chapter  4
16 Pages

Transnational city lives: changing patterns of care and neighbouring

ByDINA VAIOU

In the evolving economic crisis, Greece has become notorious worldwide for its huge budget deficit and public debt. Following a period of intense finance market speculation, interest rates were driven to unprecedented levels, making it impossible to borrow any new money on the markets, while the EU/ eurozone has been reluctant (or unwilling) to adopt a collective and decisive stance. Under the circumstances, the “socialist” government (elected to power in October 2009) was forced to seek an IMF/EU bailout package in February 2010. As part of this package, the government has accepted and applied an austerity programme, which includes severe cuts in salaries and pensions, tax increases, and a series of reforms in labour and pension rights. As a result, key pillars of economic development and income generation (e.g., small firms in many sectors) are being led to collapse, while many domains of an already weak welfare state are being dismantled. It is against this background that the chapter discusses a less debated aspect of the crisis, namely changing patterns in the domain of care, which is one of the main “victims” of austerity measures, along with education, health and welfare. It is beyond the scope of the chapter to go into the details of how and why

the crisis developed at the crossroads of global and local factors. However, some introductory remarks are necessary at this point, in order to place in context the discussion about care and care deficits. Since 2009, dominant analyses and explanations about the crisis in Greece have focused mainly on macroeconomic aspects, such as the size and viability of the public debt and a range of possible policies towards its management, a prime goal of which is to prevent any loss of profit for the banks. At the same time, popular European press and media have contributed to shape the contours of a strongly ideological discourse in which presumed causes of the crisis include the laziness of Greeks, luxury pensions and inflated salaries, an over-inflated public sector and corrupt state institutions, and cheating with statistics (for a concise commentary on these allegations, see Rosa Luxemburg Foundation 2011). This discourse has gained momentum in many European countries, mobilising examples of misuse of EU structural funds, low productivity, state inefficiency and instances of corruption in

many places, in Greece as well as in the other southern European countries, derogatorily referred to as PIIGS. Few would deny that such examples are based on “real facts”. However, this same discourse has made key aspects of the crisis “unmentionable”. Such aspects include, on the one hand, the role of neoliberal pacts, the operation of the eurozone and existing uneven relations at a variety of geographical scales; on the other hand, it has also made “unmentionable” the social effects of the measures taken by the Greek state, which are unevenly felt and endured among Greek people – who are collectively culpabilised and held responsible for the debt and deficits.1