Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 14, 2015

Greece and the Underdevelopment of Europe

Filed under: Greece — louisproyect @ 9:32 pm

Greece has been relegated to the ranks of Somalia, Honduras, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe by becoming the first European country to default on an IMF loan. The €1.6bn missed payment is also the largest ever by an IMF member. Popular rhetoric has blamed the situation on inherent Greek profligacy, displayed by their early pension schemes and special interests. This narrative carries the echo of the lazy conflations between the nature of places and its peoples that underpinned the earliest European imperial adventures.Columbus’ travel diaries reveal how he drew on a theory of place offered by Albertus Magnus and Pierre d’Ailly to equate the differing temperature and climates of the ‘new’ and ‘old’ worlds with differing levels of humanity to be granted to the European and non-European. For Columbus, the natives of the new world were inherently childlike due to their plentiful surroundings; hence they could not be treated as equals. Likewise, we now hear talk of the lazy, petulant and irresponsible nature of the Greek people, whose sunny climate explains their inability to adopt the protestant work ethic of the industrious Prussians.The reality is, according to the OECD, that the average Greek worker has worked 48% more hours than the average German worker; the source of the crisis is a failing of the international financial system. Ever since the IMF “assisted” Greece in 2010, the Greek economy has been in depression. 25% of its GDP has been lost under structural adjustment programs labelled “austerity packages.” 90% of Greece’s IMF debt went directly to repay other European institutions.

via Greece and the Underdevelopment of Europe.


  1. This argument could almost work. Almost convinced me as a 15 year old. Look at all the hot countries. They’re universally poor.

    But then we see Singapore and Hong Kong, some of the richest on earth and hot as hell (Though they also destroy the argument that a past of colonialism dooms a country to poverty forever.)

    And we see Eastern Europe. Colder than a witch’s nipple and the poorest places in Europe.

    Comment by Sam Broody — July 15, 2015 @ 2:53 am

  2. Spot on!

    Before the economic crisis broke out, a crisis sparked by the industrious Americans it should be noted, Greece was being talked about as the economic golden poster child, because growth was around 5% per year! The questions being asked were, how can we be more like the Greeks, what is their secret. In the UK the Tories were even talikng about increasing spending!

    Then the came the crash and every right wing opportunist came to the fore, spouting their bullshit. Unfortunately enough workers swallowed this crap. And we are where we are.

    Syriza have not really delivered anything much better than the old parties could have managed. So Syriza will need to be judged on the fine detail. If they don’t deliver on that then the critics of Syriza will be proved correct. I still have high hopes, but then I am an eternal optimist!

    Comment by Simon Provertier — July 15, 2015 @ 4:33 pm

  3. I tried to write about economics with regard to demographics and politics, such as climate, rainfall, levels of inequality, trade union activity etc and link this to things like GDP per capita, average wage, household wealth.

    It can be difficult knowing which side of the equation something sits on!

    Of course in a capitalist system the motive is profit, always profit!

    The upshot was that it is almost impossible to detect any pattern and come up with any firm conclusions! I would say anyone who tries to say otherwise is trying to hustle you.

    But I think the following can be established:

    Equality does not harm economic development
    Anti incentives policy (high taxes, high welfare – transfers) do not harm economic development
    High levels of trade union membership does not harm economic development
    Generous worker benefits do not harm economic development
    Low military spending does not harm economic development
    Heavily regulated financial sectors do not harm economic development

    And many more!

    So there is room for reform within a capitalist system! But it will always be a struggle, a tiresome and painful struggle!

    Comment by Simon Provertier — July 15, 2015 @ 6:23 pm

  4. If you’re a Marxist then you know the thing that causes “economic crisis” is the workings of capitalism itself. It’s an integral part of the capitalist system, even the capitalists agree now calling it “a correction in the market”.

    As Marx showed the tendency of the rate of profit to fall is what leads to major crashes and depressions.

    Comment by Sam Broody — July 16, 2015 @ 1:51 am

  5. Are you really 15?

    Comment by louisproyect — July 16, 2015 @ 2:04 am

  6. “As Marx showed the tendency of the rate of profit to fall is what leads to major crashes and depressions.”

    That debate is still raging within Marxism Sam, but I like your attempt to put the question to bed once and for all!

    Comment by Simon Provertier — July 16, 2015 @ 3:51 pm

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