International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

The Rise and Fall of Mayoral Power in Greece, 1833–1936
Marianthi Kotea

When Greece belatedly crossed the threshold into the modern world, the evolution of society and state and the relationship between the two differed greatly to the same process in other European countries. More specifically, while the powerful monarchies of Western (England- France- Spain), Central (Austria- Prussia), and Eastern Europe (Russia) flourished during the Early Modern Period, there was no Greek State to express the rise of the new economy and its society. Instead there was a Greek nation under Turkish domination. The eighteenth century saw the formation of an intellectual movement, the Neohellenic Enlightenment (influenced strongly by the French Enlightenment), which prepared the nation for the War of Independence (1821-1830). The struggle of the Greek nation against the Ottoman Empire together with the intervention of the three great powers of England, France and Russia resulted in the creation of the Modern Greek State. In other words, in the case of Greece, the creation of the modern State preceded the formation of the capitalist economy. Consequently it was the newly established Greek State that took the initiative in transforming the economy and society. In a way the State played the role which the weak, fragmented Greek bourgeoisie1 was unable to play by itself until almost the end of the 19th century. Within this context the Greek State endeavored to modernize the traditional society of the 19th century “from above” by utilizing the institution of local government. For this reason a new system of local government, founded on the vision of an already unified and urbanized country, was introduced in 1833, and divided Greek territory into an equal number of large municipalities and local authorities. The municipal authorities were, on the one hand, to play an administrative and political role and, on the other hand, a social one. Unfortunately, financial difficulties, mentality inertia and population density did not allow them to play an active social role, i.e. to exercise their rights and simultaneously fulfill their obligation to provide facilities and welfare services for their citizens. On the contrary, it was their political role that took on significance in local society as well as on the central political scene until early into the 20th century. In 1912 a program of reforms reduced to some degree the power a mayor had, but it did not succeed in finding a solution to the financial difficulties the municipalities were experiencing. Therefore until the outbreak of the Second World War, only the big cities, dependent on income from excise duties, could afford to provide their residents with facilities and leisure and welfare services. During the post war period, when other European countries sought to nationalize the provision of services, the Greek State had already removed a large part of the social role from local government and taken full responsibility in order to provide adequate, uniform services.

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