Greece's Creditors and structural violence

Painting by Nicos Houliaras Painting by Nicos Houliaras
Despina Biri
The intransigent attitude of Greece’s creditors towards the Greek government has multiple consequences for society as well as for the government’s negotiation team. Under the present circumstances, the handling of panic and moral hazard constitutes a central concern. Yet what we are faced with has another name as well: structural violence.

Structural violence is defined as violence exercised through social and state structures, which lead to the exclusion of entire groups due to particular characteristics such as gender, sexual orientation, disease, income, social class, nationality, among other things. In this particular case, it could be said that Greece is facing a form of structural violence, as its government is being bullied into signing an agreement which very doubtfully serves the interest of the worst off citizens.

Let us first look at some points individually: the proposed agreement with which the Greek people are asked to agree or disagree on Sunday contains cuts to pensions and wages, as well as measures that ensure permanent «savings» for the social insurance and pension systems. Structures, that is, through which the state will ensure that part of the population will live below the poverty line. It also contains measures through which other parts of the population, such as businessmen, hoteliers and restauraterus will either have to expand their businesses or close, due to the intolerable proposed increase in VAT. Through just one measure, the creditors intensify competition in the short term, and favor larger businesses long-term, as larger businesses with higher turnover may be able to pay VAT, as opposed to small businesses, which are effectively excluded.

But let’s also look at the overall picture: the structures of the instutitions canno, it seems, deal with democracy, by favoring the technocratic aspects of policy as being «objective» and «irreproachable», something, that is, that excludes the social aspects of policy. At the same time, the governance structures of the Eurozone exclude institutional actors without sufficient justification, as was the case on the Eurogroup of 27th June, for example. In addition, processes the goal of which was the annulment of the referedum are equivalent to the exclusion of the people from democratic expression. This last point led to the intervention of the UN, which concluded that: «Democracy means self-determination, and self-determination often requires referenda».

What we are facing, therefore, is something that goes beyond the management of public finances and debt. We are facing existing or proposed structures the goal of which is to exclude entire groups from social welfare, the labour market, entrepreneurship, as well as governance and decision making relating to all of the above. We are facing the institutionalisation of exclusion; the definition of structural violence.

What is there for us to do? Resist by all possible means to this institutionalised exclusion, by organizing structures that, instead of excluding entire population groups from social participation, protect human rights. We ask for solidarity from all peoples to help us strengthen our efforts. Greece is not an «isolated incident», and the struggle estends beyond its borders. We counteract structural violence with structural solidarity.  

Despina Biri is a researcher and writer on health care issues. She blogs at and

  • Translated by: N/A
  • The original text was first published on: Written for AnalyzeGreece!