Original Research Reports

Identity Entrepreneurship in Political Commemorations: A Longitudinal Quantitative Content Analysis of Commemorative Speeches by Leaders of Parties in Power and Opposition Before and During the Greek Economic Crisis

Theofilos Gkinopoulos*a


This study analyses quantitatively the content of thirty-nine political speeches made by political leaders of three political parties – New Democracy, Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) and Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) – of different status represented in the Greek parliament. The leaders of these parties release annual commemorative speeches of the restoration of Greek democracy on 24th July 1974. The focus of this study is on longitudinally analysing the content of commemorative speeches, looking at how political leaders communicate the historical event, by quantifying through a content analysis various forms of ingroups and outgroups in their annual commemorations. Such constructions were ventured during a period of 13 years, from 2004 to 2016, before and during the break out of financial crisis in 2010. Longitudinal quantitative content analysis identified differences in the use of we-referencing and they-referencing language, varying per status of parties and context of release of commemorative speeches. I view commemorative speeches as a non-neutral history-related business that requires mobilisation of audiences in different ways and different contexts. Implications of commemorating the historical past across time as institutional identity practice are discussed.

Keywords: commemoration, communication, entrepreneurship, history, identity, leadership, politics

Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 2020, Vol. 8(2), https://doi.org/10.5964/jspp.v8i2.1061

Received: 2018-09-19. Accepted: 2020-02-11. Published (VoR): 2020-09-16.

Handling Editor: Inari Sakki, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland

*Corresponding author at: Faculty of Education, Health and Human Sciences, University of Greenwich, Old Royal Naval College, Park Row, SE10 9LS, United Kingdom. E-mail: T.Gkinopoulos@greenwich.ac.uk

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

In contemporary politics, it is an imperative for political representatives to commemorate milestone historical events. During these commemorations, political leaders act as identity entrepreneurs (Reicher, Haslam, & Hopkins, 2005; Reicher & Hopkins, 2001), with their success relying on their ability to convince audiences that they are ‘one of them’. These debates are revived in the most recent approaches of historical cognition and explanations of history as a non-neutral business (Gkinopoulos, 2017; Stone, Gkinopoulos, & Hirst, 2017) which are subject to the various historical conditions in which such commemorative rituals take place. Therefore, history is best thought of not as an objective collection of facts, but as a narrative selectively employed by different political representatives for different agendas and political goals (Gkinopoulos & Hegarty, 2018; Hodgkin & Radstone, 2003).

Previous studies focusing on processes of crafting a sense of ‘us’ in commemorative practices (e.g. Gkinopoulos, 2017, 2019; Gkinopoulos & Hegarty, 2018) have paid attention to the discursive plurality and dynamic nature of historical accounts to inform social identity formation. In this paper, I advocate the argument of discursive plurality of historical representations, challenging the dominant consideration of commemorations as sources of unification of politicians and the entire nation around a single version of history (e.g. Wertsch, 2002). I use a longitudinal approach that shifts the prevailing social psychological attention from single segments at a particular time (see, for example, Levine, 2003) to a dynamic consideration of unfolded historical narratives in different contexts. I approach ceremonial material as a form of banal commemoration (Vinitzky-Seroussi, 2009), being interested not only in the unified and stable category constructions, but also in how categories are constructed and performed differently in different contexts, namely before and during the breakout of economic crisis in Greece. This question is empirically examined through a quantitative theory-driven content analysis of 39 modern Greek political leaders’ commemorative speeches of the restoration of Greek democracy in 1974. These commemorative speeches, as well as the analytic approach and the theory driven hypotheses comprise part of the author’s doctoral thesis (see Gkinopoulos, 2019).

Identity Entrepreneurship in Political Commemorations: History and Context [TOP]

Political and social life are marked and made meaningful by commemorative rituals and other institutional practices. Group memberships can be constituted through commemorations (Saito, 2010) and commemorations, in turn, help group members and political representatives to orient themselves in space and time, create demarcation points in the continuity of time, plan the future, and situate themselves in the flow (Frijda, 1997). History is elaborated particularly under the identity entrepreneurship of political representatives, who deliver political speeches producing historical charters (Hilton & Liu, 2017), that is representations of history of a group, its causes and consequences that give moral implications for group action.

For leaders to act as identity entrepreneurs, they must be able to represent themselves and their platform in ways that resonate with the shared experience of their would-be-followers (Reicher & Haslam, 2017). Therefore, leaders and followers compose a common group entity in shared identity terms, where leaders must first create this sense of commonality (Steffens et al., 2014). In doing so, leaders, through their speeches, produce historical charters, which constitute the category contents and boundaries – who belongs or does not belong to us (Reicher et al., 2005). The foregoing argument in the framework of leaders’ identity entrepreneurship producing historical charters is that the ability of political leaders to shape a shared reality/identity depends on a political settlement of commonality between themselves and the followers, with leaders portraying themselves as prototypical representatives of ingroup category (Portice & Reicher, 2018). The social identity approach argues that it is through a shared membership in a common group that leadership is made possible (Reicher, Haslam, & Platow, 2018).

I advocate a social psychological approach to identity entrepreneurship that provides primarily an historical inquiry dealing with categories across a long period of time. Such approach is in agreement with the need to regard leaders’ group identities and positions as more fluid than fixed, relying on contextual factors that, in turn, determine group identity understandings and interpretations by group members (Reicher et al., 2018). O’Reilly, Leitch, Harrison, and Lambrou (2015) very aptly emphasise on need not only for pluralistic perspectives on leadership, but also for pluralistic perspectives on social ordering.

Context plays an important role in the dynamic, longitudinal approach to identity entrepreneurship. Steffens and colleagues (2014) point to the need for assessing the role of social context in determining identity entrepreneurship processes. Authors argue that the need for identity entrepreneurship may vary as a reflection of a particular context where such processes take place, for example before or during a milestone, nationally relevant and important event. Such situational context is handled under a ‘tenor’, which refers to the kind of relationships that are enacted by the discourse and shows how linguistic choices are affected not only by the topic of communication but also by the group relations (e.g. between leaders and followers during an economic crisis) within which communication takes place (Song, 2010, p. 877). In defining crisis, I adopt Klann’s (2003) conception of crisis as characterised by a high degree of instability carrying the potential for extremely negative results that can endanger the continuity of a (political) group.

Broadly speaking, a corollary of different contexts and different group relations within it, is that political leaders may also have different answers to the key question that underpins identity entrepreneurship, ‘who we are?’. This is because different political groups will be expected to formulate different relations between each other, leading to different needs for identity entrepreneurship and identity advancement of the political ingroup identity content.

In the next section, I develop six different predictions, as a consequence of the contextualised, dynamic approach to identity entrepreneurship. I show how different contexts lead to different ingroup and out-group formulations by political leaders of different levels of power (mainstream and minority parties), in different contexts (stability and crisis). In line with a social constructionist approach (Leeds-Hurwitz, 2009), I propose that these hypotheses exemplify understandings of the world on the part of political leaders that form the basis for a shared assumption of the political reality. Such meanings are developed in dialogues with others, such as with fellow citizens and politicians.

Identity Entrepreneurship in Political Commemorations: Predictions for Identity Formations [TOP]

The social identity approach to leadership asserts that leadership constitutes a recursive and multidimensional process that enables leaders to demonstrate their capacity to advance, create, and embed a shared sense of social identity for group members (Haslam et al., 2011; Steffens et al., 2014). First, I consider the basic premise of the social identity approach to political leadership, which predicts that political leaders tend to use ambiguous, overarching ingroup forms in their speeches, regrouping themselves and their audiences in a single group (Reicher & Haslam, 2017) as posited by the original definition of identity entrepreneurship (Reicher & Hopkins, 2001). This approach assumes that political leaders and audiences are aligned with a common ingroup sharing common political projects. This approach is also backed up with further studies in Greek political rhetoric, which have taken place in the context of the break out of Greek economic crisis (Gkinopoulos & Hegarty, 2018; Katsambekis, 2016; Spourdalakis, 2014; Stavrakakis, 2014) and have shown that political leaders formulate ambiguous, overarching ingroups where they and their audiences appear as a unique and homogeneous ingroup. All these studies prompt an expectation that in general, in all commemorative speeches, political leaders will craft a sense of ‘who we are’ (as the ingroup) more often in ambiguous, overarching terms than in concrete terms (Hypothesis 1).

Despite the expected dominance of ambiguous ingroup terms in political speeches, recent studies on group constructions by political leaders (e.g. Gkinopoulos & Hegarty, 2018) have shown discursive shifts in group identity constructions as a reflection of rapid changes from legitimacy and stability to illegitimacy and crisis contexts. Further studies on charismatic leadership in crisis contexts (e.g. Bligh et al., 2004; Madsen & Snow, 1991) have also found that in crisis situations leaders deploy name usage of particular political figures and are authorised to act above audiences in terms of a separate entity rather than a shared ingroup with followers. Therefore, it is expected that in general, in all commemorative speeches, political leaders, no matter the status of their political party, will use more concrete ingroup terms in the period during economic crisis, than in the period before economic crisis (Hypothesis 2).

Speaking of crisis situations, it is in such situations when important matters like trust towards mainstream parties come to the foreground. Studies of leadership and trust towards leaders of ruling parties (e.g. Bligh, 2017) have shown that leaders of threatened, but still major and not minor parties, make efforts to appear as distinctive and reliable representatives, and do so through the use of concrete ingroup terms, separating themselves from broader audiences. Dealing with this doubt about their credibility, leaders tend to use concrete ingroup terms and separate themselves from the wider audience of Greek people (see Condor, Tileaga, & Billig, 2013, about the addressee-exclusive ‘we’ that indexes the leaders’ alignment with ‘the party’ instead of ‘the people’). By so doing, they aim to carry out the promise of re-establishing trust towards them. These studies prompt us to expect that political leaders of the parties in power will deploy more concrete ingroups particularly when their trustworthiness is challenged, namely in the context of crisis, than leaders of parties in power before crisis, and leaders of parties in opposition before and during economic crisis (Hypothesis 3).

Going beyond the social identity approach to political leadership, it is known in social influence literature that minor parties act as specific opponents of power, that strive for making their own position distinctive over others (Moscovici, Lage, & Naffrechoux, 1969). Thus, minor political parties should formulate their ingroup identities more in concrete terms than in ambiguous terms. In other words, leaders of parties in opposition are expected to use more concrete ingroup forms aligned with their own political party than ambiguous ingroup forms aligned with the whole nation broadly (Hypothesis 4). Political discourse and rhetoric studies (De Cock, 2011; Maitland & Wilson, 1987; Myers, 1999; Wilson, 1990) lead us to make similar assumptions to minority influence theories, suggesting that political leaders, no matter what the status of their party is, may produce a ‘we’ that addresses political parties directly and concretely, excluding the audience of the people from the shared ingroup identity.

The distinction between ambiguous versus concrete ingroup forms can also be applied to outgroup forms, given that a group identity is defined not only by what a group is, but also what a group is not (Tajfel, 1978). Political discourse and rhetoric studies have shown how outgroups have been described in various ambiguous terms, such as generalised beliefs or practices or even events that are ideologically opposite to ingroup norms (Petersoo, 2007a, 2007b). By using ambiguous terms to refer to outgroups, political leaders can avoid a psychologically dangerous division of the social world into binary oppositions (Lawless, 2014), maintaining both a spirit of cooperativeness and ongoing joint actions, without being seen to adhere to particular ideologies (Ilie, 2003; Kurz, Augoustinos, & Crabb, 2010). Avoidance of conflict by deploying ambiguous outgroup forms does not seem to differ across statuses (power or opposition parties). Therefore, these studies lead to the expectation that ambiguous outgroup forms will be used in all commemorative speeches more than concrete outgroup forms by leaders of any political party in any context (Hypothesis 5).

Shifting to the use of concrete outgroup forms, a key premise of social identity theory centres on the claim that in contexts of crisis, illegitimacy, and insecure relationships between groups, members of the subordinate groups challenge mainstream groups directly, and represent them as concrete outgroups in their attempts to undermine and delegitimize their authority. In doing this, members of subordinate groups obtain a distinctiveness over specific ‘others’ that were previously seen as superiors (Haslam et al., 2011), enhancing their positive group image that is attained by a specific comparison with a specific outgroup on a certain dimension (Hogg & Turner, 1987). Following from this claim, I expect that leaders of parties in opposition will use more concrete outgroup forms in the period of crisis, than leaders of parties in opposition before crisis, leaders of parties in power during the crisis, and leaders of parties in power before the crisis (Hypothesis 6).

Table 1 summarises the hypotheses in terms of the expected ingroup and outgroup forms that are expected by each hypothesis. A methodological framework of analysis will be explained next.

Table 1

Expected Ingroup and Outgroup Forms per Hypotheses

Political party Any context
Stability context
Crisis context
Ingroup Outgroup Ingroup Outgroup Ingroup Outgroup
All political parties Ambiguous (H1) Ambiguous (H5) Concrete (H2)
Political party in power Concrete (H3)
Political party in opposition Concrete (H4) Concrete (H6)

Method [TOP]

Material and Data Collection [TOP]

The dataset of this study consists of 39 official commemorative speeches selected through purposive sampling (Maxwell, 1996) that constitutes a technique for the identification and selection of information-rich cases related to the phenomenon of research interest (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011). Some of these speeches were analysed qualitatively in previous studies (Gkinopoulos, 2017; Gkinopoulos & Hegarty, 2018). I prepared and selected the sample bearing in mind two “vectors” (Deacon, Pickering, Golding, & Murdock, 2007, p. 122), that is breadth and depth: how far backwards or forwards the sampling period should range, as well as the extent to which data of analysis should be sampled across the population of the study. Speeches exemplified unstructured form of data, on the grounds that they were not organised in a pre-defined manner. Furthermore, as non-numerical too, political speeches as the data set of this study were easy to be handled using NVivo. NVivo helped classification and arrangement of information included in political speeches examining relationships in the data, identifying trends and making observations that build a body of evidence, which supports our assumptions.

These speeches start from 2004, the year when Greece hosted the Olympic Games and political rhetoric focused on the revival of democratic values and ideals and the anniversary of the restoration of democracy. Speeches extend up to 2016, covering the period from the break out of crisis and Greece’s entrance to the Memorandum and TROIKA’S strict financial supervision in 2010, up to 2016, with an ongoing economic and political crisis, when data analysis for this project started. These speeches are issued by political leaders of three political parties elected in the Greek parliament: New Democracy (ND) (n = 13), the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) (n = 13), and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) (n = 13). Through these speeches, political leaders commemorate the restoration of Greek democracy on 24th July 1974, after seven years of military dictatorship (1967-1974).

These commemorative speeches are issued every year on the 24th of July, and are published and recorded on the official webpage (http://www.hellenicparliament.gr/en/) and in the library of the Greek parliament. In terms of the specific audience of these commemorative speeches, political leaders deliver their speeches in the Greek parliament. While there is a media coverage of leaders’ delivery of these speeches, copies of commemorative speeches can be obtained only after claimants submit a relevant application and prove their affiliation to an academic or research institution, as well as the purely research purposes for which they need to get copies of original speeches. Although the Press releases parts of these texts, usually it does not reproduce the original version of the commemorative speeches, sometimes limited only to a headline or smaller parts of the entire speech.

Translation [TOP]

Commemorative speeches were issued in the Greek language. The author of this paper together with a professional translator of the Greek branch of the British Council of Athens translated the material from Greek into English. We made an effort to keep the translation as close to the original Greek material as possible, without distorting the meaning that comes from specific grammatical, syntactic or other lexical terms. We followed a staged procedure, which included: (1) reading and comprehension of the political speeches, (2) notation and analysis of the differences between the source text (Greek) and the target one (English).

Coding Scheme [TOP]

A coding scheme was developed based on extant research that studies identity entrepreneurship and identity formation in leadership process and the meaning of ‘we’ and ‘they’ (De Cock, 2011; Duncan, 2011; Haslam et al., 2011). From these studies I selected those categories that appeared most relevant, and for which I could construct substantiated and testable research hypotheses. Among others, I included influential studies such as those of Haslam et al.’s (2011) and Reicher and Haslam’s (2017) on identity entrepreneurship of political leaders, Duncan’s (2011) work on strategic and polemical ambiguity in political rhetoric and the inclusive ‘we’ as politicians and fellow citizens together, and De Cock’s (2011) work on the ‘speaker exclusive we’ to refer specifically to political parties or government, rather than to overarching groups formulated in national terms. Developing coding categories through such a process facilitates comparison with existing studies.

Conducting an inter-coder reliability ensured that reliability statistics control for agreement by chance (Benoit, 2011; McAdams & Zeldow, 1993). I and one independent university lecturer from the University of Surrey acted as coders. Coder was trained and disagreements in coding scheme were resolved by reading/discussing the coding scheme. Coding values were registered on separate coding sheets, providing a lasting record of the codes and aiding data input. Based on the independent coding of two coders, I calculated the inter-coder reliability for all variables in the coding scheme using Cohen’s k coefficient (Landis & Koch, 1977). The final categories included in the coding scheme and an overview of the full coding scheme can be found in the Supplementary Materials.

In the case of ambiguous and concrete group forms, codes were decided on a top-down, a-priori approach. The topic of interest was firstly decided before I started the analysis, based on the identity entrepreneurship conceptualization of ‘who we are’ and ‘who we are not’, and prompted also by political rhetoric studies that have defined various forms of ‘we’ in ambiguous and overarching or specific and concrete terms. An extract that exemplifies a commemorative political speech of the leader of SYRIZA, delivered in 2012, is presented below:

At the same time, the rise of the neo-nazistic extreme right, Golden Dawn, and the continuing fascist attacks to our fellow citizens point out that the fights for Democracy are more timely than ever before. Now, is the time for us as the Coalition of the Radical Left to strengthen our voices, to overthrow the Memorandum policy and the parties that serve this policy, New Democracy and PASOK, to bring democracy back to the spotlight…

I coded any item that responds to the key identity-related questions ‘who we are’ and ‘who we are not’. ‘The Coalition of the Radical Left’ offers an answer to the question ‘who we are’, while the first pronoun ‘our’ does not explicitly refer to a concrete ingroup and remains an ambiguous ingroup form. On the other hand, ‘the neo-nazistic extreme right, Golden Dawn’ and ‘the Memorandum policy and the parties that serve this policy, New Democracy and PASOK’ are ideologically opposed with the norms and values that compose the group identity of SYRIZA, offering an answer to the question ‘who we are not’. Table 2 below illustrates examples of group forms.

Table 2

Group Forms and Examples

Group form Examples from original speeches
Ambiguous ingroups ‘we all together’, ‘we the Greeks’
Concrete ingroups ‘we in New Democracy’, ‘our own debt as SYRIZA’
Ambiguous outgroups ‘interweaving and corruption’, ‘a policy that undermines and diminishes our social achievements’
Concrete outgroups ‘the neo-nazist extreme right Golden Dawn’, ‘the parties that serve the memorandum policy, New Democracy and PASOK’

Political Parties of the Dataset [TOP]

Regarding the three political parties that were included in this study, all are elected and represented in the Greek parliament. For the sake of conceptual clarity, I will distinguish between parties in power (the parties that take the majority of seats in the parliament) and parties in opposition (the parties that take fewer seats in the parliament). Later in the analysis, when the term ‘political elites’ is used for political parties in power, this term is borrowed by Mills (1956) to describe a group as a governmental elite that holds institutional power and an influential position within an organisation such as the parliament.

New Democracy was founded in 1974 by Constantine Karamanlis. It is a liberal conservative political party, which represents and defends civil liberties, capitalism, and conservative positions. In the modern Greek political scene in general, and specifically during the period that the data of this study covers, New Democracy has been one of the largest and most dominant political parties (Urwin, 2014) and the political party in power, excepting the period between 2009-2011 and 2015-2016. Constantine Karamanlis became the first prime minister after the fall of dictatorship in 1974. He led the transition from dictatorship to democracy legalizing the Communist Party and freeing political prisoners such as the officers of the junta regime as gestures of political inclusion and cordial relations between groups of people (Spourdalakis, 2014). For some historians, the very name of the party, New Democracy, reflects the significance of the change of the regime that Constantine Karamanlis, the founder of the party, led (Urwin, 2014).

The Greek political system that emerged after the restoration of Greek democracy in 1974, took mainly the form of a polarized two-party system with New Democracy and the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) monopolizing around 85% of the popular vote in total. PASOK was founded by Andreas Papandreou in 1974, soon after the fall of dictatorship and the restoration of Greek democracy in July 1974. PASOK is a social democratic political party and one of those previously mentioned as a major electoral force almost since its establishment in 1974 until mid-2009 (Mackenzie, 2015). After its electoral defeat in 2004 by New Democracy, PASOK spent a period as a marginal party, restructuring its political agenda and ideological platform. When economic crisis started to affect Greece in 2010, PASOK became the ruling party, after the elections of October 2009, with George Papandreou as Prime Minister. PASOK went from being the largest party with 43.9% of the popular vote in the 2009 elections to being one of the smallest parties, with 4.7% of the popular vote in the January 2015 elections (Stamouli, 2015). In the meantime, its Chair, George Papandreou, in the face of displeasure against his party and the significant decrease of its popularity, resigned in November 2011 leading to a government of National Unity led by a non-parliamentary person, Loukas Papadimos.

On the other hand, SYRIZA was one of the Greek political parties in opposition between 2004 and 2014 and a party in power in 2015-2016. Its acronym comes from the Greek translation as the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYnaspismos RIZospastikis Aristeras). The party was founded in 2004 firstly as a coalition among communist, ecological, and other left-wing parties and movements with Nikos Constantopoulos as the then chairman. SYRIZA comprises an array of social democrats, socialist, environmentalist, and anti-capitalist groups, as well as Marxist-Leninists and Eurosceptics. Former protesters and youth movements against the dictatorship regime (that ended in 1974) played key roles in establishing the political agenda of SYRIZA. The events of 1974 and the fights of youth anchor understanding of the historical origins that make SYRIZA a distinct political party within a polarized two-party political system (Karamanolakis, 2010). Most of the time, SYRIZA commanded a small percentage of the electorate, around 5%, while there was a constant preference toward other, large political parties of New Democracy and PASOK (March, 2008). However, in 2012 it started to become more and more popular.

Despite the fact that other minor political parties comprised the opposition side of the Greek parliament too, some of them ideologically close to SYRIZA, only the latter was included in analysis of the dataset. Among the smallest parties, SYRIZA presents the greatest dynamics for two main reasons (Vernardakis, 2012). Firstly, its radicalism that is reflected in the composition of several minor parties and political movements, enabled SYRIZA to outflank the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) from the left of the political spectrum. Then, SYRIZA became the recipient of socio-political protests by broad strata of society, especially young employees of the private sector. Second, SYRIZA was the party that most succeeded in benefiting from the structural crisis that PASOK underwent especially after the latter’s defeat in the elections of 2007. Therefore, SYRIZA became the recipient party both of social forces that left PASOK and the broader social strata that later fled from bipartisanship and dominance of ND and PASOK in the political scene. Table 3 summarises the status of all three political parties between 2004 and 2016.

Table 3

Political Parties and Their Status According to High or Low Number of Candidates in Elections Over 13 Years

Year Party in power Party in opposition Context
2004 New Democracy PASOK/SYRIZA Stability
2005 New Democracy PASOK/SYRIZA Stability
2006 New Democracy PASOK/SYRIZA Stability
2007 New Democracy PASOK/SYRIZA Stability
2008 New Democracy PASOK/SYRIZA Stability
2009 PASOK New Democracy/SYRIZA Stability
2010 PASOK New Democracy/SYRIZA Crisis
2011 PASOK New Democracy/SYRIZA Crisis
2012 New Democracy PASOK/SYRIZA Crisis
2013 New Democracy PASOK/SYRIZA Crisis
2014 New Democracy PASOK/SYRIZA Crisis
2015 SYRIZA New Democracy/PASOK Crisis
2016 SYRIZA New Democracy/PASOK Crisis

Political speeches varied in their length (i.e. number of words) across parties and years. Table 4 summarises the length of each political speech per party and year.

Table 4

Number of Words per Political Speech, Party, and Year

Context Year New Democracya SYRIZAb PASOKc
Stability 2004 194 265 439
Stability 2005 193 181 318
Stability 2006 239 208 185
Stability 2007 265 110 132
Stability 2008 462 178 223
Stability 2009 115 140 267
Crisis 2010 207 160 591
Crisis 2011 110 112 126
Crisis 2012 184 251 198
Crisis 2013 185 250 196
Crisis 2014 320 562 127
Crisis 2015 260 119 191
Crisis 2016 200 209 130

aM = 225.6, SD = 91.1. bM = 211.1, SD = 118.09. cΜ = 240.2, SD = 138.01.

From this table, we can see that the minimum number of words appears in the speech of the leader of SYRIZA in 2007 (n = 110). The maximum number of words appears in the speech of the leader of PASOK in 2010 (n = 591). Mean score of the length of political speeches of PASOK was greater than the means of New Democracy and SYRIZA, while the mean score of the length of political speeches of SYRIZA was the smallest of the other two parties - New Democracy and PASOK.

Results [TOP]

Inter-Coder Reliability Test [TOP]

The following Table 5 summarises the results of the inter-coder reliability test.

Table 5

Inter-Coder Reliability Test Across Political Parties

Group form New Democracy SYRIZA PASOK
Ambiguous ingroups 81/83 (97.5%) 16/16 (100%) 101/110 (91.8%)
Concrete ingroups 62/63 (98.4%) 93/94 (98.9%) 41/41 (100%)
Ambiguous outgroups 60/62 (96.7%) 70/73 (95.1%) 95/101 (94.1%)
Concrete outgroups 0/0 (100%) 15/15 (100%) 1/1 (100%)
Status 2/2 (100%) 2/2 (100%) 2/2 (100%)
Context 2/2 (100%) 2/2 (100%) 2/2 (100%)

Three measures of reproducibility were calculated. These included: percentage agreement, Cohen’s kappa (κ), and Scott’s pi (π). Scott’s pi makes the assumption that coders have the same distribution of responses, making Cohen’s κ a bit more informative. Scott’s pi scores are interpreted similarly to Cohen’s κ. Frequencies of each group form that were identified by coder A and coder B appear before the percentage agreement. A substantial agreement was found for codes of all three political parties. I found the inter-coder reliability for the New Democracy political speeches to be κ = .69 (p < .001), 95% CI [.54, .91] with π = .99, for the speeches of SYRIZA κ =.78 (p < .001), 95% CI [.29, .75] with π = .98, and for the speeches of PASOK κ = .67 (p < .001), 95% CI [.82, .93] with π = .96.

Effects of Party and Context on Number of Words [TOP]

Before testing each of the research hypotheses, significant differences in the number of words between speeches per political party and context were tested, in order to ensure that any differences between political parties in the use of group forms will not be due to any differences in the number of words of speeches. To this end, two one-way analyses of variance (ANOVAs) were conducted, one for the effect of party and one for the effect of context on the number of words of commemorative speeches.

Testing firstly for the effect of party on number of words, there were not significant differences across parties on the number of words of commemorative political speeches: F(2.38) = 0.20, p = .82, η2p = .01. Tukey pairwise comparisons did not show any significant differences between parties either (see the means and SDs in Table 6 of the Supplementary Materials).

Next, the effect of context on number of words was tested and again no significant differences were found across contexts on the number of words of commemorative political speeches: F(1.38) = 0.02, p = .88, η2p = .06 (see themes and SDs in Table 7 of the Supplementary Materials).

Differences in the Use of Ambiguous and Concrete Group Forms Across Parties and Contexts [TOP]

In this section, results for each of the six hypotheses about the use of ingroups and outgroups by leaders of power and opposition parties before and during economic crisis will be presented.

In Hypothesis 1, it was expected that in all commemorative speeches political leaders will craft a sense of who we are (ingroup) in ambiguous ingroup terms more than in concrete ingroup terms. To test this hypothesis, a Wilcoxon signed-ranks test was used, where ambiguous ingroups were compared with concrete ingroups. On average, ambiguous ingroups (Mdn = 4.00) were used more than concrete ingroup forms (Mdn = 2.00). A Wilcoxon signed-rank test indicated that this difference was not statistically significant, T = 390, z = -0.283 p = .777.

In Hypothesis 2, the context (stability or crisis) variable was involved in the use of concrete ingroup forms. A Mann-Whitney test was conducted to evaluate the hypothesis that in all commemorative speeches political leaders will use more concrete ingroup terms in the context of crisis than in the context of stability. The results were in the expected direction and significant, U(Nstability = 18, Ncrisis = 21) = 84.50, z = -3.008, p = .003. Indeed, concrete ingroup forms had a higher mean rank in the context of crisis (mean rank = 24.98) than in the context of stability (mean rank = 14.19).

Engaging both the status of political parties (power and opposition) and context (stability and crisis) variables, it was expected in Hypothesis 3 that political leaders of parties in power will use more concrete ingroup forms in the context of crisis than leaders of parties in power before crisis, leaders of parties in opposition during crisis, and leaders of parties in opposition before crisis. A Kruskal-Wallis test showed that the status and context combined variable significantly affects the use of concrete ingroup forms, χ2(3) = 11.22, p = .011. Contrary to the hypothesis, a higher mean rank of 26.79 for concrete ingroup forms was found for parties in opposition during crisis, 21.36 for parties in power during crisis, 16.13 for parties in opposition before crisis, and 10.33 for parties in power before crisis. As a post-hoc procedure, a Dunn’s Bonferroni correction was applied using a Bonferroni-adjusted alpha level of .017 (.05/3) and indicated a statistically significant difference between parties in power in stability context and parties in opposition during crisis (p = .003). A further statistically significant difference was found between parties in opposition in stability context and parties in opposition in crisis context (p = .015). Overall, it was leaders of parties in opposition, and not of power parties as expected, that used more concrete ingroup terms in the period of crisis.

For Hypothesis 4, a Mann-Whitney test was used to evaluate the hypothesis that leaders of opposition political parties will use more concrete ingroup forms than ambiguous ingroup forms in all commemorative speeches. Although the results were in the expected direction, they were not significant, U(Npower = 13, Nopposition = 26) = 120.50, z = -1.476, p = .14.

In the next two hypotheses I look at the use of outgroup forms in commemorative speeches. Concrete ingroup forms had a higher mean rank for parties in opposition, of 21.87 than for parties in power, of 16.27. For Hypothesis 5, it was expected that in all commemorative speeches ambiguous outgroup forms will be used more than concrete outgroup forms. To test this hypothesis, a Wilcoxon signed-ranks test was used, where ambiguous outgroups were compared with concrete outgroups. On average, ambiguous outgroups (Mdn = 6.00) were used more than concrete outgroups (Mdn = 1.00). A Wilcoxon signed-rank test indicated that this difference was not statistically significant, T = 7.00, z = -5.279 p < .001.

Despite the dominant presence of ambiguous outgroups across commemorative speeches, in Hypothesis 6 it was expected that leaders of parties in opposition will use more concrete outgroup forms during the period of crisis than leaders of parties in opposition before crisis, leaders of parties in power during the crisis, and leaders of parties in power before crisis. A Kruskal-Wallis test showed that the status and context combined variable significantly – marginally though - affects the use of concrete outgroup forms, χ2(3) = 7.56, p = .06. Regarding the direction for Hypothesis 6, a higher mean score of 24.14 was found for parties in opposition during crisis, a mean rank of 18.4 for parties in opposition before crisis, and the same mean score of 17.0 for parties in power both before and during crisis. As a post-hoc procedure, a Dunn’s Bonferroni correction was applied using a Bonferroni-adjusted alpha level of .017 (.05/3) and indicated a statistically significant difference between parties in opposition during crisis and parties in opposition before crisis (p = .013), between parties in opposition during crisis and parties in power before crisis (p = .001) and between parties in opposition during crisis and parties in power during crisis (p = .001), showing a trend that leaders of parties in opposition in crisis tend to use more concrete outgroup forms.

Discussion [TOP]

The primary aim of this paper was to show various ways in which political leaders of political parties in power and opposition represent their group identity – ‘who we/they are’ as part of the identity entrepreneurship process.

With this study, I attempted to approach commemorations as a form of political discourse that produces historical charters (Hilton & Liu, 2017), exemplifying a variety of self-enhancing categorisations produced by politicians to legitimate different social and political settlements according to their group interests in times of stability and times of crisis. Additionally, Ι aimed to consider the dynamic nature of identity entrepreneurship through a longitudinal content analytic approach analysing commemorative speeches that have been produced across a 13-year period. In doing this, I responded to criticisms (see, for example, Gkinopoulos, 2017; Hom & Solomon, 2016; Levine, 2003; Lowe, 2012) that social identity processes neglect the dynamic long-term process of how groups unfold historical narratives by focusing only on single segments and episodes at a specific point in time. Here, I adopt a meaning of timing in terms of synthesising pertinent changes in group representations for practical and mainly political effects from 2004 to 2016, determining key questions of ‘who we are/are not’ for leaders as identity entrepreneurs. Identity entrepreneurship is, in turn, contextualised and considered before and during a chosen timing standard, i.e. the break out of economic crisis in Greece in 2010. Economic crisis in Greece challenged foundations of the democratic polity and trust towards the political system in general.

This study showed how constructions of ingroups and outgroups shift from ambiguous and overarching to specific and concrete forms as a function of legitimising political group identities (Bligh, 2017; Bligh et al., 2004; Gkinopoulos & Hegarty, 2018) and challenging authority of specific political opponents. Concrete outgroup forms appeared more often in the period of crisis, reflecting this challenge of authority of political opponents by political parties in opposition (Haslam et al., 2011). Likewise, a use of concrete ingroup forms again in period of crisis was found, shifting from ambiguous ingroup forms in stability period especially by parties in power. It seems that crisis triggered concrete definitions of political group identities depicting the agents principally responsible for exiting Greece from the crisis and austerity tunnel. The lack of significant differences in the use of ambiguous ingroup terms over concrete ingroup terms calls for revisiting the key premise of identity entrepreneurship that lies on the unique use of ambiguous, overarching ingroup forms that unify leaders and citizens in a common shared ingroup (see, for example, Reicher & Haslam, 2017). This finding opens up the discussion for alternative manners of identity entrepreneurship enactment, with the effect of further variables like the context and the status of political parties.

The key point of the current findings lies in the fact that ambiguity versus concreteness has not been a social category characteristic that previous theorisation and research on identity entrepreneurship has focused upon. Rather, the focus of most of the literature to date has been on how boundaries of ambiguity versus concretion are constructed, and thereby how identity projects are successfully mobilised on the basis of who is included in the overarching common ingroup and who is not. The findings from this analysis, therefore, complement the current theorisation of identity entrepreneurship by focusing on the contents of ambiguity versus concreteness of social categories constructed by identity entrepreneurs. Furthermore, how such constructions interact with context and political party status, show that ingroups are not necessarily formulated as overarching and common-inclusive.

The decreased popularity of power elites during the period of crisis and reactions on the part of parties in opposition (Davou & Demertzis, 2013) led to consideration of the status of political parties. Indeed, the finding that leaders of parties in power make use of concrete ingroup terms in the period of crisis more than in the period before crisis and also more than leaders of parties in opposition during and before crisis, comes to echo the high identity stake of ruling parties to restore the broken trust against them. Trust towards ruling parties has been widely questioned in the era of crisis in Greece (Sakellaropoulos, 2019). Therefore, it becomes crucial for leaders to clearly define the group who is vulnerable (i.e. the people) and the party (i.e. the ruling party as the target of people’s displeasure) whose role is to take actions to restore the lost trust (Bligh, 2017). It is critical for the relationship between leaders and followers to have different roles and different levels of status/power which, in turn, inhibits the formulation of ambiguous, common shared ingroups where leaders and followers compose a unique ingroup. In a period of a crisis, when several measures were also officially considered as anti-constitutional (Katsanidou & Otjes, 2016) and under a noticeable rise of the neo-nazi party Golden Dawn, leaders of opposition parties also made use of concrete outgroups (e.g. New Democracy, PASOK, Golden Dawn) in an effort to challenge their dominance and authority, and delegitimise their political agenda.

Conclusions and Limitations [TOP]

A broader question raised is why studying social identity/categorisation through commemorations matters. Commemorations are indeed an important aspect of political activity with a direct impact on peacebuilding and political settlements in societies like Greece, affected by a multifaceted crisis. Whether in a peace period or in a period of political unsettlement, commemoration serves as an internal communal means of maintaining national constituencies (Albrecht & Βassel, 2016). The importance of commemoration for societies lies on looking at its prevalence and significance in creating useful historical narratives, which underwrite collective identities (Papadakis, 2003). Political commemorations can pursue claims of legitimacy during extended periods of crisis, achieving political bonding and partisan identification (Lebel, 2013; Papadakis, 2003). With this study, I attempted to respond to the call for the need for analytically considering this controversy in commemorations (De Regt, 2018), despite the fact that this controversy seems to limit the power of the anniversary day to uniformly facilitate ingroup categories of unity and uniqueness of historical representations (De Regt, Jaspers, & van der Lippe, 2017).

Changes in socio-political context and in electoral support of political parties seem to lead to different forms of commemoration and communication of the historical anniversary of 24th July 1974, reflected in different constructions of identity categories. To this end, one avenue of future research could concentrate on the mnemonic struggles between political forces over the meanings of democracy, the historical anniversary, or Greece more generally. Comparing the content of official discourses with the framings advanced by other types of political forces, for example recreational groups (Steffens et al., 2014), could also offer a more representative and politically diverse sample. In addition to this, policymaking implications of commemorations should also be taken into account (Bellino & Williams, 2017), mapping out policy implications of commemorations of democracy. Preliminary evidence is embedded here in commemorations indicating a variety of self-enhancing categorisations – different forms of ‘who we/they are’ – as legitimizing strategies in politicians’ struggles to cope with the impact of the Greek financial downturn and its effect on democratic norms, facilitating the work for securing a smooth democratic polity.

It should be noted that this study was limited to political parties elected in the Greek parliament, using commemorative speeches of a relatively short length. Despite the short length, the coding process was long and iterative, because of the inherent ambiguities of the Greek language and the translation procedure. Such ambiguities may question the validity of codes. Therefore, a very careful and thorough reliability analysis is needed to ensure the highest coders’ agreement possible. In overcoming these barriers, an inter-coder reliability test was conducted, calculating two reliability values, Cohen’s kappa and Scott’s pi.

Considering commemorations as institutional practices subject to changes and discontinuities too, we can illustrate the ways that such institutional practices evolve and shift in subtle ways – beyond rapid breakdowns – across time. These sorts of transformations often register as changes if we only take into analytic consideration a somewhat longer time frame and a longitudinal approach to analyse identity constructions in political speeches. Using such a longitudinal approach, I hope that this study offers a fertile ground for further discussion and empirical studies that will treat identity constructions as dynamic systems evolved across time and not as static traits captured on single segments.

Funding [TOP]

The author has no funding to report.

Competing Interests [TOP]

The author has declared that no competing interests exist.

Acknowledgments [TOP]

The author has no support to report.

Data Availability [TOP]

For this study, a dataset is freely available (see Gkinopoulos, 2020).

Supplementary Materials [TOP]

The data used for this article, as well as additional materials, are available at the Open Science Framework (OSF) (for unrestricted access see Index of Supplementary Materials below). The OSF also contains all appendices for this article, which include

  • Coding Scheme

  • Table 6. Means and Standard Deviations of the Number of Words per Party

  • Table 7. Means and Standard Deviations of the Number of Words per Context

Index of Supplementary Materials

  • Gkinopoulos, T. (2020). Supplementary materials to "Identity entrepreneurship in political commemorations: A longitudinal quantitative content analysis of commemorative speeches by leaders of parties in power and opposition before and during the Greek economic crisis" [Replication data, materials]. OSF. https://osf.io/75gu4/

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