This post was contributed by Rohit Chandan, student in this summer's SOC 3013, Social Stratification.
The July 2015 referendum rejection of bailout conditions set by the European Commission and major lenders should be placed into the larger context of recent developments in Greek politics. The 2014 election led to a populist victory that surprised many observers (see this Guardian article). The leftist party, Syriza, won, which made Alexis Tsipras the new Prime Minister. Greece in the past few years has been experiencing severe economic problems which led to some rather severe austerity measures, as well as the inability to pay its debt to international creditors and countries. Generally, when a nation is facing massive debt, the typical response is that the government will raise taxes and reduce public spending, but many people in Greece are against this formula. A slash in public spending usually hits the elderly, working class, and the young most directly. Pensions are reduced, college tuition skyrockets, and small businesses often fold, while the rich and powerful are rarely affected. Therefore, Syriza's election victory signifies that the Greek masses are no longer willing to accept corruption and austerity as normal states of affairs. The leftist political party has promised to reject existing austerity measures, and instead promote greater unionization, higher wages, and the expansion of government services. Syriza's success clearly has diminished the power of traditional elites, and signifies the ascendance of the popular will in national politics.