On Intersections of Land, Law, and Literature, from Primitive Territories to the Post-National Future

Nationalism in the Eurozone: the Syriza Surprise and the Promise of Euro-National Tensions (January 31, 2015)


Reading about the latest events in Greece has been fascinating, indeed. Besides the fact that the election of what largely appears to be a leftist government (though clearly not an extremist one, considering that their platform featured tax-relief for property owners and they, of course, were also more than willing to form a coalition with a right-wing group) goes somewhat against the grain of rightward turns in a number of recent elections, the rise of new prime minister Alexis Tsipras in a Syriza-led government seems to me to be the most striking example of the intensification of nationalist politics within the European Union. [For a fine summary of the Syriza government’s key aims, see this BBC article ;  for excellent coverage of the election, including the coalition, see this Guardian reporting.] As I have written about elsewhere, there has been increasing resistance among various European national communities to the great power, if not even to the very concept of, the European Union . The rise of Tsirpas seems to ratchet up these tensions more than just a notch—for at the heart of Syriza’s victory seems to be not just frustration with the austerity measures imposed by the European Union and its economic partners in exchange for Greece’s 2009 bailout [on which see this excellent Wikipedia article section], but a resounding statement that Greek national interests must take precedence over the larger economic agreement that is European Union. It is hard to imagine how the European Union would be able to survive if multiple states had such nationalist electoral referendums. How could stable economic policies be maintained if each election would mean that previously negotiated terms would need to be redrawn? If the European Union was designed, as I suspect it was, in part to achieve a large, populous, and diverse enough economy to compete with the United States, then it is clear that it continues to have one element potentially undermining all efforts at the sort of economic policy cohesion needed to compete on the capitalist stage—nationalism. As much as Texans or Vermonters may dabble with the idea of ending the United States union, and as much as that union was in fact suspended from 1861 to 1865, the United States is not currently wracked by actually viable nationalist separatist movements (such as in the United Kingdom or Spain, about which I have written here and here)  , nor is it a union that is in reality merely a concept bringing together a multitude of nations into a cooperative whole. It will be fascinating to see how the Syriza government leads and what the negotiations with Europe will be like—for this will of necessity bring the fundamental tensions between nationalism and European Union onto center-stage.


Author: Randy P. Schiff

I am an Associate Professor of English currently at the University at Buffalo, SUNY. I specialize in Middle English literature, with special interests in alliterative verse, medieval romance, Scottish poetry, Old French poetry, Arthurian literature, ethnic identity, imperialism, nationalism, ecocriticism, courtly love, and literary history.

6 thoughts on “Nationalism in the Eurozone: the Syriza Surprise and the Promise of Euro-National Tensions (January 31, 2015)

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