Thinking Left Governmentality: The SYRIZA Experience 2015-2019

Left theory for the 21st century Volume I

The first analysis by Greek and international left intellectuals to place Syriza’s experience in government being confronted with the Troika in the context of the contemporary theoretical debate.


On 20 January 2015 Syriza was victorious in the Greek elections. On that day, thousands of people converged on the square outside the Senate House of the Athens University at the centre of the city. History was being written. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the left had suffered defeats and disappointments all over Europe and the world. The anti-globalisation movement at the turn of the century rekindled a sense of optimism; the financial collapse in 2008 had indicated that neoliberalism was not invincible.

Fast forward to 2021. After four difficult years, Syriza lost the July 2019 elections and entered a long period of introspection. It handed over a country that was in much better shape than the one it received in 2015.

Did Syriza betray its radical left ideology in retreating and accepting the third memorandum of the Troika? Did it govern as a left reforming party or did it surrender to the sirens of power? These questions have been discussed since the defeat of 2019 in the sickly environment of the pandemic, the restrictive conditions of the state of exception and the revanchist and neo-conservative direction of the New Democracy government.

This is the context in which the Institute Nicos Poulantzas received a grant from transform! europe to launch a research programme on ‘left theory in the 21st century and the Syriza experience’. The first task of the two conferences on which this volume is based was to develop the debate about Syriza’s government in a theoretical direction. This volume is not a formal account of the Left’s successes and failures. But it is the first attempt by Greek and foreigner left intellectuals to place this experience in the context of the contemporary theoretical debate.

More generally, what lessons can the Greek and European Left learn from the Syriza experience? Equally important, how does left theory of classical and more recent pedigree help in this process? Was the party leadership prepared for the tasks ahead? Did left theory and philosophy inform the programme, strategy and policies of the government? This is the second task of the conferences and the collected essays. Not a formal account, as we have said, but a collection of the examined experience of politicians and the reflection of academics on that crucial period in the history of Greece and the Left.

Please find the eDossier on the left/below (mobile version) in ‘Documents’ (English, PDF).

Table of contents


Leo Panitch (1945 -2020) In memoriam, by Sam Gindin


Notes towards the theory and strategy of the New Left, by Costas Douzinas

Syriza in Power: Precepts of Governing and the Greek State, by Aristides Baltas

Mapping new Theoretical Agendas and Ideas: The Crisis of Transformative Politics and Challenges for the Left: Theory and Praxis, by Michalis Spourdalakis

The new thesis eleven, by Boaventura de Sousa Santos

European paradoxes of humanness and non-Eurocentric approaches: Refugees as “alien invaders”, by Michalis Bartsidis


Preliminary thoughts on a left strategy for economic development in the 21st century: some policy suggestions for SYRIZA – Progressive Alliance, by Lois Labrianidis

Syriza and the social issue, by Effie Achtsioglou

Mass unemployment and poverty, and welfare state reform: the governmental experience of SYRIZA, by Maria Karamessini

Macroeconomics, Structural Change and the Left, by Euclid Tsakalotos

Questioning the SYRIZA approach of economic restructuring and development, by Petros Linardos Rylmon

State Theory, SYRIZA, and the Antinomies of Left Politics in Liberal Societies, by Peter Bratsis

Negotiating the quartet: Syriza’s policy responses in public administration, by Elias Georgantas & Christoforos Vernardakis

Left Strategies for (re)constituting democracy: Experiences from Greece, by Danai Koltsida

Technological revolutions, development, work, and social rights: pensions and full employment, by Yeoryios Stamboulis