ‘cosmopolitan’) or Alexandros Papadiamantis versus George Theotocas are, among many others, indicative. The contrast between indigenity/particularity on one side and modernization/cosmopolitanism on the other has always been present in the Greek literary tradition.5 Writers of the younger generation seem to be relatively liberated from such polarization, but the conflict lurks in the background.

In its defence of the weak and non‐competitive, in its hostility to the market and foreign powers, the underdog culture (representative of the most traditionalist and conservative elements of society) overlaps with left‐wing anti‐market, anti‐globalization, and by extension anti‐EU stances. Indeed, the rhetoric of the ultra‐right populist LAOS in defence of the ‘little man’ or the ‘small Greece’ against the ‘powerful Americans and Europeans’ at times becomes almost undistinguishable from that of certain representatives of the Greek Communist Party (KKE), such as Liana Kanelli, a vocal formerly conservative journalist turned fiery communist MP. Needless to say, though instinctively opposed to any such Western‐imposed taxonomies, the adherents of the ethnocentric, traditionalist culture ironically end up affirming the Huntingtonian thesis (‘clash of civilizations’) that places Greece in the Eastern‐Orthodox‐Slav civilization group – a thesis deeply disconcerting to Greece’s Western‐oriented, European Enlightenment‐inspired elites.6

It becomes evident in the above analysis that Western‐leaning, reform‐minded elites and intellectuals have vitally relied on the European Union as the single most important strategic and ideological ally in their effort to promote the country’s socio‐political and institutional modernization, including the separation of church and state, the drive to provide more effective guarantees of civil and minority rights, and to overcome the deeply entrenched forces of parochialism. Their case represents one of ‘Europe enlisted’ in the purpose of advancing the country’s overall modernization. Later in the chapter we will expand on pro‐Western Europeanist intellectuals, the evolution of their stances and the EU‐related public debate.


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