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CC Enlightened" Concepts in the "Dark": Power and Freedom, Politics and Society Constantine Tsoucalas The aim of this paper is to develop a truism. Given that the introduction of liberal institutions and ideas into most peripheral countries, including Greece, did not succeed in producing westernized liberal "societies," the immediate question asked is why should this be so. And though the phrasing of it might differ, the answer seems equally banal: peripheral or Greek liberalism could not "function" for obvious lack of so-called "objective conditions." The country was not dominated by the capitalist mode of production and/or/therefore liberalism ran into obstacles connected to the economic, political or cultural "underdevelopment" of social relations. Despite its limited explanatory value, this statement of fact is undoubtedly correct. But it is not my intention to discuss the fundamental economic factors which determined the overall development of Greece. I intend to consider it as given that the development of Greek market capitalism beyond an almost rudimentary stage was impeded for almost a century. Consequently, I shall not even consider the question of the factors contributing to the indubitable, and possibly inevitable, "peripherization" of Greece. My aim is much narrower. What I have in mind is to present, in a necessarily incomplete, abstract and schematic way, some of the most flagrant contradictions in the logical structure of dominant cultural practices in Greek society. Indeed, all societies presuppose the elaboration of a relatively coherent system of prevalent practical and normative codes. But coherence is not a virtue in itself. And herein lies the general problematic I shall try to develop. It is my contention that a great number of value loaded cultural particularities, some of which are still to be observed up to the present day, are only interpretable in the light of the original formation of modern Greece after 1830. This formation was circumscribed by the sudden introduction of an unheard-of system of western norms, almost totally foreign to the great majority of the people. Still Journal of Modern Greek Studies, Volume 9, 1991. 1 2 Constantine Tsoucalas dominated by traditional cultural patterns and premodern practical social rationalities, the country found itself endowed, seemingly out of the blue, with the "purest possible" liberal institutional setting (Iorga 1925: 396). The official State structure can by no means be considered to have "corresponded" to the dominant underlying patterns of social behavior. This general statement provides us with our starting point. Tensions and contradictions between two incompatible "basic societal models" provided the framework of some of the most striking features of modern Greek culture, gradually emerging as inescapable social and political issues. It is about some of these features that I propose to speak. Words and concepts present themselves as "meanings." But they can also embody themselves in institutions and function as laws or "norms." Yet, meanings of words change constantly. Thus, to the extent that explicitly expressed values, norms, and institutions are fixed in verbal conceptualizations, their real social functions are inevitably marked by their semantic variations. Furthermore, "meanings " can only be captured in a definite spatiotemporal and social context. Owing to the very fact that conceptual crystallizations and institutions tend to travel in space and time and from one cultural context to another, they also tend to bypass their semantic and social origins, which means they might well acquire social connotations transcending and modifying the functions which corresponded to their original semantic content. Obviously, institutional and semantic transplantations have always taken place. Yet only in modern times have these transplantations acquired universal dimensions. Indeed, one of the specific features of "modernity" consists in the production of a system of thought boasting of universality on purely rational grounds. The dominance of western cultural and intellectual patterns was not imposed only by force, economic expansion and conquest. Its main persuasive power emanated from its highly original content. A system of thought presenting itself in terms of universal liberation through rationality is difficult to refute. In this sense, if capitalism is the first intrinsically expansive socioeconomic system, bourgeois rationalism is the first intrinsically expansive and universalist ideology. Therein, of course, lies the explanation of the enormous impact of both the American and the French revolutions. In the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 1-22
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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