Aled Gruffydd Jones interviews Syriza's Minister of Culture Aristide Baltas, who reveals how Greek citizens are reclaiming their ancient heritage in the name of radical democracy and internationalism, and offers inspiration for how other nations could expand cultural provision in the face of severe austerity.
As I was leaving a crowded Syrian refugee camp in Piraeus one morning this Spring, one of the volunteers asked me where I was going next. I replied that I was heading back into Athens to interview the Greek Minister of Culture. He smiled and said ‘So, you’re going to meet our Plato in Government’. That is very much how Professor Aristide Baltas is regarded across the mainstream political spectrum in Greece. He is a distinguished physicist, philosopher of science, scholar of Wittgenstein, President of the Nicos Poulantzas Institute and a founding member of Syriza, the coalition of the anti-austerity Left that, since January 2015, has governed a debt-burdened Greece. His record in Government, both in his present post and in his previous role as Minister of Education, has been marked by controversy and criticism as he confronts entrenched interests and assumptions, from his critiques of the over-testing of schoolchildren to his appointment of Jan Febre, a Belgian, as Director of the Festival of Athens.Sign in to read more
Aled Gruffydd Jones was Sir John Williams Professor of Welsh History, Aberystwyth University, 1994-2013, and National Librarian of Wales 2013-15. He is now writing a study of the politics of culture in Europe's age of austerity, and is Co-Director of 'The Periodical Press in Greece 1900-1981' research project at the Research Centre for Modern Greece, and Visiting Professor at the Department of Political Science and History, Panteion University of Political and Social Sciences, Athens.