A Global Riot

Although he offers an historical contextualization of the rioting in Greece, Robert Kaplan worries that they may be an indication of the century to come:

The protests of today are not about America; they are about the legitimacy of a government that has been in power for four years without achieving much. With the global recession bearing down on Greece, the country is in desperate need of difficult reforms and privatization measures to help it in the Darwinian struggle to attract foreign investment, upon which much economic growth is dependent. The problem is that despite the probability of new elections, Greece seems destined to suffer through a period of weak governments, which will lack the political capital to do what’s necessary in the way of change. The conservative New Democracy party has been neutered by the riots, even as the left-of-center Panhellenic Socialist Union (PASOK) is compromised by close ties to the very labor unions who would have to be challenged if meaningful reform is to take place. Of course, PASOK could carry out the reforms, in the manner of a right-wing President Richard Nixon going to China, but it could only conceivably do so with a strong majority in parliament, which it will probably not get. What’s more likely is increased influence by smaller and more radical parties, like the communists. Thus, Greece could dither and end up politically paralyzed.
It’s tempting to dismiss this as a purely Greek affair that carries little significance to the outside world. But the global economic crisis will take different forms in different places in the way that it ignites political unrest. Yes, youth alienation in Greece is influenced by a particular local history that I’ve very briefly outlined here. But it is also influenced by sweeping international trends of uneven development, in which the uncontrolled surges and declines of capitalism have left haves and bitter have-nots, who, in Europe, often tend to be young people. And these young people now have the ability to instantaneously organize themselves through text messages and other new media, without waiting passively to be informed by traditional newspapers and television. Technology has empowered the crowd—or the mob if you will.

I’d raise a point that I’ve enunciated before, and that is visible in Kaplan’s suggestion that union reform is necessary: It isn’t untrammeled capitalism that has wrought modern economic society; it’s that infamous Third Way approach to putting a capitalist engine into a socialistic vehicle.

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joe bernstein
joe bernstein
12 years ago

Robert Kaplan is scary.Read “Balkan Ghosts” and check the copyright date-then check your history.
If you want a picture of the western USA about ten years ago read “An Empire Wilderness”-his depiction of the “bus ghetto” is worth it alone.I rode a bus from NYC to Wichita Falls,TX in 1967 when I was in the service.I believe it’s gotten worse.
Kaplan is always on the ground talking to those who make things happen at the operational level and those that things happen to-you don’t have to buy into his conclusions,but he sees and hears more in a month than a pud like Sheldon Whitehouse would in his whole dandified life.

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