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  • Social Change and Education in Greece: A Study in Class Struggle Dynamics by Spyros Themelis
  • Thalia Dragonas (bio)
Spyros Themelis, Social Change and Education in Greece: A Study in Class Struggle Dynamics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 2013. Pp. xii + 310. 11 tables, 3 appendices, 1 figure. Cloth $110.

Spyros Themelis explores the role of education as a main mechanism for social mobility in postwar Greece from the late 1940s to the late 2000s. In particular, Themelis embarks upon a case study investigating occupational opportunities and the impact of education in their differential distribution within a specific community in Northwestern Greece. In order to capture intergenerational mobility, he chooses participants from three, adjacent generations: an older (65 years old and older), a middle (45–64 years old), and a younger one (25–44 years old). This three-generation schema has been followed [End Page 211] in several studies investigating sociocultural change in Greece, and despite the crosssectional rather than prospective nature, it captures the dynamic element of change very well. The author focuses equally on both genders, thus introducing an original element in this study, since conventional mobility inquiries are typically male-centered.

Themelis’s approach is methodologically interesting and complex. He has adopted a holistic, systemic epistemology, treating the community as embedded within a historical, social, political, and economic context and its members as related through interconnected institutions, such as education and family. Furthermore, he takes into account the interrelation of social class, gender, and ethnicity as variables pertinent to social mobility. Thus, he includes in his design dominant and marginalized groups, the latter represented by Roma residents of the community, as well as men and women, as the social mobility of women may well reveal gender inequalities both in the labor market and within the family. In addition to education, he also examines alternative pathways to social mobility, namely, emigration, marriage, and political patronage.

What makes the study design even more intriguing is that the author employs a mixed method approach in collecting both quantitative and qualitative data. The quantitative aspects of social mobility (that is, the distributional aspects and diachronic patterns of intergenerational, occupational, and educational mobility) are explored with the use of a representative survey, data drawn from archival sources, and key informants. One must note that an added challenge was the classification scheme operationalizing social class that was devised for the purposes of the present study. The qualitative component aims at including people’s voices and allowing their uniqueness to come out; Themelis thus resorts to methods of critical ethnography, such as participant observation and interviewing.

Results from the quantitative study shows that a high amount of intergenerational mobility did take place during the postwar years owing to the substantial exit from the agricultural sector and the growth of intermediate and service-class occupations. Yet the high rate of structural mobility did not go hand-in-hand with the reduction in inequalities. Peasants raised their social-class position, and new occupations were formed, but the relative advantages between social classes either remained constant or even increased.

The in-depth, qualitative study of the mobility trajectories and consequent experiences of individuals reveals their own understanding of these processes. The agricultural economic base and the belated advent of capitalist production characterize the community studied. Thus, since until the late 1950s the socioeconomic organization of production was protocapitalist and based predominantly on subsistence agriculture, education did not play a crucial role. In contrast, it was the middle generation that benefitted from the flourishing educational-based opportunities; their life chances multiplied, and their occupational and social positions improved either through the growth of the construction sector and the expansion of the service sector in state administration or through self-employment.

As regards to the differentiation between the dominant population and the ethnically deprived Roma, there was no great gap in the older generation, since poverty was an equalizing force, while in the middle generation occupational opportunities were clearly ethnically structured to the detriment of the Roma. Similarly, inequalities in regards to gender are also noted. Although women participated in education in much [End Page 212] higher rates than in the past, they lagged behind men in terms of...


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