- Greek Paradoxes: Patronage, Civil Society and Violence ed. by Katerina Rozakou and Eleni Gkara
Greek Paradoxes: Patronage, Civil Society and Violence is the first of a series of three books, the outcome of a symposium celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the Department of Social Anthropology and History at the University of the Aegean. As the title suggests, this is a collection of essays related to patronage, civil society, and violence from the perspectives of social anthropology and history. From a political science perspective, at first glance, this is a surprising combination of some very broad topics for a single book to tackle. That said, it is a highly relevant book to Greece’s current politico-economic crisis. This review will not focus on anthropological conceptual matters but instead will analyze the value of the book within the relevant political literature.
The introduction emphasizes that the volume does not set out to explain the crisis and is not a direct outcome of it. However, according to Evthymios Papataxiarchis, the revisionist dynamics and multiple levels of the crisis pose a cognitive challenge to the various authors and provide a springboard for analysis of the causes of the crisis.
As a whole, the book aims to analyze critically “the political” in Greek society, defined in the book as the field where the antagonistic differences of each society are gathered, in contrast to politics, which is the field of political expression. It attempts to do so using the crisis as the trigger to reconsider everything perceived as part of the political scene. The editors of the book suggested in the introduction that in common usage the concepts of civil society, patronage, and violence are connected, that typically, civil society is conceived as a positive term, and that patronage and violence are automatically charged with negative connotations. The book attempts to delink these terms from the normative meanings they have acquired and to reconstruct “the political” as defined above, by presenting a series of alternative viewpoints offered by the various authors, who employ a variety of methodological tools from both social anthropology and history.
The book is split into two main parts: the first part comprises chapters on state and political relationships, and the second part comprises chapters on violence. The first part is divided into smaller subsections. In the first subsection, the chapters written by Christos Lyrintzis and Evthymios Papataxiarchis (chapter 1) and Roger Just (chapter 2) provide a theoretical discussion of the political. The authors try to redefine the political and to discuss anthropological and historical limitations to its study. They argue that in its early contemporary history (the last 50 years of anthropological development), social anthropology in Greece (meaning anthropology conducted by Greek anthropologists on Greece) has been affected by political science and as a result, it focuses on the central political scene and takes a narrow approach to party politics, political trends, and public policies (chapter 1). Anglophone anthropological research on Greece (meaning anthropological research with Greece as its subject conducted by Anglophone researchers) has contributed to this theoretical constriction by ignoring possible connections between anthropology and politics, for various reasons demonstrated by Roger Just (chapter 2). The gap between the two strands widened when, in the last two decades, Anglophone anthropology turned away from the central political scene towards “the local level of everyday sociality” (chapter 1). [End Page 205]
The second and larger subsection consists of chapters analyzing the relationship between civil society and patronage. Dimitris Sotiropoulos (chapter 3) offers a fresh approach to Greek civil society. Borrowing from Nikos Mouzelis’s notion of patronage as a “vertical way” to organize political relationships, he compares Greece to other Western European countries that build “horizontal” political relationships, meaning they are organized through parties or syndicates; parts of civil society may be set outside the vertical political boundaries (i.e., clientelistic relationships) of Greek society, in an informal type that is not as visible as formal political creations. Sotiropoulos suggests a typology of collective actors according to their relationship with civil society: first, those with little...