Talk of Greece’s financial crisis has been prevalent in the news lately, as they reach £172bn in debt.
In response, a group of Historians, Classicists, and members of the general public have signed an open letter to the Telegraph, urging readers “to remember the very great cultural debt that we owe to Greece”. Notable signateurs include historian Melvyn Bragg, poet Simon Armitage and novelist Victoria Hislop.
While the letter does not argue specifically for financial recompense, there is a “profound [hope] that the Greek people will receive robust support” from Europe, specifically Britain. PPE applicants should consider the argument for reparations from a philosophical and political perspective – the most discussed and perhaps divisive case in history to begin exploring is the argument for slavery reparations, whereby some descendents of slaves argue for compensation for the deprivation of rights and humanity their ancestors suffered.
This brings up a wider discussion as to whether cultural capital is the same as economic capital. Can Greece’s historical cultural capital be justified to earn them economic capital in the present? While many Economists would argue “no”, HSPS applicants interested in sociology should read Bourdieu’s discussion of different forms of capital, and for Bourdieu, there is frequently a correlation between cultural and economic capital. A parent buying foreign language lessons for their child, for example, means that their economic capital allows them to ‘buy’ cultural capital indirectly, as their child will then be able to get a better job and travel to more countries and so on.
Finally, in light of Bourdieu’s theory that different forms of capital are proportional, Archaeology and Anthropology applicants should think about whether it is fair for countries to acquire cultural heritage through economic exchange – particularly given that Greece, once the pinnacle of cultural capital, now lacks the economic capital to even own its own history.
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