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Thomas Sanchez
Thomas Sanchez

Yanis Varoufakis's Adults In The Room: A Personal Account of Democracy Versus Technocracy in Europe

[PDF] Adults In The Room: My Battle With Europe

If you are interested in learning more about the recent history of Europe, especially the Greek debt crisis and its implications for the future of the European Union, you might want to read Adults In The Room: My Battle With Europe by Yanis Varoufakis. This book is a memoir and a critique of the European establishment, written by a former Greek finance minister who witnessed and participated in some of the most dramatic events of the past decade. In this article, we will provide a summary and an analysis of the book, as well as some reasons why you should read it.

[PDF] Adults In The Room: My Battle With Europe

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What is the book about?

Adults In The Room is a personal account of Yanis Varoufakis's experience as Greece's finance minister in 2015, during the height of the Greek debt crisis. The book narrates his attempts to negotiate a fair and sustainable deal for Greece with its creditors, namely the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (collectively known as the Troika). It also exposes the behind-the-scenes machinations and power games of the European elite, who Varoufakis accuses of being more interested in preserving their own interests and ideology than in solving the crisis. The book reveals how Varoufakis faced fierce opposition and hostility from his counterparts, especially from Germany's finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who wanted to impose harsh austerity measures on Greece and force it to leave the eurozone. It also describes how Varoufakis tried to mobilize support from other European leaders, such as France's president François Hollande and Italy's prime minister Matteo Renzi, as well as from outside actors, such as US president Barack Obama and China's president Xi Jinping. The book culminates with Varoufakis's resignation in July 2015, after Greece's prime minister Alexis Tsipras accepted a humiliating bailout deal that went against the will of the Greek people, who had voted overwhelmingly to reject it in a referendum.

Who is the author?

Yanis Varoufakis is a Greek economist, academic, and politician. He is a professor of economics at the University of Athens and a visiting professor at several other universities around the world. He is also a prominent public intellectual and activist, who has written several books and articles on economics, politics, and philosophy. He is known for his outspoken and unconventional views on various issues, such as capitalism, democracy, globalization, and Europe. He is a founding member of DiEM25, a pan-European movement that aims to democratize and reform the European Union. He was elected as Greece's finance minister in January 2015, as part of the Syriza party that won a landslide victory on an anti-austerity platform. He resigned six months later, after clashing with his European counterparts and his own government over how to handle the debt crisis. He remains a vocal critic of the European establishment and a supporter of the Greek people's struggle for dignity and sovereignty.

Why is the book important?

The book is important for several reasons. First, it offers a rare and candid insight into the inner workings of the European Union, which is often seen as a complex and opaque institution. It reveals how decisions are made, how power is distributed, and how interests are aligned or conflicted among the various actors involved. It also exposes the flaws and failures of the European project, which has been unable to cope with the multiple crises that have plagued it in recent years, such as the debt crisis, the refugee crisis, the Brexit crisis, and the Covid-19 crisis. Second, it provides a compelling and personal story of a man who tried to challenge the status quo and change the course of history, but who faced enormous obstacles and resistance from his adversaries and his allies alike. It shows how Varoufakis fought for his principles and his vision, but also how he made mistakes and miscalculations along the way. It also shows how he dealt with the pressure and the stress of being in the eye of the storm, as well as with the personal and professional consequences of his actions. Third, it raises important questions and issues that are relevant not only for Greece and Europe, but also for the world at large. It asks what kind of Europe do we want and need, and what kind of democracy do we have and deserve. It also asks what role can and should citizens play in shaping their own destiny, and what responsibility do leaders have towards their people and their planet.

Summary of the book

Part One: The Spring of Hope

Chapter 1: A Fresh Start

The book begins with Varoufakis's appointment as finance minister in January 2015, after Syriza's historic victory in the general election. He describes his first meeting with Tsipras, who asks him to join his cabinet and gives him full authority to negotiate with the Troika. He also describes his first encounter with Schäuble, who greets him with a cold and menacing remark: "I'm not discussing the program this was accepted by the previous government and we can't possibly allow an election to change anything." Varoufakis realizes that he is facing a formidable opponent who will not budge from his hardline position.

Chapter 2: The Troika Returns

The second chapter recounts Varoufakis's first meeting with the Troika's representatives in Athens, who demand that Greece implements more austerity measures and reforms in exchange for more loans. Varoufakis rejects their ultimatum, arguing that Greece needs debt relief and growth-oriented policies instead. He also challenges their legitimacy and authority, accusing them of violating the Greek constitution and democracy. He proposes a new framework for dialogue and cooperation, based on mutual trust and respect. He also reveals his secret plan to create a parallel payment system that would allow Greece to issue its own digital currency in case of a euro exit.

Chapter 3: The Eurogroup

The third chapter narrates Varoufakis's first appearance at the Eurogroup, which is the informal gathering of the finance ministers of the eurozone countries. He expects to find some allies and sympathy among his colleagues, but he soon discovers that they are all hostile or indifferent to his proposals. He faces fierce criticism and pressure from Schäuble, who tries to isolate him and force him to accept the Troika's terms. He also faces disappointment and betrayal from some of his supposed friends, such as France's Michel Sapin and Italy's Pier Carlo Padoan, who fail to support him or even acknowledge him. He realizes that he is alone and outnumbered in a rigged game.

Part Two: The Summer of Despair

Chapter 4: The Greek Spring Turns to Summer

Chapter 5: The Referendum

The fifth chapter recounts the dramatic events that led to the referendum on July 5th, 2015. Varoufakis explains how the negotiations reached a dead end, as the Troika refused to budge from its demands and Greece ran out of money and time. He also explains how the ECB escalated the pressure on Greece by restricting its access to liquidity, effectively imposing a bank run and a capital control on the country. He describes how Tsipras decided to call a referendum on whether to accept or reject the Troika's latest offer, which Varoufakis supported as a way to empower the Greek people and strengthen their bargaining position. He also describes how he campaigned for a "No" vote, despite the overwhelming propaganda and intimidation from the European establishment and the Greek media. He recalls the euphoria and the pride he felt when the Greek people delivered a resounding "No" with 61.3% of the vote, defying all odds and expectations.

Chapter 6: The Coup

The sixth chapter narrates the shocking and tragic aftermath of the referendum, which Varoufakis calls "the coup". He reveals how Tsipras betrayed the mandate of the Greek people and surrendered to the Troika's demands, accepting an even worse deal than the one he had rejected. He also reveals how he was forced to resign as finance minister, after Tsipras asked him to leave in order to appease Schäuble and his allies. He exposes how the Troika orchestrated a coup d'état against Greece's democracy and sovereignty, using financial blackmail and political coercion to impose its will. He also exposes how Tsipras and his inner circle capitulated and collaborated with the Troika, betraying their party, their country, and their ideals.

Part Three: The Autumn of Decision

Chapter 7: Resignation and Beyond

The seventh chapter describes Varoufakis's life after his resignation as finance minister. He recounts how he continued to speak out against the Troika's policies and Tsipras's betrayal, both in Greece and abroad. He also recounts how he faced various attacks and threats from his enemies and former friends, who tried to discredit him and silence him. He describes how he coped with the personal and professional challenges and consequences of his actions, such as his relationship with his wife and daughter, his academic career, and his public image. He also describes how he remained committed to his principles and his vision, and how he launched new initiatives and projects to promote his ideas and goals.

Chapter 8: Europe After the Coup

The eighth and final chapter reflects on the state of Europe after the Greek debt crisis and its implications for the future of the European Union. Varoufakis argues that the crisis revealed the deep flaws and failures of the European project, which has been hijacked by a narrow elite that serves its own interests and ideology at the expense of the people and the planet. He warns that Europe is facing an existential crisis that threatens its unity, democracy, and prosperity, as well as its role in the world. He criticizes the rise of nationalism, populism, and authoritarianism that have emerged in response to the crisis, but also as a result of it. He calls for a radical transformation and democratization of Europe, based on a new social contract that respects human dignity, social justice, ecological sustainability, and international solidarity. He proposes a series of reforms and policies that would create a more democratic, transparent, accountable, and inclusive Europe that works for all its citizens.

Analysis of the book

The main themes of the book

The book explores several themes that are relevant for understanding the Greek debt crisis in particular, and the European crisis in general. Some of these themes are:

  • Democracy versus technocracy: The book contrasts two different models of governance: one based on democratic participation and deliberation, and one based on technocratic expertise and imposition. Varoufakis advocates for the former, while denouncing the latter as illegitimate and ineffective.

  • Debt versus sovereignty: The book examines how debt can be used as a tool of domination and subjugation, depriving countries of their sovereignty and autonomy. Varoufakis argues that debt should be seen as a political and moral issue, not just an economic one.

  • Austerity versus growth: The book challenges the dominant narrative and logic of austerity, which claims that cutting public spending and raising taxes is the only way to reduce debt and restore confidence. Varoufakis argues that austerity is self-defeating and destructive, and that growth-oriented policies are needed to boost the economy and create jobs.

  • Solidarity versus division: The book exposes how the crisis has created and exploited divisions and conflicts among the European countries and peoples, especially between the north and the south, the creditors and the debtors, the core and the periphery. Varoufakis calls for solidarity and cooperation among the European nations and citizens, based on mutual respect and understanding.

The strengths and weaknesses of the book

The book has several strengths and weaknesses that should be considered when evaluating it. Some of these are: