Why is Athens burning?

all governments since the 1970s have stood by while an anarchist subculture grew, complete with its exclusive urban enclave […]

In regular intervals and on a variety of occasions… anarchists engage in violent demonstrations and widespread destruction. These are led by a hard core of 500 to 1,000 individuals which has grown in strength since the late 1990s and fantasizes that it is enacting some sort of 19th century social revolution against the bourgeois. Depending on the popularity of the issue they are joined, by hundreds or thousands of others of lesser commitment and varying motivations, from ideology to simple looting, who are nevertheless socialized into this culture.

Undergirding these actions is a more or less complete absence of sanctions – few people get arrested and almost no one gets sentenced. Participation in these riots is seen as a fun and low-risk activity, almost a rite of passage.

That is my colleague, Stathis Kalyvas, writing in the IHT. Greece is now entering its eighth day of riots. In essence, Stathis argues that social norms govern acceptable behavior, and a perverse set has been allowed to settle upon Greece. It’s an appealing theory, but one that has not been popular back home (judging, he says, by the angry hate mail).

Readers: alternative theories?