OPINION

The luxury of a middle class

The first Greek official to speak of discounted national sovereignty was Evangelos Venizelos, just after being assigned the Foreign Ministry portfolio and being named deputy prime minister in June. In the four months that have followed since, he has reiterated this painful realization on several occasions. on Friday, in fact, he did so from the dais in Parliament. This time though, the finance minister looked exhausted and dejected, a beaten man.

It has become clear to even the least informed Greek that the elected government is no longer governing. Fiscal and economic policy is drawn up by Greece?s creditors, and with it, so is legislation concerning the labor market and workers? rights, along with social security. The government in Athens is simply executing orders, with some trepidation, hesitation and contradictions, blackmailing itself and others into doing so. The policy being adopted, in so far as it is applied at least, and in combination with the nightmarish resulting recession, is leading at a rapid pace to a significant reduction in incomes and assets, both private and public, to massive unemployment and to the gradual pauperization of the middle class.

The most frightening outcome of the shock of internal devaluation is this violent dismantling of society.

The pauperization of the large middle class represents a major historical transformation of such force that it undermines the very foundations of society and the conditions that lead to peaceful coexistence. And this is because Greece is composed, to an overwhelming degree, of the middle classes; it is and always has been a middle-class country.

The debt, meanwhile, revealed the structures of the kleptocracy that lay beneath the surface; it revealed a profound political problem, as well as the deficit in productivity. And now incomes, which keep the middle class alive and growing, which nurture prosperity and bring social peace, are running dry.

This phenomenon of the pauperization of the middle class, meanwhile, is not just seen in Greece; it is happening to varying degrees throughout Europe and the United States as well. The acclaimed political philosopher John Gray describes it as such: ?The middle class is a luxury capitalism can no longer afford.?

There is little comfort to be found in his words.