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Political Ideology in Post-dictatorial Greece: The Experience of

Socialist Dominance
Dimitris Kioukias

Journal of Modern Greek Studies, Volume 11, Number 1, May 1993,

pp. 51-73 (Article)

Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press

DOI: 10.1353/mgs.2010.0298

For additional information about this article

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Political Ideology in Post-dictatorial
Greece: The Experience of
Socialist Dominance
Dimitris Kioukias


Ideological politics in post-dictatorial Greece L· an important subject yet one

that has not been fully explored. In particular, the bsue of the creation of
a left-wing ideological hegemony has not received proper attention. Yet the
ambition of the socialist party (PaSoK) to estabtish such a hegemony was
part of a conscious and well-prepared policy which, once it was applied,
made a great impact on Greek political life. PaSoK's ideology emerged as
a response to a transition from the closed political system of the past to a
new system open to the masses. Through tL· state, tL· party, tL· media, and
educational institutions, tL· party sought to impose a new Weltanschauung
based on participatory values and an organic view of society. This ideological
project was partly successful insofar as it seems to have influenced many
areas of Greek social life. It appears to have been partially unsuccessful,
however, from tL· viewpoint of Greece's long-term democratic development,
since it failed to promote tL· rule ofhw. W^her tL· new Greek Right can
accomplbh tMs task remains to be seen.


There are many analyses of the Greek socialist party (PaSoK) as a

movement, a party, and a government. PaSoK's rise to power and its
eight years in office have been extensively discussed in both Greek
and English. This interest in the phenomenon of PaSoK is under-
standable when we realize that the party became a kind of locomotive
accelerating the changes that occurred in Greek society after 1974,
i.e., after the fall of the colonels' dictatorship. Even today, nearly four
years after the socialist party stepped down from power, one can see
the strong influence it exercised on Greek political and social life. In
addition, one can see this party surviving internal and external chal-
lenges, adapting to new circumstances, viewing the present right-wing
Journal of Modern Greek Studies, Volume 11, 1993.
52 Dimitris Kioukias

rule as a mere interlude, and preparing for a comeback. This provides

additional justification for the ongoing preoccupation of scholars with
However, although PaSoK is an interesting and well-studied phe-
nomenon, there are certain aspects that need further investigation.
Specifically, despite the fact that the party's political ideology has been
approached from certain angles and been given various interpreta-
tions, a global approach that sees the matter from a wider perspective
is still missing. Issues such as the politics of ideological hegemony, the
promotion of a left-wing Weltanschauung, as well as that Weltan-
schauung's consequences for Greek political and social life, have not
been fully appreciated or clarified. Thus there appears to be a demand
for studies that, while not oblivious to other contributions to the sub-
ject, treat PaSoK as a force facilitating a broader intellectual movement
in post-dictatorial Greece. Such studies need not reinvent the wheel
by providing yet another history of PaSoK and its ideological trans-
formations;1 rather, they should focus (a) on ideas that have remained
steady components of a dominant left-wing ideology and (b) on the
effects that those ideas have had on Greek politics and society. The
aim of such studies should be not only to analyze these phenomena
but to evaluate them normatively. To accomplish this aim, they should
be more oriented toward political theory—indeed, more abstract or
even moralistic—than is usually the case.
To be fair, approaches of this sort are not entirely missing. Dimi-
trakos (1988) addresses the issue of left-wing ideological hegemony
and its effects on Greek public life. Although his book consists mostly
of previously published articles, and although much of it deals with
a Popperian critique of Marxist historicism, it identifies the correct
problem: the ideologization of political and social life, and its impli-
cations. However, the book does not study this problem completely
(that was probably not the author's intention). It prefers to concentrate
on the dangers of what Dimitrakos depicts as a mystically Orwellian
state of affairs (an emotional argument possibly provoked by the
heated atmosphere of the late 1980s).
The present paper aims to address the matter of ideological
hegemony along the lines described earlier. I believe that the time is
sufficiently ripe for a sober analysis of the emergence of this hegemony
as well as for a normative evaluation of its consequences that tries to
provide a wider perspective and to avoid emotional arguments. I shall
treat what I consider the left-wing ideology as part of the hegemonic
project of PaSoK, examining it in light of past political practices and
attitudes as well as in light of new demands, expectations, and ideas
that appeared in the 1960s and early 1970s. I shall then present the
Political Ideology in Post-dictatorial Greece 53

politics of ideological hegemony, continuing with a codification of the

main points of the dominant ideology. Finally, I shall attempt a nor-
mative evaluation using both internal criteria, i.e., the aims and de-
mands of the new ideology itself, and wider criteria such as the
requirements for the development of true democracy in Greece.

Background; transition to μεταπολίτευση2; political culture;

the nature of the political process
There is considerable agreement among students of Greek pol-
itics that, despite the formal adoption of liberal-democratic institu-
tions, in practice these institutions never became deeply rooted in the
Greek soul or psyche. Even though the formal processes of parlia-
mentary politics were introduced rather early, it is doubtful whether
the norms and traditions of Western liberalism were ever fully em-
braced by the Greeks. Among the reasons offered to account for this
reluctance are the impact of the illiberal, patriarchal Ottoman rule,
traumatic experiences occasioned by the behavior of the Western pow-
ers toward Greece, the weakness of the Greek bourgeoisie, the power
of traditionalist élites, nationalist and irredentist ideologies, and the
absence of long and stable links with the European Enlightenement
(see Diamandouros 1983). In effect, Greek political culture has been
pictured as one in which traditional, premodern elements override
modern democratic ones, the result being that the culture does not
support a really democratic political system. Ascribed to Greek political
culture on occasion are characteristics such as distrust of impersonal
authority, reliance on the family and interpersonal relationships,
highly instrumental attitudes toward law, a tendency toward manip-
ulation—or evasion—of law, intolerance, and xenophobia (Diaman-
douros 1983), as well as an "apolitical overpoliticization" (Spourdalakis
1989), which means a concern for public affairs arising out of the
expedient need to serve one's own private interests. To these one may
add two additional characteristics that, although naturally derived
from those already mentioned, nevertheless may offer more concep-
tual sophistication: (1) an "irresponsible individualism"—a tendency
to act in a selfish manner regardless of reason, law, public interest,
and the needs of other individuals, and (2) an "obsession with power
politics"—a concept that includes these other elements but strongly
emphasizes values that are conflict oriented and manipulative.
With regard to the role of the state, the norm of the liberal-
constitutional polity based on the separation of powers and the con-
tract principle was in practice replaced by the rule of the party-state.
In other words, legal-contractual principles were subverted by the
54 Dimitris Kioukias

premodern practice of power politics.3 In fact the state in Greece was

always the province of whichever political grouping managed to defeat
its opponents in the electoral battle. This makes more sense if one
bears in mind that Greek society has been traditionally polarized into
two main political camps. Although the party system has always ex-
hibited a tripolar structure, party competition has quite often been
biased against the weaker party (see Mavrogordatos 1984: 163). More-
over, party competition in Greece has absorbed class struggle. As a
result, Greek politics may be considered a zero-sum game involving
two main political parties that seek to capture control of the state.
Furthermore, the party that does capture the state uses it to reward
its followers through clientelist appointments, for instance, and to
punish its "enemies" by excluding the rival party's followers from
power. Under such circumstances, political liberalism vanishes. In-
stead, the rule of the party-state prevails, a rule marked by an extreme
concentration of power and a failure to recognize that all citizens have
equal rights.
However, the foundations of this kind of political order have
not been strong. Nor could they have been, since the legitimacy of
the Greek state has been questioned by those social forces that were
excluded from the sharing of political and economic power. The coun-
try has therefore gone through periods of great political turmoil dur-
ing which the legitimacy crisis has been expressed as a crisis of political
and economic participation. By and large, these crises have occurred
in periods of transition from oligarchic parliamentary rule to more
mass-based, open democratic rule. They underline the fact that the
political system has lacked effective means for smoothly accommo-
dating demands for social change.
No doubt it is the non-enforcement of legal-contractual princi-
ples that accounts for the crises. But other factors are the traditional
weakness of civil society and its uneasy relationship to the state. Instead
of becoming a buffer and a stabilizing force between state and society,
Greek civil society has been subjected to the paternalism of the state
and, being weak, has acted in a defensive manner, trying to penetrate
the state and often succeeding in extracting particular favors. Thus,
Greece manifests the uneasy coexistence of a paternalistic but vul-
nerable state and a weak but defensive civil society (see Mouzelis 1980:
262-264). This situation suggests the absence of strong intermediary
bodies between state and society and the resulting closeness of the
two, all of which contributes to the political system's instability. Indeed,
whenever the demands for social and political change greatly in-
creased—as they did in the 1960s—the state was confronted with a
"demand overload" and the régime with the impossibility of govern-
Political Ideology in Post-dictatorial Greece 55

ing, since far from siphoning off these demands, civil society, aided
by opposition parties, poured them directly upon the state.
In response to this situation, the typical conservative policy for
stabilizing the political system has been to keep the masses as far from
the state as possible. Especially after the second World War, this policy
was pursued through the following practices: clientelism, corporatism,
and the suppression of left-wing ideologies. Through clientelism, state
élites encouraged competition among individuals for particular state
benefits, creating expectations for personal or family aggrandizement
and therefore diminishing class alignment and class struggle. Through
(state) corporatism, the élites exercised control over key interest
groups in the popular sector—notably trade unions and farmers' as-
sociations—again with the aim of diminishing class struggle. The sup-
pression of left-wing ideologies served to prevent popular strata from
moving in radical directions and from challenging the established
system of power through collective action. Instead, the official norms
became a non-political stance and a neutral public interest com-
manding people's restraint and their reverence toward public order.
Reverence and restraint were also secured, of course, through norms
such as Christian values, traditional solidarity especially in rural areas,
and rules of bourgeois civility. To the extent that such values still had
force in a non-mass society and continued to be supported by the
pillars of the power system at that time—namely, the throne, the
political élites of bourgeois origin, and the military—they mitigated
the unruly, irresponsible aspects of Greek political culture.
However, the aforementioned means of maintaining legitimacy
and stability functioned as only a poor substitute for contractual-legal
principles. For, whereas the latter have universal validity within the
framework of a political system, the former express a one-sided dom-
ination and are basically exclusionary. This exclusionary character,
which is hidden behind traditional deferential values, reveals itself to
the public, and is severely challenged, under conditions that mark the
advent of a mass-society that is by nature open. In the 1960s, specif-
ically, developments appeared in Greece that typically characterize
cultures moving in the direction of a mass-society—for example, in-
creasing social mobility, urbanization, "the revolution of rising ex-
pectations," relative deprivation, frustration, and calls by economically
and politically excluded social strata for state redistribution. Under
such circumstances the existing system of power and the instruments
of its domination were seriously questioned. But the feelings of the
dissatisfied popular strata could not be translated into clearly artic-
ulated political demands until opposition parties intervened in order
to take advantage of the situation. The centrist Center Union and the
56 Dimitris Kioukias

left denounced the traditional practices—clientelism, repressive cor-

poratism, and suppression of republican and left-wing ideologies—
that had kept the masses out of the system of power. The Center
Union in particular appeared to favor a liberal order consisting of a
"fair state," the universal application of political and social rights, and
the upgrading of parliament and fair party competition. The left-
wing EDA, for its part, emphasized the state's need to grant political
rights, particularly those that facilitated collective (i.e., syndicalist)
action, as well as welfare rights (see Spourdalakis 1988: 24-25). Both
parties were struggling to politicize and mobilize civil society (trade
unions, farmers, youth, etc.) against the established system of power.
The Center Union's electoral victory in 1964 seemed to promise
the beginning of political modernization along republican lines. In
actuality, this victory caused a prolonged crisis of modernization dur-
ing which the traditional élites tried various methods of canceling the
modernization process. Finally, amid a climate of so-called "mass prae-
torianism," the military, the defender of tradition par excellence, carried
out the successful coup of 1967, offering regression from moderni-
zation as the problem's solution.

Μεταπολίτευση: two ideological proposaL· and the politics of

ideological hegemony
The turbulent period of the 1960s, although traumatic, was also
fruitful in that it inspired new visions of political modernization. Two
distinct political-ideological proposals were put forward. One was as-
sociated with the dominant political figure of postwar Greece, Con-
stantine Karamanlis, while the other was expressed by circles sur-
rounding Andreas Papandreou, who represented the left wing of the
Center Union party. Both leaders seemed disillusioned by the crisis
of the 1960s and both were concerned about the roles played by royalty
and the army. They also shared a concern about the malfunctioning
of parliamentary democracy in Greece. However, when it came to
tracing the causes of the malaise and to proposing solutions, the views
of these two statesmen differed sharply. According to Karamanlis, the
evil lay in the overwhelming party antagonism and society's consequent
politicization; the remedy should therefore be the establishment of a
quasi-presidential government that would be strong enough to remain
above party and class antagonisms and thereby to serve the public
interest. Papandreou, on the other hand, seemed to suggest that what
appeared as "mass praetorianism" was the symptom, not the cause,
of the "disease." For him, the extreme politicization resulted from the
existence of an unfair authoritarian state. What was needed, therefore,
Political Ideology in Post-dictatorial Greece 57

was a participatory political order integrating the masses into the

political system. To achieve this, a more radical solution was required
than the sort of republicanism offered by the Center Union.
These two sets of ideas became dominant after the dictatorship's
collapse in 1974. Karamanlis's concerns are clearly evident in the new
Constitution, adopted in 1975, in which the idea of a strong, impartial
state was manifested in a presidency endowed with numerous im-
portant powers, and in a strengthened executive. A corrective to (pure)
parliamentarism seemed to have been introduced; yet the commitment
to the values and norms of liberal democracy could not be denied—
hence the Constitution guarantees all forms of individual liberty and
political rights. It also includes many welfare rights, which suggests
that Karamanlis incorporated some ideas advocated by his opponents.
Yet the concession to welfarist notions was intended only to grant a
measure of material compensation to the popular strata, not to invite
the vast mass of the people to participate in the political process. Politics
was seen as a business that should be conducted through the insti-
tutions of representative democracy; otherwise the nation would re-
gress again to mob rule. Such, it seems, was the maxim of the drafters
of the 1975 Constitution.4
Yet Karamanlis's attempt to introduce Western-type liberalism
met with serious obstacles. This is because he disdained a more par-
ticipatory form of democracy despite the widespread belief that his
reforms ushered in the best "political democracy" (i.e., fair party com-
petition, political freedoms) ever experienced in Greece. His repub-
licanism was too aristocratic to gain acceptance in an ever-increasing
mass society. In fact the revolution of rising expectations had badly
failed in the 1960s and during the dictatorship, thus becoming even
more pressing in the liberal climate of the metapolitefsi. It is no surprise
that people soon turned to the newborn socialist party (PaSoK), which
promised to realize their dreams. Indeed, the socialist party headed
by Papandreou appeared to have a new architectonic vision of political
and social change which, despite the party's declaration that it had
incorporated ideas from past generations of left-wing persuasion, ap-
parendy differed from anything tried before. But to pursue its radical
vision while remaining committed at the same time to democratic
politics ("the democratic road to socialism"), it needed to adopt a
political strategy that would enable it to start a revolution "from below."
In other words, it needed to behave like a social movement capable
of reaching every corner of Greek society in order to elicit support
for its cause. Furthermore, to carry out its mission, it needed modern
organization and a great number of active members. The party relied
above all on ideology to achieve its goals. This suggests that a primary
58 Dimitris Kioukias

task for PaSoK in the long march to power was the acquisition of
ideological hegemony. Furthermore, since PaSoK intended to pursue
a program radically different from what other political forces or the
public were ready to accept, a constant ideological battle was required,
one that extended beyond the mere formation of a socialist govern-
ment. The struggle for ideological hegemony was seen as continuous,
forming an integral part of the system of power planned by PaSoK.
Indeed, as an official responsible for the ideological policy of
PaSoK has put it, "only the existence of ideological hegemony can
create a real organization of power . . . [for] the absence of PaSoK's
ideological hegemony over the dominant bourgeois classes often ren-
ders the efforts toward socialist transformation fruidess." Thus the
party should "play the part of a 'collective intellectual' and [thereby]
dominate within society." To this end, it is not good enough to attain
control of such typical agencies of political socialization and opinion-
formation as the mass media and the public schools. The cause of
acquiring ideological hegemony requires "penetration throughout the
whole of society, from university to factory." Therefore "PaSoK needs
to work out a strategy for all ideological mechanisms of both state and
society, and furthermore to apply a specific policy toward television,
theater, cinema, universities and schools, the workplace, and places
offering entertainment." Finally, the long-term goal of effecting the
socialist transformation of society requires the consensus of broad
social forces that must be recruited via ideology. Since this task is of
such tremendous scope, the assistance of the communist left is indis-
pensable (Papadatos 1986: 95-96).
One may wonder whether the above claims constitute an au-
thentic formulation of PaSoK's policy of ideological hegemony despite
the fact that they were made by a party cadre of high rank. However,
even if one disputes this particular formulation, one cannot easily
deny that certain developments took place after the dictatorship that
seem to agree with the broad outlines of such a policy.
PaSoK soon evolved into a strong mass party, the first of its kind
in Greek political history—a party that, by means of a vast network
of organizational units, extended its campaign for αλλαγή ([socialist]
change) to every corner of Greek society. Once it formed a govern-
ment, the party inherited the structure that allowed it to control radio
and television (which were nearly state monopolies as late as the 1980s)
and the educational apparatus. One should not forget that only during
the metapoUtefsi period did television develop into a real mass medium
that led to a homogenization of public opinion on an unprecented
scale by Greek standards. In addition, PaSoK was supported by a great
number of daily and Sunday newspapers and also by magazines. Some
Political Ideology in Post-dictatorial Greece 59

of these were old, respectable, and of high quality, while others-

tabloids of a populist character with high circulation rates—were new.
Many other agencies of culture-transmission, both old and new, such
as theater, cinema, concerts of popular culture, and youth festivals,
fell under the influence of the socialist party as they became increas-
ingly politicized, while a considerable number of artists attached their
loyalties to PaSoK and offered their services to it. The party not only
found support among intellectuals, especially university teachers, but
sought to create its own intelligentsia, often co-opting for this purpose
intellectuals of a different political persuasion. Finally, for quite some
time the party managed to draw into partnership the communist left,
whose low electoral appeal was offset by its power in key sectors of
economic and cultural life, e.g., trade unions, universities, and cultural
These developments suggest that the struggle between ideas be-
came a power game that was played out on very unequal terms. The
Greek Right had very little to oppose to the formidable power, extent,
and means of the socialists' ideological weaponry. In fact, the New
Democracy party found that its republicanism could not capture peo-
ple's hearts so long as it was confined to old-style notables, an anach-
ronistic press, and a shadowy presence in the areas of social movements
and cultural developments. Thus by the late 1970s the right-wing
party appeared to have lost the ideological battle—a fact that largely
accounts for its failure to win the national elections of October 1981.
From that point on, the socialist government found it much easier to
establish the new ideological hegemony. Being in control of the state
agencies of political socialization, controlling as well the lion's share
of the press and the media, and having skillful political partners, it
managed to consolidate a left-wing ideological consensus in large parts
of Greek society. A new set of ideas prevailed, ones that provided
patterns of thought, new forms of political discourse, and the basis
for legitimate political action. These ideas constituted what has often
been called "the dominant word of the metapoUtefsi," an expression
quite strong in itself since it suggests, particularly to those who attach
great importance to the symbolic level of social life, a capacity to
influence others that reaches beyond individual consciousness.
On the other hand, New Democracy, the major opposition party,
constantly sought to become an active player in ideological politics,
the new game established by the socialists. By managing to transform
itself into a real mass party with links to various social movements,
and by introducing the ideological formula of neo-liberalism, it hoped
to equal its opponents' effectiveness in ideological influence. Indeed,
this party, which has governed alone since 1990, appears at first sight
60 Dimitris Kioukias

to have overthrown the socialists' ideological hegemony, even though

its pre-election rhetoric focused on "honesty."
I shall return to this matter in the concluding section of this
paper. Now I wish to offer an explication of what the hegemonic
ideology of the metapoUtefsi was and how it affected Greek political
and social life.

The dominant ideology of the μεταπολίτευση

As I suggested earlier, the political forces grouped around Pap-
andreou learned completely different lessons from the crisis of the
1960s from those learned by the conservatives grouped around Kar-
amanlis. While strongly criticizing both classical republicanism and
the semi-presidential solution, the socialists put forward their own
proposals for a participatory social order that they felt would be the
best remedy for the traditional problems of the Greek political system.
Yet they did not confine their ideas to the political arena in the strictest
sense; on the contrary, aspiring to transform the traditional political
culture into a new, participatory one, they advocated reforms that
would touch the deepest values and beliefs of Greek society. This
explains their special concern for education, which had to be changed
in order to reflect the new norms appropriate to the social order
envisioned by the socialists.
To begin with, there was a strong belief among the advocates of
the new ideas that classical liberalism was an anachronistic and unfair
basis for government. Indeed, during the parliamentary debates on
the 1975 Constitution, and also on other occasions, Papandreou and
various other intellectuals attacked "bourgeois" liberalism in general
and its specific version that the new Constitution had presumably
embodied. They accused liberalism of formalism and hypocrisy, saying
that it concealed an inegalitarian and non-participatory political system
behind an atavistic attachment to the forms of representative democ-
racy. Liberalism accomplished this, they maintained, by shielding the
public domain from the mass of the people through the creation of
a myth of an impartial authority that supposedly served the public
interest through state institutions by having people attend to their
private affairs while entrusting the management of public affairs to
their representatives. These devices of bourgeois liberalism that
helped perpetuate its power at the expense of the people's interests
had to be exposed to public view. Thus Dimitris Tsatsos, one of the
drafters of a constitution presented to parliament by the socialists as
an alternative to the conservatives' draft, endeavored to unveil the
mystique of the bourgeois state. He asserted that the supposed im-
Political Ideology in Post-dictatorial Greece 61

partiality of this kind of state is the "myth" of "the politically un-

touchable"; for, in reality, "there are no state actions that are politically
neutral" (Tsatsos 1981: 190-193 passim). As for the formal separation
of powers, that other bulwark of bourgeois liberalism, this had long
since been overrun by the functions of modern government, which
controls both the executive and the legislature. In other words "the
classical distinction between legislative, executive, and judicial powers"
had been replaced by the "distinction between governing majority and
opposing minority"—which means that modern democracies are, after
all, party democracies (Tsatsos 1981: 212).
Placed in the Greek context, this criticism means that what Kara-
manlis and his colleagues had prepared as a modernizing solution was
wrong. The aspect that these critics found especially dangerous was
the semi-presidential solution and its associated notion of the strong
state, since this seemed to disregard social dynamics. They considered
entirely unrealistic the right wing's plan to regulate or even eliminate
social conflict by strengthening the state vis-Ã -vis society and by re-
maining committed to a bourgeois order and its associated devices.
Party antagonisms and class struggle were facts; instead of trying to
exorcise them by traditional means, it was better to create a balanced
social order by integrating the masses into the political system. These
were the socialist critics' main arguments.5 Let us now examine how
they thought they would achieve their aims.
The first thing needed was a new political culture—a participant
and cooperative one—to replace the traditional political culture that
was characterized by apathy and irresponsible individualism. The
masses had to change from an "electorate" into an "aware public"
(Tsatsos 1981: 187-188); the "society of private individuals" had to
change into a "political society" and a "society of solidarity" (Papan-
dreou 1988); the individual had to cease to be "a bourgeois" in order
to become "a citoyen" (Tsatsos 1981: 188). Secondly, party competition
had to become more institutionalized. Since the formal separation of
powers had been replaced in practice by a balance of power between
parties, the role of the opposition parties needed to be upgraded by
granting these parties "equal procedural capabilities" to claim power,
especially in parliament, which had to be shifted to the center of
political life (Tsatsos 1981: 254). Thirdly, the traditional barriers that
had kept society separate from the state and had led, in Papandreou's
words, to the "state domination of society," had to be removed to allow
for a reverse movement toward the "socialization of the state" (Pap-
andreou 1988). This also meant that formal representation through
the electoral process had to be supplemented by "direct democracy,"
i.e., the broadening of the political participation of the people through
62 Dimitris Kioukias

forms and institutions such as syndicalist organizations and local gov-

ernment (Papandreou 1988). Fourthly, the Greek state had to become
"a social state" committed to welfare rights and a generous redistri-
bution to the popular strata. Finally, objections were raised to the
capitalist spirit and the free market conception allegedly embraced by
the 1975 Constitution. It was admitted that the spirit of free enterprise
could not be eliminated from "historical praxis"; nevertheless, em-
phasis was placed on economic development that would be led by the
state and implemented by civil society through partial "socialization"
of the means of production and "democratic planning" (Papandreou
At first sight, these principles guiding the socialist party's thought
may appear to conform to a typical social-democratic tradition. In-
deed, advocacy of politicization, forms of direct democracy, egalitar-
ianism, and welfarism can be interpreted as an attempt to introduce
a social-democratic settlement into Greece. Yet Papandreou's initial
rejection of social democracy in favor of more far-reaching reforms
(Papandreou 1977: 71), as well as the apparent tension between the
acceptance of "party pluralism" and "social polyphony" and the par-
allel advocacy of organic views of social organization ("solidarity so-
ciety"; Papandreou 1988), posed questions regarding the kind of
socialism to which the socialist party aspired.
Questions and contradictions of this kind have often confused
students of PaSoK. As a result, some have decided not to take the
party's socialist claims seriously, treating PaSoK as a typical person-
alized populist party whose leader sometimes employed socialist rhet-
oric to appease the more radical elements within the party. Others,
on the contrary, have viewed the party's rhetoric as the seeds of a
truly far-reaching social transformation and have adopted a sort of
theory of stages to analyze party strategy. Macridis, for instance, dis-
tinguishes between a first stage during which the party would take
advantage of a growing political and social pluralism to create and
consolidate its power, and a second stage during which it would set
out either to impose one-party authoritarian rule or to introduce a
Western-style social democratic settlement (Macridis 1984: 3-5).
Such views have failed to provide a convincing interpretation of
PaSoK's ideology. It is significant, however, that they identify two
essential elements in this ideology, namely pragmatism and univer-
salism. It is my contention that these elements are not necessarily
contradictory; indeed, they can be quite compatible, especially if uni-
versalism is treated as an ideal-type category.
In fact, pragmatism was manifested in PaSoK's apparent pref-
erence for a step-by-step social engineering using the state and its
Political Ideology in Post-dictatorial Greece 63

legal arm as the main instrument to transform society and its insti-
tutions. Yet the logic of this type of social engineering is different
from the Popperian-type logic that is typically identified with Anglo-
Saxon republicanism since in the latter case social engineering means
to advance through trial and error, whereas in the former case it
means to build in advance a blueprint, a vision of ideal society, and
then to try to approach that ideal through piecemeal moves (Sartori
1987: 50-51). As Gennimatas, a civil engineer by profession and one
of the party's best brains, has stated, "PaSoK needs to combine vision
with realism. Only one who has vision can predict and set long-term
goals; one thereby becomes a realist and acts now!" (Gennimatas 1991).
In this case the vision would be the idea of a universe (a community)
free of social conflict and marked by harmony and cooperation. But
the means and the method required to achieve this ideal would be
quite pragmatic.
This approach to social phenomena may be understood better
if it is seen within the context of the tradition of rationalist democracy
largely derived from Rousseau (Sartori 1987: 51-52), according to
which ethical principles deduced from reason must guide political
action to the ultimate goal of establishing a "good community." A
concomitant of this notion is the belief that people, and by extension
society in general, can become "good" and be prepared to support
the good community through (proper) education.6 It seems that since
the French Revolution, through the Jacobin Left, these ideas have
been incorporated by socialist movements that aspire through dem-
ocratic means to effect a radical transformation of society. It also seems
that such ideas are often translated into policies that aim at the re-
alization of the good community by the twofold means of (1) enacting
institutional reforms that set the legal preconditions for a cooperative
form of social organization and (2) using the state's educational ap-
paratus, and the agencies of opinion-formation which that apparatus
happens to control, in order to reshape political culture so that it
becomes supportive of the new just order.
The case of PaSoK seems to fit this model. The "structural
changes" that Papandreou deemed the "touchstone of socialism"
(Papandreou 1977: 71) took on the meaning of a large-scale legal
intervention in society with a view to creating cooperative forms of
social organization. Indeed, plans for corporatist representation of
key interest groups such as trade unions and farmers' associations
projected the idea of forcing social groups into a cooperative rela-
tionship with the state. Similarly, there was a scheme for a thorough-
going reorganization of relationships between the state and civil society
via "democratic planning" and "decentralized socialism." The estab-
64 Dimitris Kioukias

lishment of a vast institutional network of consultation and policy-

implementation pointed in the same direction.7 Finally, as far as re-
shaping political culture is concerned, the socialist party worked out,
as already noted, a coherent policy of political socialization and opin-
ion-formation for state and social institutions.
Because of the importance that the socialists attached to edu-
cation, it is appropriate to discuss the new intellectual fashions de-
veloped within the education establishment during the period of so-
cialist rule. We must keep in mind, however, that PaSoK did not impose
its own Weltanschauung by acquiring complete control of the educa-
tional apparatus. At least insofar as the universities are concerned,
many intellectuals enjoyed considerable autonomy. Most of them had
been trained in foreign universities, and it was to these that they owed
their intellectual formation. Moreover, in discussing a left-wing con-
sensus within the institutions of higher education, although one cer-
tainly should take into account the favorable climate of the socialist
era as an explanatory factor, one must not forget that the ground had
previously been prepared by the student unions, which drew their
legitimacy from the anti-junta struggle.
The most noticeable development in the area of intellectual fash-
ion appeared to be the relative decline of humanitarian studies and
especially those concerned with ancient Greek literature. Such studies
were accused of idealism and escapism; in addition, their inherent
concern for the individual must have come under suspicion. In a
period of growing politicization, the areas needing concentration
seemed to be politics and society, particularly the tools of social change
and the analysis and démystification of power relations. Therefore it
is not surprising that social science became so significant in post-
dictatorship Greece. Nor is it surprising that neo-Marxist and struc-
turalist analyses became the dominant intellectual fashions for quite
some time.
It is impossible to deal thoroughly here with the recent history
of Greek social science and its intellectual products. But it would be
worthwhile, albeit somewhat presumptuous, to attempt to codify some
apparently logical conclusions of the dominant analyses. (1) Every-
thing is political: power relations, far from being confined to the
traditional institutional apparatus of the state, in reality pervade all
social and human activities. Since that is carefully concealed by the
ruling classes, the task of the social scientist is to disclose the political
nature of social institutions and, furthermore, to make his or her
contribution to any attempted reforms that might institutionalize po-
liticization. This, it was believed, would lead to openness. For example,
the sociologist Constantine Tsoucalas, rejecting the notion of an im-
Political Ideology in Post-dictatorial Greece 65

partial positive law, took the view that interpretation of legal rules
should be guided by policy preferences, since that is in any case un-
avoidable (Dimitrakos 1988: 311-325). (2) Direct participation in po-
litical life is preferable. This view was inferred from the belief that,
owing to changing historical circumstances, public and private spheres
have become blurred in modern societies (Dimitrakos 1988: 324). (3)
Greek problems have structural causes. Such a view was a corollary
of the predominance of neo-Marxist and structuralist theories, whose
inherent bias is toward an interpretation of social phenomena in terms
of historical law. Thus, for instance, to certain theoreticians who em-
braced dependency theories of social development, the Greek econ-
omy's structural dependence on the advanced economies of the West
was what determined, to a large extent, the country's economic, social,
and political underdevelopment (Karabelias 1989: 94-110,183). (4)
Society is to blame for the problems of the individual.8
Effects on the political system and the political culture:
a tentative assessment

The dominant ideology of the Greek metapoUtefsi made specific

proposals whose aim was to modernize Greek political and social life.
This ideology sought to open the political system to the mass of the
people, rejecting elitist, paternalistic solutions and introducing instead
a modern party democracy with institutions that would legitimatize
class struggle, extend political and social rights to all citizens, and
bring about widespread material redistribution. In addition, it sought
to establish a new social order of a cooperative/consensual character,
transforming traditional Greek political culture into a participatory
and responsible one, and creating appropriate institutions to serve
these ends.
By way of a tentative assessment, it may be argued that many of
these proposals were able to be translated into actual practice and
thereby to make a lasting impact on Greek political life. Indeed, the
period of socialist rule was marked by the following accomplishments:
the institutionalization of free competition among political parties and
the consequent transformation of Greek democracy into a real party
democracy; the legitimation and free operation of class struggle; the
broadened access to politics offered to new social strata; the granting
of full political and social rights; and a generous redistribution ben-
efiting the poor.9 It must be added, however, that the basis for such
developments had been prepared during the years of the conservative
administration, partly because the opposition had exerted pressure
and pardy because the conservatives had agreed with the opposition
on certain issues.
66 Dimitris Kioukias

Such developments were of great significance since they enabled

the Greek populace to enjoy perhaps the freest period of its political
history. By themselves, however, they were not sufficient to provide
a reliable answer to the structural problems of Greek political life,
problems that the dominant ideology had promised to handle suc-
cessfully. How the dominant ideology confronted these major issues
must now be examined.
Regarding the attempt to democratize Greek political culture, a
certain degree of progress was made. Indeed, it appears that the
dominant ideology's insistence on the need to create a politically aware
and participatory public opinion had a positive effect, since a large
number of social groups, particularly those formerly underprivileged,
learned to seek and acquire direct involvement in political life, often
raising political issues that in the past had been subjected to the indirect
censorship of the then prevalent ideological norms. It can be argued,
therefore, that Greek political culture became more democratic in the
sense that it became imbued with values that legitimatize and promote
politicization, hence increasing political participation. This was par-
ticularly true in the area of organized collective action—that is, syn-
dicalist action—which, in contrast with past attitudes, had now come
to be regarded as a legitimate way to exercise political rights.
Another sign of progress toward a modern democratic political
culture was the atmosphere of permissiveness and diplomacy that
pervaded Greek society apparently owing to the emergent ideology
of people's rights and to newly introduced rules of ideological politics.
Indeed, greater permissiveness and more sophisticated and tactful
methods of conducting politics are bound to emerge in a pluralist
society where everyone, and especially the underdog, has the right to
exist and prosper, and where a political force needs to rely more on
persuasion than on force if it is to make electoral gains. Such devel-
opments took place in the period with which we are concerned, per-
haps establishing a practice markedly different from the overtly au-
thoritarian methods of the past. Of course, the development of
diplomatic methods often takes the form of deceptive rhetoric. This
is a necessary evil of any democratic political game.
But a democratic political culture consists not only of rights both
formal and informal—for example, the right to speak and assemble
freely, to participate in political life, to be approached tactfully; it also
consists of duties and, above all, of a perception of public interest. It
was precisely in this area that the new dominant ideology appeared
especially promising as it set out to combat the irresponsible, egocen-
tric, and conflict-bound attitudes of the Greek people and to create
a consensual public opinion leading to a "solidarity society." But the
ideology's record in this area turned out to be rather poor.
Political Ideology in Post-dictatorial Greece 67

Some attempt may be made to explain this presumed failure.

First, it is wrong to assume that increased politicization and oppor-
tunities for more political participation automatically lead to a spirit
of cooperation and social peace. The goal of integrating the working
class and other underprivileged social groups into the political system,
although desirable, is a delicate matter. In particular, the transition
to an open, secular, and egalitarian society, which is normally accom-
panied by a materialist spirit and increased competition for the im-
mediate enjoyment of benefits, is an intricate matter requiring that
the distribution of rights and benefits be balanced by the establishment
of a charter of duties and obligations. In the absence of such a
charter—a "social pact," one may call it—the egalitarian ethos may
easily degenerate into an endless escalation of expectations and hence
into a continuous class struggle. It therefore behooves the political
élites who are in charge of a country in such transitional periods to
establish a new social pact that guarantees the universal application
of both rights and duties. This in turn means that a successful tran-
sition to an open society requires the rule of law and the norms of
liberal democracy.
The new dominant ideology that flourished in post-dictatorial
Greece did not meet this basic precondition for the successful tran-
sition to a mass society, i.e., the establishment of the rule of law.
Perceiving the democratization of Greek political culture exclusively
as the spread of egalitarian and participatory values, it failed to see
that by so doing, while at the same time abhorring the legal-rational
values of liberal democracy, it actually reinforced the traditional Greek
vices of lawlessness, particularism, and obsession with power politics.
In other words, it failed to solve the perennial problem of legitimate
Indeed, the dominant ideology showed little interest in pro-
moting an impersonal legal authority. The reason, as suggested above,
was that it treated positive law as an instrument of bourgeois domi-
nation and thought that it could use the same instrument to change
class relationships in order to establish a new domination that would
serve the interests of the popular strata. Thus it appeared to have an
instrumental view of law. For those sharing this ideology, in other
words, law was necessarily a political battleground that determined
the course of a process of social change; it could not be the impartial
and impersonal force that, according to the classical democratic tra-
dition, secures the compliance of the people to a democratic polity by
providing them with guarantees of equal treatment.
Yet if law is viewed as a political battleground, it is little wonder
that a tendency toward manipulation of law, and by extension toward
power politics, is reinforced. In addition, non-adherence to the rules
68 Dimitris Kioukias

of an impersonal concept of law favors particularism and favoritism,

those traditional evils of Greek political culture. The ultimate con-
sequence of the instrumental view is the weakening of the authority
of law—of any law. This creates damage hardly reparable by any ex
post facto evocation of abstract constitutional principles.10 After all, this
practice does not necessarily reveal a commitment to positive law;
instead, it confirms the tendency to look upon law exclusively as an
instrument of socio-political change, for this is normally the case with
views that invoke the principles of natural law.
What has been argued concerning the probable consequences
of the politicization of law also applies, mutatis mutandis, to other areas
of social life that the dominant ideology sought to politicize. Every
type of formal authority was suspected of being an instrument of class
domination and therefore had to be either manipulated or dismissed
as illegitimate. Legitimacy was derived instead from general principles
of justice, be they "history," "society," "the laós," or "international
justice." Needless to say, such attitudes were not conducive to forging
a spirit of responsibility and restraint; on the contrary, they encour-
aged irresponsibility (by providing grounds for the easy rationalization
of any action) and social conflict.
To be sure, recognition and legitimation of social conflict con-
stitute integral parts of a modern democratic political culture. From
this point of view, bringing up such issues and attempting to legiti-
matize them were therefore important steps toward the democrati-
zation of the political culture in Greece. However, the encouragment
of social conflict, unless accompanied by a firm commitment on the
part of the political élites to the rational-legal rules of liberal democ-
racy, may strip such conflict naked, producing an endless cycle of
power politics and public authority crises. Therefore, it may be con-
cluded that the dominant ideology's attempt to democratize Greek
political culture resulted in the end in a semi-finished house: it revealed
to the public the mechanisms of modern social conflict, but it failed
to institutionalize such conflict.
It may now be possible to measure the effects of all this on
contemporary Greek political life by citing examples from the recent
agenda of Greek politics. A review of this agenda reveals the existence
and persistence of four phenomena that are easily identifiable in the
light of the previous analysis.
1. The persistence of social conflict. Initially welcomed as an ex-
pression of pluralism, such conflict had begun to be resented by 1990,
as the Greek economy had fallen into a slump. Furthermore, the
socialist administration's early attempt to create an institutional frame-
work capable of absorbing social conflict did not succeed. Since the
Political Ideology in Post-dictatorial Greece 69

preconditions of a genuine social pact were missing, the various social

groups underutilized the (largely) artificial and pompous institutional
structure composed of numerous participatory (consultative) organs.
They preferred, instead, the safer ways of direct action or traditional
clientelist politics (see Kioukias 1991).
2. The domination of politkal parties over society. At first sight, this
suggests that Greece had at last become a modern party democracy.
On closer inspection, however, it becomes apparent that the parties
had established an operating principle within the Greek political sys-
tem that was out of line with the liberal democratic tradition. As the
parties formed and imposed an informal system of balance of power,
they subjected both state and society to the imperatives of this system,
i.e., to power politics.
3. A prolonged crisis of public authority. As some of the traditional
barriers that had previously assisted the state in keeping the masses
at a distance—clientelism, corporatism, bourgeois civility, traditional
solidarity, and suppression of left-wing ideas—were lifted or deprived
of their bite, as the class struggle intensified, and as a strong and
autonomous civil society and the rule of law failed to be imposed, the
state was overrun by multiple pressures obliging it to succumb to
various particularistic demands. It proved unable to resist these pres-
sures, a weakness that had disastrous effects on its ability to develop
reliable and rational policies (Kioukias 1991). In effect, this revealed
what the socialist goal of "socialization of the state" could mean in
4. A crisis of authority in other areas of social life. Some recent in-
stances are unruly school children engaging in street politics, uneasy
relationships between the state and the media, and the call for civil
disobedience toward the proceedings and the verdict of the highest
court when it tried former members of a Greek government. One
may hope that these were just incidents marking a period of transition
between the breakdown of authoritarian authority and the nascent
appearance of democratic authority. One may also hope that civil
disobedience will cease as soon as a liberal democratic authority be-
comes fully established. Yet such hopes do not hide the failure of the
socialist ideology to achieve its proclaimed goal, namely, the estab-
lishment of a genuine democratic political culture and a real demo-
cratic polity.

Since April 1990, Greece has been governed by New Democracy,
a party of allegedly neo-liberal persuasion. This party has apparently
70 Dimitris Kioukias

launched its own hegemonic project that promises to establish the

rules and norms of modern liberal democracy—this time for good.
Insofar as political culture is concerned, it seems that "the return to
individualism" is the key value through which this party hopes to cure
the traditional defects of Greek politics, which are believed to have
been aggravated by the collectivist bias and the egalitarian excesses
of socialist ideology. In other words, it appears that a culture of in-
dividual responsibility is New Democracy's answer to the problem of
"irresponsible individualism," which, it might be said, was supple-
mented by a kind of "irresponsible collectivism" under the impact of
socialist ideology.
The extent to which such aims have been pursued successfully
is as yet unknown. Certainly the present government needs time to
prove itself. This is all the more necessary since it appears to lack a
universalistic ideology that must be imposed through the state or the
party. After all, even if it did possess such an ideology, it would have
to overcome the obstacle of the increased pluralism that at present
characterizes Greek society, especially in the area of the mass media.
Moreover, although New Democracy does seem to possess a hege-
monic project of social transformation, it prefers to carry it out by
discreet means, hoping to change the attitudes of the public by in-
troducing an open market modus operandi.
On the other hand, the evidence so far suggests that the new
social project is being met with strong resistance from the forces of
the previous régime, especially the socialist party, which still seems
committed to the principles that helped it rise in Greek politics, even
though it is struggling to adopt a modern social-democratic posture
and thereby to dissociate itself from the ultra-universalistic elements
of the past. If it manages to achieve this posture, the Greek political
system may well avoid a new ideological polarization and perhaps
reach a point of at least minimal consensus.
Such a prospect would indeed be great news for Greek politics.
If Greece truly wishes to be like the other European democracies, it
must shed once and for all any notions of universalistic ideology and
organic society, whether they come from right-wing or left-wing
sources.11 Instead, it must try to combine the individualistic ethos of
liberalism with the egalitarian ethos of social democracy. Modern de-
mocracies are called liberal democracies, after all, because they blend
the liberal with the democratic spirit (Sartori 1987: 383).
Greece also has to fulfill another prerequisite of modern liberal
democracy: the rule of law. Even Plato, who "taught" the princes of
his time to tell the people "noble lies," eventually came out in defense
of law. Greece's real "trial" is therefore not over. The outcome of this
Political Ideology in Post-dictatorial Greece 71

process will determine whether ισονομία will rule in the future or,
alternatively, there will be numerous other "trials" of a Kafkaesque
variety in which absurdity triumphs and anonymous "Ks" are sen-
tenced to spiritual death.


' On this subject one can consult the existing studies. For instance, Spourdalakis
1988 provides a complete history of PaSoK from its birth to its second term and presents
the original ideological formulations including the "September 3rd" document. On the
matter of PaSoK's ideological compromises, see also Petras 1987: 11.
2 The term μεταπολίτευση (literally "régime change") is commonly understood in
Greece to mean the replacement of the seven-year (1967-1974) dictatorial rule by
democratic rule. In a broader sense, this term is sometimes used to describe the period
in Greek politics that started in 1974 and ended roughly in 1989, when the socialist
party (PaSoK) lost the national elections and surrendered governmental power. The
latter use is accepted in this paper.
3 The general issue of the failure of political liberalism in Greece and the explo-
ration of the true rules of the Greek political game are discussed in, among others,
Legg 1969 and Charalambis 1989. The analysis presented in this paper is based on my
Ph.D. dissertation, the first chapter of which (Kioukias 1991: 19-53) incorporates past
contributions and aspires to provide a useful commentary on the whole subject.
1 Karamanlis's conservative-liberal ideas are discussed in Kioukias 1991: 38^40).
Also see Katsoudas 1987: 18-23 and Charalambis 1989: 26.
5 As D. Tsatsos put it, "Democracy is not suited for covering up social conflicts;
rather, it is suited for establishing the necessary method for their expression" (Greek
Parliament 1975).
6 The following quote from the Spanish Education Minister, Javier Solana (1991)
is quite revealing concerning the connection between socialist ideas and education: "For
any government with socialist traditions education is a priority. Socialist ideas are based
on rationalism . . ." (TL· Guardian, 20 August 1991).
7 Since this paper is concerned with ideology, it cannot move beyond a certain
point of abstraction as far as the institutional policies of PaSoK are concerned. The
specifics of PaSoK's proposed institutional changes as well as of the application of these
changes to concrete areas of civil society can be found in Mavrogordatos 1988 (pp. 58-
90 on farmers' associations, pp. 91-136 on trade unions) and in Kioukias 1991 (pp.
65-168 on trade unions, pp. 169-293 on farmers' associations, pp. 294-336 on local
government). For a discussion of PaSoK's corporatism (as distinguished from the cor-
poratism of the 1950s), also see Kioukias 1992: 90, 92, 96.
8 According to Crozier, for example, (French) structuralism expressed "the absence
of man, i.e., the impossibility of meaningfulness of man's personal decision and free
72 Dimitris Kioukias

will . . ." (1981: 108). A corollary of such a view would seem to be the idea that the
individual is held captive by a tyrannical society with oppressive mechanisms.
9 Reviewing the period of socialist rule, a socialist ex-minister said that the period
1981-1989 was one in which real "mass democracy" was established, particularly since
"the non-parliamentary part of the democracy like the syndicalist and local government
forces" was offered "greater opportunities to exist and create" (Veryvakis 1989).
10 What I have in mind here is the practice of systematically appealing to vague
constitutional principles in order to justify particular political actions or to question
certain established legal procedures. Whereas sometimes this is a legitimate exercise of
a democratic right, the abuse of this practice may destroy the safety of law. However,
it must be noted that politicians and lawyers of the socialist party were not the only
ones to engage in such practices; the conservaties did the same. In the early 1980s the
latter embarked on a policy of delegitimatizing a good deal of socialist social legislation
by striving to prove its unconstitutionality.
1 ' Currently there is a conservative-revivalist movement that is trying to counteract
the socialist Weltanschauung by advocating Christian-Orthodox and nationalistic values.
If, as one suspects, this movement is backed by the current government, that will mean
that the liberal credo will give way to an organic view of society. As a result, progress
toward a modern secular and pluralistic society will be impeded.


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