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Liberalism and the Formation of the Nation-State George J. Andreopoulos It is a most serious shortcoming of modern Greek historiography that although tons of ink have been shed on Venizelos and his period, we lack a balanced evaluation of his overall contribution. Some recent works make some headway in this important direction (e.g. Dimitracopoulos -Veremis 1980 and Mavrogordatos 1983). But a thorough re-examination of all facets of the Venizelist period has yet to be done. The absence of solid reappraisal is, up to a certain point, understandable —it was a very tumultuous period in Greek political life. Not surprisingly, the quarter of a century of polarization between the Venizelist and anti-Venizelist elements influenced Greek historiography . The normal output of books, pamphlets and articles could be broadly grouped under two headings with little room in between; hagiographies and outright condemnations.1 While it is absurd to suggest that "anyone who writes about the events in Greece during the years following 1914 has to make up his mind whether he supports the Royalist or the Venizelist party" (Forster 1958: vi) nevertheless the remark does accurately outline the highly polarized nature of the works—they exhibit a biblical good-bad dichotomy as their main analytical tool. Another major problem with the literature of the Venizelist period is the prevalence of works focusing on the personality and actions of a single man. These have tended to obscure and underestimate the significance of the Liberal Party. This implies that looking at the period from a micro-political angle reveals little concerning three central matters: the relationships (ideological, political) between the rank and file and the leadership; the brand of liberalism which the leadership projected as the official ideology of the party; and the manner in which ideology was articulated into short and long-term policy goals. Instead, we are usually offered only half-baked truisms concerning both the loose and personalistic party structure and the precarious identification of the Liberal Party with the "rising bourgeoisie." Journal of Modern Greek Studies, Volume 7, 1989. 193 194 George J. Andreopoulos This article examines the unique nature of Venizelist Liberalism and the way in which it sought to redefine the Greek ideological landscape. First, however, let us examine certain conceptual and methodological problems associated with interpretations on the rise to power of Venizelos and his party. Problems Concerning the Transitional Phase Venizelist Liberalism is commonly identified with the rising bourgeoisie and the Liberal Party is viewed as the embodiment of its values. The proponents of this view consider the rise of the Liberal Party to have been the catalyst in the transition to post-oligarchic politics, a phase which signaled the assumption of power by the bourgeoisie and ushered in long overdue modernization. This view raises several questions. One has to do with the underlying assumption that an iron formula governs social evolution (from feudalism/oligarchic rule to bourgeois revolution/democratic rule) and that it includes Greece, thus proposing that the case of Greece fits the evolutionary pattern of Western European societies (Tsoungos 1932). Work in Ventiris' study (1970) of the tumultuous decade 1910— 20 is representative. It attributes the reformist spirit that swept through Greece to the rise of the bourgeois class: The organic cause of the phenomena under study has already been indicated. It is always the same: between 1890 and 1910 a financially and ethically robust bourgeoisie was formed, similar to that which forms the social basis of Europe. Its rise to political power explains the subsequent events. (1970 I:74)2 The limits of his conceptual tools are manifest in his criticism of the program of a group of progressive deputies known as the "Sociologists ."3 In particular, Ventiris is critical of the Sociologists' view that existing personal parties had become faithful tools of the interests of the class which owned the means of production. He notes that the Sociologists have used foreign dogmas (i.e. socialism) in a mechanistic way in an effort to analyze and interpret Greek reality. He writes: In order for Greece to become a capitalist country she must have gone through the bourgeois state phase. This was inaccurate. There was no Greek capitalism in 1910...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 193-224
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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