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Populism is the weapon of social parasitism

08 April 2013 / 18:04:02  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

The term populism has been constantly present in the public dialogue and political confrontation in Greece for many years now. Over the past few years, however, the discussion about its negative contribution and if it was one of the main reasons that had brought the country to the brink of collapse, has intensified even more.

This phenomenon was analyzed in detail during a discussion organized at the Institute of Diplomacy and International Affairs in Athens. Dimitris Dimitrakos, a Greek philosopher, currently Professor Emeritus of Political Philosophy in the Philosophy of Science Department of the University of Athens, defines this phenomenon and shows how it has embedded in Greek society.

"It is a condition in which the nation is considered almighty, almost deified. At the same time, features of a personality are being attached to it: it has character, preferences, goals, interests, needs, and it is strong and wise. As a result, behaviour to it changes, politicians begin to flatter and praise it."

Dimitris Dimitrakos draws attention to two main principles of populism, which in his opinion are highly expressed in Greek reality. "The first is the idea of ​​legalizing the rejection of institutions."  He gives as an example a phrase of Andreas Papandreou, who had ruled Greece for almost 11 years, "The Greek people are dominant. Nobody, no power, no authority, but people rule this country and determine its path to the future." According to the professor, this phrase is not just demagoguery but also the start of the road to authoritarianism. The idea is that the leader may reject institutions because he or she has the popular support and therefore, he or she is the one who expresses the people's interests.

The second principle is to establish a special close relationship between the people and the leader through a symbolic and/or psychological identification between them. This initiates the commercial relationship between them, the main reason of which is that "the leader is one of us and therefore, he will do what he promises."

"The important element here is the institutions and their rejection. Society is a series of relationships between people, regardless of whether they are free or the result of imposition. The condition for the establishment of these relations is the existence of institutions. They set limits and create restrictions."

"In populism, the leader elected by the people rejects the institutions in the name of popular will, thus giving rise to the striving for obtaining different material or other benefits without doing anything to deserve them."

In populism, these restrictions fall. The leader elected by the people rejects them in the name of popular will, thus giving rise to the striving for obtaining different material or other benefits without doing anything to deserve them. "For example, the benefits to public workers’ salaries - for years, trade unionists "gained" similar privileges, having the support of the political power."

The populist leader does not give an account of his actions precisely because he is "one of us," since the nation is ruling. "In this connection, I would like to point out that the election slogans of PASOK in 1981 were very well considered: "PASOK in the government and people in power." The populist leader not only rejects but also derides those to whom he is obliged to explain his actions. Of course, he is not alone. The leader unites around himself unions, business interests that draw power and capital from the state, and people who just want to gain, without giving anything in return.

According to Professor Dimitrakos, the groups previously mentioned have established themselves in Greece for decades. "It is in their favour to retain the status quo and oppose any reform because it would shake the system on which they lean to gain."

"What Greek society has to understand is that it is not the rich, as one of the most popular slogans of the protests preaches, but the established corruption that is its main enemy," he said in conclusion.

Journalist Takis Theodoropoulos made an analysis of Greek history to show why populism has been able to establish itself so successfully and why eradicating it seems to be impossible. According to him, the years after the liberation of Greece from Ottoman rule played a very important role in the adoption of the concept that "we are a small country that is always wronged."

"The maxim that others are unfair to us is dominant in Greece, whether we are speaking of the name of Macedonia or the demands of the trade union of the Public Power Corporation’s employees," he said.

He made a distinction between populism and demagoguery, which he indicated was born with democracy and obtained its negative character after the French Revolution.

The discussion illustrated some additional features of populism too.

- It originates the moment when a government gives the people identity.

- It is always based on ignorance.

- It always prospers in societies with unclear boundaries between social classes.
 
The experts did not have a single and precise answer on how to eliminate this phenomenon, which acts as a poison to the economy and society. Some say the only way to eradicate it is a complete collapse, which will make it clear that it is a hopeless situation.

Tags: SocietyPoliticsPopulismDemagogyPeopleLeaderCommercial relations
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