Understanding Narratives of Crisis in Contemporary Greece: History and the Illegitimacy of Austerity

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“Nicholas Manganas, (2014), Understanding Narratives of Crisis in Contemporary Greece: History and the Illegitimacy of Austerity, World Economics Association (WEA) Conferences, No. 2 2014, Greece and Austerity Policies: Where Next for its Economy and Society?, 20th October to 21st December 2014”

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In this paper I argue that any future economic recovery in Greece will require a deep understanding of the fault lines of contemporary Greece and the long-standing historical narratives which sustain and fuel the modern Greek state. The tension between analysing the efficacy of economic policies on the one hand, and the human effects of those policies on the other is increasingly stark. The collection of poems Crisis: Greek Poets on the Crisis published in 2014 provides a literary response to the Greek economic crisis, showing the human cost of fiscal contraction. As the blurb on the back cover of the book states: “unemployment is over 27%, the highest in the EU. Youth unemployment is 60%. One in three households now lives in poverty. In the last few years, the suicide rate has increased by more than 40%.” By discussing the collection of poems Crisis I hope to achieve a deeper understanding of the narratives circulating in Greek society about the economic crisis and how they intersect with long-standing historical narratives. In this paper I am interested in exploring two particular types of narratives. The first is the historical narrative of Greek victimization by the North, particularly by Germany. The second is the Greek response to the “living beyond one’s means” narrative. By exploring these two narratives my objective is to show Greek society’s complete rejection of the legitimacy of the economic crisis and start a conversation about where Greek society is heading in the post-austerity era.

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