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Vasilis Boyiatzis (Βασίλης Μπογιατζής), Μετέωρος μοντερνισμός: Τεχνολογία, ιδεολογία της επιστήμης και πολιτική στην Ελλάδα του Μεσοπολέμου (1922–1940) [Suspended modernism: Technology, ideology of science, and politics in interwar Greece (1922–1940)]. Athens: Eurasia. 2012. Pp. 496. Paper €23.50.

Using methodological tools from science and technology studies, along with modernity studies and the sociology of knowledge, and traversing the fields of political sciences, philosophy, sociology, and the history of ideas, this book is in dialogue with a wide array of questions and scholarly debates. The issues at hand relate to modernity and modernism, the interwar period, the reception and appropriation of technological progress and scientific ideals in Greece, the fusion of technology and science with political and ideological objectives and discursive formations, as well as the beliefs and ideas of influential individual figures (prominent politicians and intellectuals). The book's very title seems to be in dialogue with Jeffrey Herf's seminal 1984 study on the Weimar and the Third Reich period, which loosely correspond to the German interwar. [End Page 240]

The significance of technology within this context can be traced to the fact that it was at the core of both the first crisis of modernity and the modernist response to it. Along with science, it was seen by many intellectuals and politicians as an instrument for the control of the crisis. In his study, Vasilis Boyiatzis focuses on a diverse group of prominent public figures (Eleftherios Venizelos, Ioannis Metaxas, Yiorgos Theotokas, Ilias Iliou, Dimitris Glinos, Konstantinos Tsatsos, and Panayiotis Kanellopoulos) and attempts to demonstrate how all of these individuals fall within the milieu of a wider modernism. However, by discussing texts and speeches by personages from nearly the entire ideological/political spectrum of the time, the author's primary intent is not to furnish a collection of prosopographies. Instead, he posits these individuals as representatives of the interwar Zeitgeist, as major personalities across the board who all (or almost all) move within the contours of an endeavor for a rebirth or transformation of Greek society and state. It is against this background that they receive, appropriate, and incorporate technology and science in public discourse.

This process is also analyzed in terms of the Foucauldian "technologies of institutions" (28–30) or of politics as science, whether this regards the Marxist view of dialectical materialism as a scientific method that underlies Soviet politics or the liberal view of politics as a technocratic, rational, and quasi-scientific practice. Boyiatzis moreover shows that nearly all representative players of the time flirted with or endorsed for some period—especially in the 1930s—authoritarian and totalitarian solutions. Indeed, it emerges from his analysis that this turn to centralizing and/or autocratic models, particularly after the 1929 Crash and the ensuing bankruptcy of Greece in 1932, constitutes an aspect of a broader shift towards organized modernity.

The book starts with an extensive introduction that not only lays out the methodological and theoretical framework of the study but also puts the whole interwar period in Greece into perspective in a rather novel way. This includes—but does not confine itself to—comparisons with several other national cases. As for the main part, it can be seen as two separate sections: the first part would comprise chapters 1 and 2, which deal with the two most significant political men of the Greek interwar, Eleftherios Venizelos and Ioannis Metaxas. These chapters, in reality, discuss a whole nexus of other figures (associated with spheres ranging from industry to literature and from politics to academia), usually expressing views in a similar vein to those of Venizelos and Metaxas. The second part would include chapters 3 and 5, with chapter 4 on Iliou serving as a brief interval. (Chapter 4 is by far the shortest in the book, standing out with a mere seven pages, the only one both preceded and [End Page 241] succeeded by a blank page, and characteristically entitled "The Intervention of Ilias Iliou.") This second part focuses on intellectuals throughout the political spectrum, all of whom have also been actively involved in party politics at some point: the liberal writer Theotokas (chapter 3), the democratic socialist lawyer and author Iliou (chapter 4), the communist pedagogue Glinos, and the rightwing, idealist philosophers Tsatsos and Kanellopoulos (chapter 5).

A great deal of information is presented, and several utterances of the public figures in question are adduced, but the most discussed person in the book is Metaxas. The chapters on Venizelos and Theotokas can also be viewed as rather comprehensive approaches that stretch beyond the limits of the book towards an overall evaluation and interpretation of the ideological trajectory of these two men. This is all the more interesting considering that Venizelos and Theotokas are often taken to be the most characteristic representatives of Greek liberalism in the interwar period, the former in the sphere of politics and the latter in that of literature. Yet, spanning more than a hundred pages, the chapter on Metaxas is the longest one and could be regarded as one of the most insightful monographs on the general-turned-politician. It is therefore necessary to focus here on a few details regarding Boyiatzis's approach to Metaxas, which represents a particular reading both of him and of the interwar period.

Metaxas may often be immediately linked to the 1936–1941 dictatorship and fascism, while at other times he is presented as a sort of enlightened, patriotic despot who had almost nothing to do with fascism. Suspended Modernism, however, offers a more nuanced context. On the one hand, it discusses extensively Metaxas's background and views during his earlier years, reminding us that the 4th of August dictatorship was the culmination of a long career in the army and then politics that was permeated with a conservative ideology. It also provides insight into the appearance of protofascist and fascist elements in his thought, and it is this combination of conservative and fascist ideals that later characterized the dictatorship. On the other hand, it demonstrates a certain authoritarian consensus that was gradually established in interwar Greece following the Asia Minor Catastrophe and especially the 1932 bankruptcy. In Greek public consciousness, Metaxas may overshadow all others in his authoritarianism, but nearly all the figures discussed in this book (and several others acting in that period) looked to authoritarianism for solutions. In fact, many at times flirted with fascism or even national socialism, whether they are today seen as firmly located in the liberal or the (democratic) conservative camp.

Although Boyiatzis provides a sound analysis of individual sections and themes and his entire study is perceptive and well documented, it seems to [End Page 242] be somewhat lacking in focus. Given the subtitle, one would rather expect political actions and views to be examined in detail insofar as they are closely related to technology and science. Instead, the book offers, for example, a brilliant analysis of Metaxas's views, along with those expressed by several of his followers, but barely explores actual technological innovations, transformations, and applications or the interpretations, appropriations, and uses of science at large in interwar Greece. Such information, when given, is rather succinct and usually serves solely as a context or a closing statement. There are also a few technical errors in the book, as the author often copies phrasing found in his primary sources without using quotation marks (he does reference them, though). This is even more striking (and perhaps initially perplexing) when he copies terms without quotation marks adding "sic" afterwards (for instance, see 297). Subsequent editions could moreover be amended with improved proofreading, as there are a couple dozen slips of the pen found throughout the book.

Overall, the discussion by Boyiatzis is useful and thought-provoking. The book's main arguments and findings could even serve as a basic reference to the Greek experience of the examined issues and time periods for researchers from outside the field of Modern Greek Studies. As such, it is commendable that the author has been publishing articles in English over the past few years in order to promote his research to a wider audience. Conversely, the Greek bibliography on the subjects that this book treats would benefit from the translation of foreign studies underpinning Boyiatzis's analysis. (Paradoxically, Peter Wagner's seminal works on modernity [1994, 2008] or Roger Griffin's work on fascism and modernism [2007] have not been rendered into Greek as of yet.)

In addition to the importance of this book on the topic of the interwar period, it may be relevant for those studying today's Greece, where actual debate on fundamental political, economic, and technological questions such as those that engaged intellectuals and politicians in the interwar is essentially absent. These questions have all merged into one, with the economization of public discourse, the preoccupation with the needs of the quasi-mystified markets, and the sidelining of the needs of the citizens. Rather than seeking to carve out and openly debate new, diverse solutions to the crisis, contemporary political culture is largely characterized by an uncritical attachment to the same old—albeit failed—recipes. In place of a search for alternatives, there prevails a TINA (=There is no alternative) dogmatism that claims to already know the answers and hold the key to the one and only way to have a functioning, modern socioeconomic system. From this perspective, Boyiatzis's study may [End Page 243] inadvertently create a contrast between the Greek interwar as situated within modernity and the present as a time beyond modernity. This highlights its manifold significance as a book that can even be used to offer a more critical and sophisticated view of today's Greece.

Yannis Stamos
University of Birmingham
Yannis Stamos

Yannis Stamos is a doctoral researcher in Modern Greek Studies at the University of Birmingham, England. His research interests include literary criticism, fascism, and the interwar period. The provisional title of his PhD thesis is "Literary Criticism and the Cultural Politics of the Metaxas Regime (1936–1940): Propagandistic Discourse in a Comparative Context."


Griffin, Roger. 2007. Modernism and Fascism: The Sense of a Beginning under Mussolini and Hitler. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Herf, Jeffrey. 1984. Reactionary Modernism: Technology, Culture, and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wagner, Peter. 1994. A Sociology of Modernity: Liberty and Discipline. London and New York: Routledge.
———. 2008. Modernity as Experience and Interpretation: A New Sociology of Modernity. Cambridge and Malden, MA: Polity.