Comparing four major economic crises of the last 100 years ‒the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, the Eurozone crisis, and Greece’s ‘long collapse’‒ a recent IMF Article IV Report (IMF Country Report No. 19/340) made the following conspicuous disclosure: whereas the economies in all the other cases had rebounded to pre-crisis levels within three-six years, a full decade after the signing the first Memorandum of Understanding, despite continual internal devaluation and the persistent implementation of austerity policies, Greece continues to languish.

            Aspiring to shed light on the Greek experience in the era of crisis in a comparative, inter-disciplinary perspective, the Laboratory on Contentious Politics (Department of Political Science and History, Panteion University, Athens), the Centre on Social Movement Studies (Scuola Normale Superiore, Florence) and the Hellenic Political Science Association are organizing an international conference to be held at Panteion University, on 13, 14 and 15 May 2020.

As Greece has been the harbinger of things to come all over Europe and beyond, its detailed examination provides grounds for assessing extant conceptualizations and theories at the intersection of institutional and contentious politics, also bearing significant theoretical import for contemporary political sociology as a whole. The conference’s cognitive goals are threefold, involving: (a) examination of the precise character of the crisis and its social repercussions; (b) its influence on the functioning of the political system (democratic hollowing/post-democracy); and (c) the social-movement and political responses it spearheaded.

 

A: The ‘Great Recession’: an unknown familiar, a familiar unknown

Considering that ‘crisis’ has been encompassing nearly all aspects of public life at least for a decade, comparative political sociology is faced with the challenge of tracking down and meaningfully synthesizing pertinent debates on its nature and social consequences. Aspiring to illuminate these dimensions, the conference invites papers from a wide spectrum of fields in the social sciences (political economy, social policy, political and social anthropology), exploring the crisis’ causal mechanisms, the narratives, frames and political discourses that were emitted about it by a variety of actors (the Media, supra-national institutions, political parties etc.), as well as its impact in the broad processes of social organization and reproduction (labor market, public health, education, housing). We are particularly keen on papers that will either be comparing Greece with other countries or will be employing it as a case-study to evaluate (revisit or, if necessary, recast) dominant concepts and research proclivities.

 

Β: Democratic Hollowing -Post-Democracy

In a political system already characterized by the ‘hollowing of democracy’, the influence of austerity politics has been truly portentous. The conference seeks to examine the relevant developments with a twofold focus: (a) which were the consequences the various bailout agreements had on the functioning of the political system (e.g., declining role of the legislature vis-à-vis the executive, ruling by decree, mounting intervention by supranational institutions with minimal democratic accountability)? and (b) in what ways has austerity politics intensified the crisis of representation? If the first aspect concerns developments taking place inside the core of the state, the second centers primarily on party functioning: how was the crisis reflected in the party system, what is the significance of the collapse of the embedded two partyism of 1974-2009 and what theoretical conclusions can be drawn regrading the perennial problem of party bureaucratization (and cartelization)? Here too, a major challenge is the comparative-theoretical utilization of the papers’ empirical results.

 

C: Social-Movement and Political Responses

But Greece was also marked by the outbreak of an unprecedented protest wave ‒dozens of militant general strikes, the occupation of public buildings, the two-month long Aganaktismenoi mobilizations, a variety of solidarity initiatives, and several contentious local protests‒ all in the face of towering police brutality, not only in capital Athens but all over the country. The conference seeks papers exploring three main areas: (a) developments in the repertoires of collective action: which were the major changes occurring in protest forms, which were the conditions fueling them, and what kinds of results did they obtain? (b) subjective understandings of collective action: how was the experience of participating in contentious events interpreted by the claimants themselves, and which factors influenced their preparedness to engage in them? (c) what can be said about the tempo or the rhythm of collective action and in what ways has the transformation of protest into a political program ‒the political mediation of social-movement reality‒ by political parties and organizations influenced developments?

 

The conference invites abstracts (up to 350 words) in any one of the areas above (or combinations thereof) until Friday 20 March 2020. Submit abstracts to to the Laboratory on Contentious Policy website submission form https://lcp.panteion.gr/en/submit-proposal/  or alternatively to lcp@panteion.gr.