How can we think Greece’s transition to European Modernity and the relevant discourses especially in relation to the ongoing economic and political crisis?

Professor of History in Athens University Antonis Liakos’ and Hara Kouki’s recent article “Narrating the story of a failed national transition: discourses on the Greek crisis, 2010–2014” in the December 2015 issue of Historein review traces “the construction of the dominant pro-memorandum discourse that has been propagated by the establishment and mainstream media in Greece interpreting the current crisis as a crisis of the national identity: Greece failed to reform where necessary due to the domination of the traditional political culture that is to be blamed for the failed transition since 1974 to postwar European modernity”.

This brief study enables us to think of this exceptional “failed transition” as a not so exceptional or failed, and as its authors conclude that “even if current developments have disempowered people’s agency by intensifying a shift to the so-called ‘demo-crisis’, they have also generated the political space and the imaginaries to critically reflect on, challenge and collectively react against it.

Historein/Ιστορείν is an Athens-based but internationally-minded review of historical studies. Its title means in Greek investigating, writing, thinking and even enjoying history. Historein’s new issue on “Revisiting Democratic Transitions in Times of Crisis” (editor: Kostis Kornetis) brings together scholars from the fields of history, political science, political economy, historical sociology and cultural studies, to comment on the theoretical and empirical unsettling of democratic transitions at the time of the economic crisis.

histo5The volume, partly the product of a multidisciplinary conference that took place in Berlin (Re-examining Democratic Transitions in Times of Crisis, Freie Universität Berlin, November 2013),  reappraises the democratic processes in Southern Europe in the mid-1970s, the post-1989 transformations in Eastern Europe, the effects of the Southern Cone democratisations and the 2011 revolts in the Arab world, resisting both temporal particularities and national exceptionalisms. From a southern European vantage point, it can safely be argued that the “Great Recession” that began in 2008 created a sense of urgency to reassess post-authoritarian  phenomena and that those societies in the region that underwent the so-called third wave to democracy are currently experiencing the end of an entire paradigm: as the social contracts that were, to a great extent, fostered in the aftermath of the dictatorships (in Greece and Spain) are collapsing, the idea of the transitions as smooth examples of political realism is also evaporating, as the two countries are no longer regarded as paradigmatic cases of a “smooth transitions”.

See also: Bookshelf: Is Greece a Modern European Country?; Antonis Liakos Interview; Europe’s Greek moment and Greece’s European moment (January 2015)