Myths and politics

Every party needs a myth. Those who think otherwise mistake politics for business or focus too narrowly on a pragmatic-minded elite. The Left knows its mythology well. As of Tuesday, when he was elected chief of Socialist International (SI), PASOK leader George Papandreou has tried to put together a new myth. Addressing the SI council members, Papandreou said the common good must be elevated above economic globalization. These days socialist manifestos are bereft of 19th century radicalism. But the aspiration of building a new system is still there. For one thing, the Left is reflecting upon itself. On the other hand, the ideological limbo of conservative parties at home and abroad is alarming. Sure, there can be no such thing as a Conservative International, as the nation state – the epitome of conservative ideology for over two centuries – is the expression of the particular, not of international ideas. Premier Costas Karamanlis rode to power in a blurred ideological landscape. The New Democracy leader came up with a new class, the «middle ground» which was later replaced by the «social center.» On an ideological level, Karamanlis has consistently tried to appease Greece’s Left. He never tried to build a system – perhaps because he believes he can do without one. But the lack of myth has its price, as everything is judged on a practical level, where, despite the government’s efforts, things still look quite grim. A government is judged by its deeds. But in order to convince voters to make sacrifices, a government needs a convincing myth and ideological framework to mobilize the conservative flock and more. Karamanlis ignored the need for a political myth and so he will be judged through the prism of the daily problems he is struggling to deal with.

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