The truth about Higher Education that dares not speak its name

You probably know this already, but there is a great site for an uncensored view of academic life, Academics Anonymous run by the Guardian. See here

As this blog is primarily about politics (Greek ones) I do not post very frequent content on academic life. See here however for the sordid practice of charging application fees and here for the TEF and its likely consequences.




Neoliberalism, Market & State in Greece


The election of Kyriakos Mitsotakis as the leader of the opposition New Democracy has sparked a debate in Greece as to what neoliberalism is and what could be the consequence of being a neoliberal.

I do not think Mitsotakis counts as a neoliberal (see the first title below) and I do not think that attempts to deal with the size of the state in Greece correspond with attempts to marketize everything (see the second title).

Both my books dealing with neoliberalism and the European crisis are now available in paperback.



Neoliberalism and the Law

When in a hole stop digging Mr Tsipras


In the spectacular experimental comedy show that is the Syriza government, not a day goes by that one does not utter the phrase “Kim press the button” imploring the Dear Leader of North Korea (or anyone with nukes, we are not picky) to put us out of our misery.

The latest cause for despair has been the way in which the government is dealing with Greece’s intractable unemployment problem. Apparently the government is piloting a scheme of radically reducing unemployment by hiring in state jobs the extended families of syriza supporters. Nuts you say? Cashews say we. After all ,the ‘others’ have been at it for ages, now is the turn of the new kids on the block to sort out their nearest and dearest.

Today’s example is some syriza youth member who reportedly got hired, along with everyone in his family. When challenged by the press he said that his family had fought for the left for ages, from the civil war onwards. Eh, OK. I guess being left means that you are both morally superior and owed a state job as reward for ideological purity through the ages.

Of course all this could be inflamed by anti syriza media, including the scandals of ministers, the dodgy contacts, the jobs for supporters, the dismantling of independent institutions and opt outs of transparency mechanisms etc etc. Or it could all be verification that the glorious “first time left” came to power in order to rebuild the 1980s with themselves in charge, but without the money. I fear its the latter.

The result is disgust. After the client state built by PASOK, the corruption reign of Karamanlis junior, to be faced by this fiesta of political capture, in these economic circumstances, is obscene.

The legacy of syriza is the reigniting of long forgotten divides between left and right, the sacrifice of modernity in favour of Ottoman practises. Everyone talks of the civil war, of the losers coming back to get their share of the spoils. But there are no spoils to be had. The end outcome is hatred. The left hates Syriza for its betrayal, the right hates them for the revenge they extract. No compromise, no collaboration, only animosity. As Mr Tsipras intended, but to what end?

Tsipras will ride his helicopter out of Saigon in the end. I just hope he will stop digging the hole we are in any deeper in the meantime.



De-politicisation vs De-partyfication


The Greek PM Tsipras made a speech today in which he claimed that the Syriza government aims to remove party politics from the civil service, but not to de-politicise public administration. This may sound like an odd thing to say, but it has a solid basis in a developed critique of technocracy and so-called apolitical administration.

The orthodox position: The work of the (now defunct) Harvard Institute for International Development which was heavily involved in the process of Russian transition to capitalism provides us with one of the best illustrations in the literature dealing with the need to distance politics from economics. It is interesting that their insistence on clear divides between economic policy and politics does not stop them from arguing for manipulation of the political sphere to achieve the goal of depoliticization. In The Grabbing Hand (1998), Shleifer developed a model of governance which aimed to create a market friendly state. In this model international aid found its role in supporting market-oriented political groups in an effort to directly influence the county’s internal political situation. This model showed total disregard for democratic choice and public consultation. Since social welfare was supposed to  derive via market operations, government became redundant and politicians were always seen in a negative light as predators. There was little room for democracy in Shleifer’s book. When it did make an appearance it was only where the public, which was assumed to be enthusiastic about the market, could be used as a way of getting rid of old political elites through elections.

The heterodox position: The current obsession of European institutions with ‘structural reform’ requires de-politicisation and a non-partisan, non-political state machine. This creates however a great paradox in economic policy in a context of crisis: how is it possible to argue for significant law making activity (assumed by proposals to reform regulatory frameworks) without abandoning the idea of minimal state intervention which lies at the core of free-market thinking; how is it possible to empower the state in this way without risking a return to political control over the economy? The currently technically competent solution to this conundrum is to entrust the regulatory functions of government to independent institutions, free from political influence and control. This is consistent with an ideology that serves market interests under a technocratic, scientific cloak. In this way the theory of a free market safe from political interference is maintained while all the necessary detail is filled-in without upsetting a neoclassical theoretical structure that sees the separation of the economic from the political as central to the success of capitalism. However, willing something apolitical does not make it so.

The Tsiprian position: The problem with Mr Tsipras and his government is that he does not seek to resist de-politicisation as a tool of neoliberal subversion. He just seeks to recreate the client-state pioneered by his pre-predecessors under a different party banner. Any talk of de-partyfication in this context is a distraction from the business-as-usual practice of jobs-for-the-boys.



Greece’s Year Zero


The year-long reign of Syriza in 2015 has changed everything in Greece’s political economy.

Normally we expect a continuum between theory and practice in parties of the left. Perhaps because parties of the (more radical) left seldom attain positions of power, it is easier to theorise and imagine a utopia of democratic engagement, accountability, justice and rights.

The experience of ‘left’ governance is something else altogether. Of course, you could argue that Syriza -since it started ‘governing’ after Varoufakis departed and the Herculean ‘negotiation’ came to an end- is not a party of the left. What it looks like in fact is a depraved PASOK with all the corrupt and clientistic practices that brought the country to the dire straights it is at the moment.

I disagree with the above (Syriza not being left). The ‘real’ left government is a little like the end of the rainbow, you imagine its there, but it really isn’t. There is no such thing as a real left government, because the very act of governance causes a rift between a theoretical perception of all things ‘left’ and practice. We arrive at the concusion therefore that Syriza is left, a radical type of left, and a horrible type of government.

Now that we sorted this out, lets think about the future of Greece in 2016. I have argued in previous posts that the Syriza-Anel is now such an abomination that it should not continue. There should be no cooperation from the opposition. If the current grand debate on pensions reform brings this monster down, then great.

Who could replace them you say? I agree this is a legitimate question, and I have struggled with it. Stuck with the lovey couple of Tsipras/Kammenos because we cannot visualise an alternative however is a little like staying with an abusive husband because we cannot envisage living alone. This is not a sensible strategy.

Could New Democracy rise from the ashes and offer a credible alternative? Let us think of this in Matrix terms: Do not try to change ND, imagine ND is not there. Do not try to think how the party could reform, imagine that the party has been completely replaced with something new. It can keep the name, the symbols and the members, but it needs to represent something new, gathering together not only the political centre (whatever that means in Greece), but acting as a focal point for a European focused resistance to the abomination of Syrizanel. ND would not offer us a ‘political’ alternative as such, but it may offer us a technically competent government that can govern within the rule of law and chart a path out of this mess. This is the best we can hope for at the moment. Out of the two contenders for leader of ND, who would be the best person to do this? For better or worse, I think this is Mitsotakis.

2016 will be Year Zero for Greece. Syriza will fall, the question is whether the new year will bring Grexit and disaster, or a path to recovery.




Happy Birthday iglinavos Blog

blogI would like to thank all followers of the blog and @iGlinavos on Twitter for your support. A special thanks goes to all who participate on discussions on the blog.

I launched the blog on 6.1.2015 as a diary of my views on Greece and its troubles, and as a forum for discussion with people around the world. 201 posts after, I am pleased that this effort has attracted interest.

This past year has been fascinating for the blog and the #GrexitDailyNews section within it. I will do my best to keep it up and I hope you will keep coming back to discuss with me.

grexit daily news