Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Athens, A Failed Consumer City.

       I keep going on about Greece and how we should not take our eye of that battlefront of "capitalist correction", and we should realise that it is not a unique situation. "Capitalist correction" is taking place all over the planet, it is just that Greece was the first and most severe in Europe. It is all a matter of degree, and that "correction" is still going on throughout Europe. We are all walking the same road as Greece, under the banner of "austerity" but like people, countries walk at different paces, however, we will all get there in the end. 

          By looking at Greece, (with Spain, Italy, Portugal, all close behind) we can learn and organise to be be prepared to turn the "capitalist correction" process to our advantage by creating alternative structures, free from the deadening shackles of consumerism and  the illusion of eternal growth.

       The following extracts are from an article I found extremely interesting, it is well worth reading it in full:
-------The years of the Athenian spectacle ended violently and abruptly in December 2008, uncovering various underlying tensions and contradictions, not least in the consumption-led model of urban development (see Vradis and Dalakoglou, 2012). Capitalist “cracks” (Holloway, 2010) and “societies within societies” (Papi, 2003) began to appear in various parts of Athens and beyond. One of the most striking examples, for instance, was what is now known as “Navarinou park” or “the park”, a former parking lot that was turned into an open squat by Exarcheia-based residents (and other enthusiastic supporters) who, in the aftermath of the 2008 riots: “….united to squat on the space and demand the obvious, that the parking turns into a park! They broke the asphalt with drills and cutters, they brought trucks carrying soil, planted flowers and trees and in the end they celebrated it”iii. Operating on the basis of self-management, anti-hierarchical structuring and anti-commercialisation, the park aspired to be:
a space for creativity, emancipation and resistance, open to various initiatives, such as political, cultural and anti-consumerist ones. At the same time, it aspires to be a neighbourhood garden which accommodates part of the social life of its residents, is beyond any profit or ownership-driven logics and functions as a place for playing and walking, meeting and communicating, sports, creativity and critical thinking. The park defies constraints relating to different ages, origins, educational level, social and economic positioningiv.----------
-----Indeed, Athens is now by and large inhabited by people who can no longer fully express themselves on the basis of what they consume and where. Their city is no longer a “world-class” city for consumption (Miles, 2010) and cannot pretend to be so either. After all, it is the capital and by far most populous city of the first developed country to be downgraded to “emerging” market statusv. By 2014, the average Greek salary was reduced by 40%vi. In many ways, the consequences are far more pronounced in Athens than anywhere else. The once well-to-do Athenian middle-classes now parallel the world’s so-called “emerging middle-classes” in reverse, experiencing everyday precariousness and the fears of “falling from the middle” (Kravets and Sandikci, 2014)―and straight onto the poverty zone―in an unprecedented magnitude and scale. Increasingly, Athenians approximate Europe’s “defective” and “disqualified” consumers (Bauman, 2011, 2007), unable to fully define themselves neither in terms of what they consume nor what they produce: with unemployment rates hitting a record 27% across the entire population and over 50% among the youthvii.
Present-day Athens is the world’s “failed” consumer city par excellence: comprising “zombie” retailscapes for increasingly disempowered consumers who still mourn the dramatic decline of their spending power and unfulfilled consumer desires that seem all the more unreachable. I have seen, for instance, various individuals visiting gifting bazaars and desperately trying to revive consumer fantasies and a “customer ethos” remnant of a not-so-distant past where much of their leisure time was spent around department stores. I have heard of others that walk into stores and pay a small deposit to reserve items, pretending they don’t know that they know it is no longer possible to return to buy them. In a (European) society of consumers, “a world that evaluates anyone and anything by their commodity value” (Bauman, 2007, p. 124), both Athens and its residents have comparatively little, if any, status.
Read the full article HERE:
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