‘Identities and Modernities in Europe’ (IME), funded by the European Commission’s Framework Programme 7,  investigates various expressions of European identities in nine countries in and across Europe (Bulgaria, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Turkey and the UK). Anna Triandafyllidou and Ruby Gropas tried to tackle the question of how Greek identity continues to be affected by modernity and tradition and what role Europe plays in the report  ‘The State of the Art: Various Paths to Modernity: Greek Case Report’ (pp 27).

Briefing of the Report

Scholars and academics have long debated Greece’s relationship with modernity and how Greek identity relates to notions of Europe. Is modernity inherent to the core of Greek identity that draws from classical universalistic Hellenism? Or is it in confrontation with another core pillar of Greek identity, namely its religious particularism and the strong traditions of the Eastern Orthodox Church? And while there appears to be no contradiction between the fundamental principles and values of Greek national and European identity, Greece has been undergoing a perpetual ‘Westernisation’/ ‘Europeanisation’ process since the 19th century, as there has been a pressing need to ‘catch up’ with the rest of Europe and cover much ground in terms of its industrialization, modernization, and democratic consolidation. So, how is Europe perceived in relation to modern Greek identity today?

Triandafyllidou and Gropas argue that Greece’s own perception of its national and European identities is based on a web of rival and even conflictual relations between attachment to tradition and continuity on the one hand, and desire to pursue modernity, social contestation, rationality and secularism on the other. As such, though Greece has been considered as being at the core of  and having inspired modern Europe’s values and identity since the Enlightenment, at the same time, Greece has had to undergo repeated (and in many cases costly and painful) reforms in order to become more ‘modern,’ to become more Europeanised.

In response to this quest and to its own historical experience of modernization, Greece is marked by two competing modernity frameworks. The Western framework is the one that conforms to western rational understandings of modernity and essentially imbues all efforts and processes of Europeanisation in Greece. The Eastern framework by contrast is one that is closer to the Greek Eastern and Orthodox tradition and proposes a sui generis, nationally authentic path towards (non-Western?) modernity. This ambivalence and internal division makes Greece a particularly interesting case to study within the multiple modernities’ perspective as defined by Eisenstadt (2000).

Greece can be considered either as still pre-modern or anti-modern in many ways. However, Triandafyllidou and Gropas suggest that Greece can be viewed as proposing an alternative path to modernity: one of a peripheral post-industrial parliamentary democracy that has moved from pre-modern economic and political forms of organisation (that continue to define the structure of the Greek state, Greek society, its politics, and its economy) to post-modern ones without ever properly modernizing or industrializing and without ever replacing its own cultural traditions with those of western European modernity.