Greece's approach in commerce, stems back to its traditional and "detached" financial background...


Today as i was returning home from work...i came across this building, that is shown in the font of this article. What really impressed me, was how in a city of such a high level of contrast in infrastructure, with damaged and rotten neoclassical buildings existing next to huge franchise companies, and actually providing a free "historical and educational"  context for people passing by, (if they stop for a while to cast a glance ofcourse), a specific economic background is being revealed. 

Actually what is revealed, is the economic background of a country, totally "detached" from institutionalized commercial practices for years, with a financial legacy, better described as a traditional one.

In an article written by Spiros Melas, in a newspaper back in 1944, with the distinctive title "Shopping", the consequences of the Greek occupation period, are described in an ironic way.

Traditional professions of Athens of that period, like grocers, were actually transformed in a short while after the difficult years of the occupation, into extremely wealthy zillionaires.

In a book called "Stories of the retail market in Greece", one can find rich in data and info, and also pioneering researches, considering the evolution of entrepreneurship in Greece, from the beginning of the 19th century, till the first decade of the 21st century. 

This research is highly indicative of the way "we as Greeks" formed our views upon commerce and entrepreneurship, through the years, and also the way finacial activities evoluted in our country.

By reading this research, one can draw conclusions, also upon the history of domestic consumption and the sociopolitical, almost unconscious inclinations that i can still find in people's minds nowadays, due to the traditional background of Greece and the country's approach in commerce all those years in the recent centuries. For example, after the Greek occupation, all those grocers who suddenly became zillionaires, provoked a sort of anger and despair to the people, who tended to think of commerce and financial transactions as something "bad" and totally "unethical". It was hard for at least one century and more, not to think of commerce as an inevitably necessary condition, leaded by people who were called merchants, and were described with the worst and most appaling characterisms, even in greek literature texts of the 19th century.

The evolution of the market in Athens, during the 19th century, is related to geographical, social and economic parameters of the civil transformation of the capital of the newly formed state of Greece after the revolution of 1821. It is extremely illustrating of the context of the Greek entrepreneurship awakening, the fact that only few of the people who used to drink coffees and beverages in stores, back in the 1940's, were familiar to the fact that coffee, was actually made without coffee or even sugar, back in those years. There has also been an article that was called "Without coffee, without sugar: the coffee merchants of Athens during the years 1941-1944". Coffee was replaced with other seeds, and it was only this way that the greek coffee shops could survive and remain open in those difficult years.

Even fashion, and fashion commerce, are approached in the book "Stories of the retail market in Greece", together with literature back in those years, and what is domineering in this research, is that fashion and consumption are considered by all Greek writers of that era, as  a submission to the social stereotype defined by fashion principles "brought from abroad" and "foreign to our culture". "Hourmouzis"  and also "Souris" famous  Greek writers, were insisting that fashion coming from abroad and "worn" as it is, have the effect of causing the extinction of individuality.

This totally "detached" financial legacy of the Greek country, is not hard to understand how it all started, if one takes a closer look to the sponsorship methods it used back in the 19th century. Ofcourse, similar background one can find in other countries also, such as Egypt for example. Besides, that is the reason (similar financial background) ,that the first serious efforts of investments of Greece as a  country, took place between Greek and Egyptian entrepreneurs.

But which were these sponsorship methods? The Greek State that was formed after the revolution of 1821, was excluded from all European stock markets, so its sponsorship necessities, were covered by the National Bank of Greece. After the fall of the Bavarian dynasty, conditions changed. The country's expenses started to become bigger, thus increasing the need for internal borrowing. So, governments, tended to offer special guarantees to the National Bank of Greece, by assigning to its branches the collection of public incomes.

This way, Greece, remained for years a traditionally based economy, without any serious financial infrastructure, without industrial sector, a totally unorganized administration, and political instability. 

No wonder why all this context, formed a "closed" yet insightful and to the point (considering the ethical part of capitalism), approach of many Greeks concerning commercial and financial investments...and this approach, can be found today, screaming in silence, as one walks in the Athenian streets, crossing neoclassical buildings that were left abandoned for years, remaining there as "ghosts", next  to contemporary life, unable to "follow" this lifestyle, insisting their own approach...

                                      written by Themis Panagiotopoulou, PhD in Political Science 

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