Greek political crisis is in fact an ideological confusion. Since the dominant Paradigm has reached a deadlock everything seems at a deadlock.
Until recently the dominant ideological paradigm in Greece was built around a structural axis, namely the big and over-centralized state. So far, the state has been the main tool towards the attainment of certain goals and this role gave to it sufficient ideological legitimacy all over the political spectrum. Such goals were not only growth-oriented (In the aftermath of the war only the state could run big investments with socially acceptable conditions) but also political (During the civil war even Greece’s national integrity was put at stake). The Right wanted a powerful state in order to impose to the society its victory in 1949.
The ideological corpus of all parties was deeply imbued, although for different reasons, by the state as an arrangement mechanism. Greek society as a whole is saturated by pure statism. The invocation of the state on every problem and also the fact that almost every attempt towards decentralization is met with deep suspicion are both distinctive. This is not only due to the fact that the market has been totally delegitimized by the prevalent left ideology. All the mechanisms without a reference to the classical hierarchy of the state face problems regarding their ideological legitimacy. To name but some, Non-Governmental Organizations are considered a tool of the Devil, Independent Authorities are seen with distrust, local government is supposed to be the institution which breeds scandals, and finally despite the fact that we all want autonomous universities we are quite mistrustful when confronting such a development. The decentralization of state competencies (not only to the market but also to social mechanisms out of the latter is rather a wishful chanting of slogans than an elaborated goal.
For instance, it is not accidental that an elaborated plan regarding the self- administration of the Greek universities is currently lacking. What is going to happen with the corruption? It is characteristic that every time a state function is decentralized and until the systems of internal control are complete, there is a gap emerging which many seek to exploit on their profit. This is the case of local government. The same will happen when universities are granted autonomy. How are we going to deal with the nepotism, which is going to expand when competences are transferred to them? In addition, what are we going to do if a self-governed university goes bankrupt –not only financially, but also in case the candidates not at all prefer it?
The absence of a decentralization plan is not only due to the deficit of serious political dialogue but also due to the fact that we all know that the intervention of the state is always an alternative. We are secure that the state would function as a substitute for any financial or managerial deficits without however caring about the fact that the state will also continue to have them under its control. Decentralization is just a convenient slogan and not a real political or social goal. In every discussion, for every decentralization measure, the same objection is always raised: “But, what if the decentralized mechanism becomes autonomous?”
The dominant ideological paradigm is, therefore, articulated around the big and an over-centralized state, a black hole, which sucks resources, human capital and productive structures. With its huge economic capacities the state distorts even the public political and ideological dialogue. The most manifest example of this distortion is the mass media market and the kind of dialogue it promotes. Paraphrasing Thomas Kuhn, (“The structure of scientific revolutions”) the state owes and must arrange everything. We do not even dare to think that some things could operate -of course without avoiding conflicts and difficulties- out of its control.
Now, the dominant paradigm is cracked or according to Kuhn it presents certain “anomalies”. It becomes widely noticeable that the state cannot do everything (we do not yet dare to think about whether it should do so or not). The economic surplus that could cover system controversies no longer exists. In times of economic prosperity these controversies instead of being eliminated, were perfectly subsidized. In times of recession they were explosive. This happens not only at the level of popular demands but also at the level of conflicting big interests, which were sustained and enlarged by the state.
According to Thomas Kuhn scientific revolutions begin with a progressive increasing sense, often limited to some members of a scientific community, that the existing paradigm is no longer able to function effectively as an instrument of research.
Similarly, the perception that this model based on state interventionism is no longer capable to provide solutions begun to prevail in the Greek intelligentsia. It is necessary because of the continuous state failures in various sections (anomalies according to Kuhn) to adapt the Paradigm to the new facts and finally to adopt a new Paradigm which respnds to new challenges.
During the initial period these anomalies were corrected in the ideological level exactly as the anomalies in the dominant Paradigms according to Kuhn. Namely, without violating Paradigm’s core. Essentially, it is the reality which is adjusted to the theoretical construction, sometimes with manifest monstrosities.
When the observational evidence contradicted the perfect circularity in the planets’ orbit (according to Ptolemy’s explanation of the motion of the planets) equally circular sub-orbits were invented to rescue the core of circularity for hundred of years. Similarly, because of the lack of another binding ideological paradigm, various suborbits are invented to justify the failures of the the over-centralized state. One of these is the metaphysical image of an absolutely moral public servant. According to common perception the state should operate perfectly. It fails to work properly because of the politicians who seek to be re-elected and of the civil servants who want to make money. Following this reasoning, if we could find 10.000 politicians willing to overlook the political cost and at the same time 1.000.000 disinterested public servants we would live in paradise. As a result, this reasoning goes, there is not something wrong with the dominant ideological Paradigm. The problem is that human beings, or at least the government are imperfect…
That is how New Democracy was elected in 2004. The Right did not have the necessary ideological composition to challenge the dominant Paradigm. On the contrary, it decided to bet on its deficiencies. Its main promise about the re-establishment of the state, meaning its «moralization» was too vague. It promised in other words even more and even more circular suborbits. The Greek Right, in its ideological outlook has never been neo-liberal, not even liberal. It is based on state interventionism more than the centre-left where at least there is a discussion about decentralization. Even fragmentary paces on decentralization which have been made by the previous governement – such as the essential autonomy of Independent Authorities – were abolished. In addition to that, the deficient independance of Justice became even more deficient with certain measures such as the abolition of courts’ self-government. It is not accidental that all top liberal members of New Democracy were dismissed. PASOK, on the other hand, on a quite awkard and with political cost move, attempted to embrace them.
New Democracy’s prescribed failure to «moralize» the state in order to operate properly is one of the reasons that drove the ideological system on crisis. The state was bad with the «immoral greens» on power and it becomes even worse with the «moral blues». Apparently, all previous explanations and the ideological patches are not enough. For Thomas Kuhn when an anomaly does not seem a simple quiz of the natural science then the transition to the state of crisis and the “peculiar science” begins. This anomaly is finally recognized by more and more scientists who start paying remarkable attention to it…Initial approaches to the problem follow exactly the rules of the paradigm.
The continuous resistance to the elimination of these controversies presupposes a secondary or not so much a secondary restructure of the Paradigm. Through the multiplication of different re-articulations (which more often end up to nothing more than ad hoc adjustments) the rules of normal science become progressively confused. Although a Paradigm still exists few scientists agree on the Paradigm per se. Even long established solutions to certain problems can at this point be challenged. To recall Albert Einstein it seems like this period lacks a stable starting point from which one could start building anything.
Greece is today at the stage of “peculiar ideology”. Although the dominant ideological Paradigm still exists its failure to respond to new challenges blur its image. Since a big state is no longer an effective response, the partial restructuring process of the Paradigm begins. For instance, the gradual transfer of public activities to private initiative through issuing shares took place within the dominant Paradigm: the purpose was to reinforce state’s efficiency, not to alter the way approaching problems.
As time goes by, the dominant Paradigm is eroded by all these secondary adjustments. The way the notion of state is perceived changes. «The rules of “normal ideology” gradually become confused», Kuhn would say. All the commitments and announcements based on the dominant Paradigm seem inefficient and long gone by. At the same time, announcements that transcend this Paradigm seem unrealistic. The political crisis is therefore inevitable. The political discourse is no longer credible and the political process cannot overcome the deadlock. Reality – especially economic reality- takes revenge precisely for having been interpreted in a peculiar manner.
Greece’s political crisis is basically an ideological confusion. Since the dominant Paradigm has reached a deadlock everything seems at a deadlock. As the way we perceive society is undergoing a radical change, the political crisis emerges. At the same time, an alternative serious dialogue on the fundamental principles of the fading Paradigm is absent. The slanderous attitude towards the liberal proposal prevented the holding of a serious dialogue and the creative osmosis of ideas.
A new political proposal and an alternative way of looking at the society are required in order to overcome the deadlock. It is necessary to challenge all the fundamental principles of the dominant ideological Paradigm. The state, even, at its ideal image, which is so pronounced by the political system and the Media, is neither good by definition nor neutral. It is simply, the necessary evil whose role is to arrange emergency problems. Any serious reform, therefore, presupposes the minimization of the state in every sector of economic and social life.
Published in «Athens Voice» newspaper 29.1.2009 (translation Elina Tzanoudaki)