I'm currently reading Stathis Gourgouris' Dream Nation: Enlightenment, Colonization and the Institution of Modern Greece (1996), a largely irritating and arrogant book that wants to use Castoriadis (as well as the usual suspects, Derrida, Foucault, Edward Said) to expose and debunk the myths or imaginary significations of modern Greek nationhood and Neohellenism. I don't want to discuss those aspects of Gourgouris' argument that seek to grapple with what he regards as Greek nationalism, suffice it to say that, for the sake of his diatribe, he engages in a deliberate distortion and censoring of Greek history and Greek national consciousness, particularly regarding the Greek War of Independence; but there are interesting sections on Adamantios Korais and the Greek Enlightenment and on European Philhellenism as a form of colonialism equivalent to Orientalism.
However, most useful, so far, is the prescient chapter on Greece and the European Union project, Of Modern Hellenes in Europe, which attributes deep roots to the difficulty modern Greece has had, particularly in the realms of Law and the State – and which has now reached crisis point – in adapting to European core systems and values. Gourgouris writes:
'For Greek society's relation to law has never quite shown favor to the notion of "public interest", which is the cornerstone of liberalism's social vision and which is predicated on the significations of "honesty" (in the "free market") and "virtue" (in civil society). Although the text of the law (like most of the Greek social institutions that were constitutionally drafted under the prompting of the vision of a "modern" State) reflects the positivist spirit prevalent in Europe during the nineteenth century, the practice of law, as the aggregate of mediations throughout the history of social relations in the region, is quite another matter. There, one finds the heritage of an amalgam of legal practices that reached its culmination in the extremely complex system prevailing during the Ottoman rule of the entire Eastern Mediterranean region: namely, the cohabitation of a range of legal practices, from Islamic law… to the remnants of Byzantine law… to the various overlapping customary laws that in fact formed the backbone of social practices for centuries. The positivist European legal vision (primarily French and German) was essentially imported into Greece upon Independence in order to dissolve precisely this polymorphous development, in order to streamline the State's regulation and social practices. This may have given a nominal hypostasis to the State (which was anyway the "purpose" of the importation), but it has not altered Greek society's symbolic cohesion in terms of its reciprocal negotiation with the institution of law, and would not do so unless socially instituted.'
Clearly, in these terms, what we're witnessing now in Greece is a final attempt by the European core to convince Greece to conform to its bureaucratic and legal practices, something that Greece has always said it is willing to do, to institute itself, but never managed to achieve and, in my view, won't achieve now either.
If anyone's interested, there is a lecture here by Gourgouris, called Democracy, a Tragic Regime, which develops themes in Castoriadis regarding the Athenian polis, Sophocles, hubris, self-limitation and so on. An interesting point is made about the inherent tendency of democracies to destroy themselves, to commit suicide, and it struck me that, indeed, what we're witnessing now is Greece committing suicide.