Suspended modernism: Technology, ideology of science, and politics in interwar Greece (1922–1940) by Vasilis Boyiatzis (review)
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Reviewed by
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...