Austerity in Greece has produced the ostensibly counterproductive effect of throwing the country into a deeper depression and rendering it more difficult to repay its debts. I address this apparent paradox by examining both the integration of Greece into the European Monetary Union and post-crisis austerity measures with a particular focus on the Greek credit system. I do so by employing a historical materialist framework focusing on Marx’s concept of ‘fictitious capital’, capital not backed by a commodity transaction, but by a claim on future value. I argue that, while the crisis is overdetermined, one hitherto unexplored dimension is the rapid expansion of the Greek credit system in the 1990s and 2000s. More specifically, Greek banks expanded to neighbouring countries, and borrowing by households and firmed spiked dramatically after Greece adopted the Euro, but a number of domestic political-economic factors acted as drags to this process. In this context, I argue that the crisis has served as an opportunity to impose a radically accelerated restructuring of the Greek economy in line with the ideal neoliberal utopia. This can be understood as one of the three responses to a crisis of fictitious capital: internal devaluation, asset devaluation or upward. However, the success of this project is far from guaranteed, so far the austerity project pursued by the troika has failed to replace the old Greek balance of social forces that have dominated the post-junta political economy of Greece.
This research was made possible by support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
Hembruff, J. (2014), "Stranger than Fiction: Fictitious Capital and Credit Bubbles in Post-EMU Greece", Research in Political Economy (Research in Political Economy, Vol. 29), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 155-180. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0161-723020140000029006
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