Yanis Varoufakis

Yanis Varoufakis

Let me begin with a confession: I am a Professor of Economics who has never really trained as an economist. While I may have a PhD in Economics, I do not believe I have ever attended more than a few lectures on economics! But let’s take things one at a time. I was born in Athens back in the mists of 1961. Greece was, at the time, struggling to shed the post-civil war veil of totalitarianism. Alas, those hopes were dashed after a brief period of hope and promise. So, by the time I was six, in April of 1967, a military coup d’ etat plunged us all into the depths of a hideous neo-Nazi dictatorship. Those bleak days remain with me. They endowed me with a sense of what it means to be both unfree and, at once, convinced that the possibilities for progress and improvement are endless. The dictatorship collapsed when I was at junior high school. This meant that the enthusiasm and political renaissance that followed the junta’s collapse coincided with my coming of age. It was to prove a significant factor in the way that I resisted conversion to the ways of anglosaxon cynicism in the years to come. When the time came to decide on my post-secondary education, around 1976, the prospect of another dictatorship haδ not been erased. Given that students were the first and foremost targets of the military and paramilitary forces, my parents determined that it was too risky for me to stay on in Greece and attend University there. So, off I went, in 1978, to study in Britain. My initial urge was to study physics but I soon came to the conclusion that the lingua franca of political discourse was economics. Thus, I enrolled at the University of Essex to study the dismal science. However, within weeks of lectures I was aghast at the content of my textbooks and the inane musings of my lecturers. Quite clearly economics was only interested in putting together simplistic mathematical models. Worse still, the mathematics utilised were third rate and, consequently, the economic thinking that emanated from it was atrocious. In short shrift I changed my enrolment from the economics to the mathematics school, thinking that if I am going to be reading maths I might as well read proper maths. After graduating from Essex, I moved to the University of Birmingham where I read toward an MSc in Mathematical Statistics. By that stage I was convinced that my escape from economics had been clean and irreversible. How deluded that conviction was! When looking for a thesis topic, I stumbled upon a piece of econometrics (a statistical test of some economic model of industrial disputes) that angered me so much with its methodological sloppiness that I set out to demolish it. That was the trap and I fell right into it. From that moment onwards, a series of anti-economic treatises followed, a Phd in… Economics and, naturally, a career in exclusively Economics Departments, in every one of which I enjoyed debunking that which my colleagues considered to be legitimate ‘science’. Between 1982 and 1988 I taught at the University of Essex, the University of East Anglia and the University of Cambridge. My break from Britain occurred in 1987 on the night of Mrs Thatcher’s third election victory. It was too much to bear. Soon I started planning my escape. But where to? Continental Europe was closed to non-native academics, at that time, and Greece awaited with open arms – to enlist me into its conscript army. No, thanks, I thought to myself. Even Thatcherism is preferrable. My break came shortly after when, out of the blue, I was invited to take up a lectureship at the University of Sydney. And so the die was cast. From 1988 to 2000 I lived and worked in Sydney, with short stints at the University of Glasgow (and an even shorter one at the Université Catholique de Louvain). In 2000 a combination of nostalgia and abhorrence of the concervative turn of the land down under (under the government of that awful little man, John Howard) led me to return to Greece. Since then I have been teaching political economics at the University of Athens. Besides surviving life in a country that is very tough on those who are not used to working in an institutional setting where everything needs to be created from scratch, I feel a sense of accomplishment from having set up an innovative, progressive, pluralist, international Doctoral Program in Economics, also known as UADPhilEcon. My next pivotal moment, and the last I shall be bothering you with, is the year 2005. For it was in that August that my extremely young daughter, Xenia, was taken away from me, leaving me behind in a state of shock (she has been living since then in Sydney, thus guaranteeing the longevity of my relationship with Sydney). As luck would have it, a few months later, I was saved from near oblivion by Danae Stratou with whom, ever since, we have been sharing life, work and a myriad of projects. An artistic-cum-political project called CUT- 7 dividing lines brought us together. That project evolved into another one called The Globalising Wall. The latest project to come out of this fortunate (for us) union is called www.vitalspace.org. Above all else, we are having fun doing the things that matter (to us). Lastly, the Crash of 2008 and the subsequent metamorphoses of the crisis (in Europe and in the world at large) seem to have energised me no end. The very motivation behind this blog is to help in the dissemination of ideas and suggestions concerning the way we interpret and act upon our mad, sad and highly mysterious post-2008 era.

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