The relationship between Modern Greece and the West has always been a complex and tortuous one. Greece as “the cradle of democracy” – a construct at the intersection of western modernity’s political imaginary and Greek national identity – a terribly familiar and powerful cliché which to a great extent, still today, informs our imagination and politics has been at the heart of this relationship. It is rather a truism to suggest that democracy lies at the political core of the civilization that the West insists offering to the rest of the world, yet we tend to forget that this is a rather recent development. Understood today as the key to the distinctiveness of modern political experience and as a metonym for political legitimacy the word emerged almost two and a half thousands years ago to denote a specific form of government, then fell into oblivion and re-emerged in the midst of the struggle for American independence, largely as an example of a political form of organization to be avoided. Its popularity, not merely as a form of government but mostly as a political value, rose slowly – often out of incredible violence and bloodshed – and finally triumphed in the second half of the twentieth century in the form of bourgeois capitalist democracy and as the ultimate signifier for Western civilization. How did democracy, however, become part of the ‘we-images’ and ‘we-feelings’ of the Modern Greek identity? How did our self-conception as progenitors of western democracy come into place? How this set of ideas tying Greece with the West and Europe enables or constrains political action today? And finally, how did the economic crisis deal such a hard blow to what appeared to be the strongest and most primordial of all imaginary relationships?
Lalaki, Despina, "The Cradle of Democracy and the Longue Durée of a Crisis: Some Thoughts from the Perspective of Historical Sociology" (2016). CUNY Academic Works.
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