Greeks - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Kinship, ritual kinship, local connections, and patronage shape Greek social relations. People operate through networks of known and trusted others, extending their relationships outward through these. Status accrues from a combination of honorable behavior, material wealth, and education. Social stratification varies between city and countryside. In rural areas, large landowners, professionals, and merchants are at the top; farmers, small shopkeepers, and skilled workers in the middle; and landless farm workers at the bottom. In cities, bankers, merchants, shipowners, industrialists, wealthy professionals, and bureaucrats compose the upper stratum; executives, civil servants, shopkeepers, office workers, and skilled workers the middle; and unskilled workers the bottom. In both cases, the middle class is the majority, and there is considerable opportunity for upward social mobility.

Political Organization. The modern Greek state, initially established as a monarchy guided by northern European nations, has emerged as a republic with a unicameral legislature headed by a prime minister as head of government and a president as ceremonial head of state. Public officials are elected by universal adult suffrage. For the last two decades, two main political parties have alternated control of the government: the conservative Nea Dimokratia party, and the Socialist PASOK party. The political system is highly centralized, with considerable power residing in national ministries and offices. The nation contains approximately 50 nomoi (Districts), each divided into eparchies (provinces), demoi (municipalities), and koinotites (communities). Local officials, elected on the basis of patronage and personality as well as political party, oversee regional affairs.

Social Control. Struggle and competition among different families is a major theme of Greek life. Familial conflicts emerge over land, flocks, political office, and a variety of local affairs. Insults, ridicule, feuds, and even theft sometimes result. The formal legal system is based on codified Roman civil law, with a network of civil, criminal, and administrative courts. Towns have a corps of city police, while rural regions have a gendarmerie modeled on the French system.

Conflict. Greece has a standing army and universal male conscription. Turkey is perceived as the greatest threat to national security, and the Turkish occupation of Cyprus since 1974 has caused considerable regional tension. Greece's relations with its northern neighbors, stable for some time, have recently become more tenuous as the Eastern bloc dissolves into separate ethnically based nationalities and the Boundaries established after World War I are called into question. On a broader level, Greece's strategic location involves it in various international struggles. A member of NATO since 1952, Greece generally has been aligned with the West.

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