Yanis Varoufakis

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Yanis Varoufakis
Γιάνης Βαρουφάκης
Minister of Finance
Assumed office
27 January 2015
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras
Preceded by Gikas Hardouvelis
Personal details
Born (1961-03-24) 24 March 1961 (age 54)
Athens, Greece
Political party Independent[1]
Syriza parliamentary faction (2015–present)
Alma mater University of Essex
University of Birmingham
Website Official website
Academic career
Field Game theory
Political economy
School or tradition
Post-Keynesian economics
Influences Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, Joan Robinson, Michał Kalecki, John Kenneth Galbraith, Philip Mirowski, Paul Sweezy, Axel Leijonhufvud
Influenced James Galbraith, Stuart Holland, Steve Keen

Yanis Varoufakis (Greek: Γιάνης Βαρουφάκης; born 24 March 1961)[2] is a Greek economist. He is the current finance minister of Greece.[3] In the January 2015 general election, he was elected to the Greek parliament, representing SYRIZA,[4] and took office in the new government of Alexis Tsipras two days later, on 27 January 2015.[5] He is a political economist, professor, and author, and has dual Greek-Australian nationality.

Varoufakis is a participant in the current debates on the global and European crisis, the author of The Global Minotaur and several academic texts on economics and game theory, Professor of Economic Theory at the University of Athens and a private consultant for Valve Corporation.

Early life and family[edit]

Varoufakis was born in Palaio Faliro[6] to an affluent and politically interested family. His father Giorgos Varoufakis had fought on the communist side in the Greek Civil War and spent years imprisoned on the island of Makronisos and in exile. He however eventually turned from United Democratic Left (EDA) to the socialist PASOK,[6] and became chairman of Halyvourgiki, Greece’s biggest steel producer. Varoufakis’s mother abandoned her conservative background[6] and engaged with the PASOK-aligned Women’s Union of Greece promoting gender equality.[7]

Varoufakis says he set-up one of PASOK's first youth-wings. He also became active in support of the Troops Out Movement which campaigns for a British withdrawal from Northern Ireland. He says, Ireland was "very close to our hearts", as he was growing up, with his family singing Irish rebel songs and following the conflict in Northern Ireland. He says he and those he grew up with considered Belfast their "second home".[8]

Attending the private Moraitis School, Varoufakis early decided to spell his first name with one "n", rather than the standard two, for "aesthetic" reasons. When his teacher gave him a low mark for that, he became angry and has continued spelling his first name with one "n" ever since.[9]


Varoufakis on Subversive Festival 2013 in Zagreb.

Varoufakis was inspired to study economics after he met Andreas Papandreou, an academic economist who founded PASOK and became Greece’s first socialist prime minister.[7] After training in mathematics and statistics, he received his PhD in economics in 1987 at the University of Essex. Before that he had already begun teaching economics and econometrics at the University of Essex and the University of East Anglia. In 1988, he spent a year as a Fellow at the University of Cambridge. From 1989 until 2000 he taught as senior lecturer in economics at the Department of Economics of the University of Sydney. In 2000, he accepted the offer of Yannis Stournaras to become Professor of Economic Theory at the University of Athens.[7] In 2002, Varoufakis established The University of Athens Doctoral Program in Economics (UADPhilEcon), which he directed until 2008. From January 2013 he taught at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. In 2013 he was appointed the Athens desk editor of the online magazine WDW Review,[10] in which he contributed until January 2015.

Euro crisis, economic policy and A Modest Proposal[edit]

From January 2004 to December 2006, Varoufakis served as economic adviser to George Papandreou, of whose government he was to become an ardent critic a few years later. The author of several books on game theory, Varoufakis is also a recognised speaker and often appears as guest analyst for news media like the BBC, CNN, Sky News, RT and Bloomberg TV among others. In November 2010, he and Stuart Holland, a former Labour Party MP and economics professor at the University of Coimbra (Portugal), published A Modest Proposal, a set of economic policies aimed at overcoming the euro crisis.[11] In 2013, Version 4.0 of A Modest Proposal appeared with the American economist James K. Galbraith as a third co-author. This version was published in late 2013 in French with a supporting foreword by Michel Rocard, former Prime Minister of France. Since September 2011, Truman Factor features select articles by Varoufakis in English and in Spanish. Varoufakis compares the role of the US economy since the 1970s in relation to the rest of the world with the minotaur.[12]

Political career[edit]

Varoufakis was appointed finance minister by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in the aftermath of the SYRIZA victory in the January 2015 parliamentary election. A self-described 'libertarian Marxist'- "In truth, Karl Marx was responsible for framing my perspective of the world we live in, from my childhood to this day. It is not something that I volunteer to talk about in 'polite society' much these days because the very mention of the M-word switches audiences off." [7] Varoufakis sits with Syriza legislators in parliament but is not a party member.[7]

The Globalizing Wall[edit]

In 2005/6, Varoufakis travelled extensively with artist Danae Stratou along seven dividing lines around the world (in Palestine, Ethiopia-Eritrea, Kosovo, Belfast, Cyprus, Kashmir and the US-Mexico border). Stratou produced the installation CUT: 7 dividing lines, while Varoufakis wrote texts that then became a political-economic account of these divisions, entitled The Globalizing Wall. In 2010 Stratou and Varoufakis founded the project Vital Space.[13]

Valve Corporation[edit]

Beginning in March 2012, Varoufakis became Economist-in-Residence at Valve Corporation. He researched the virtual economy on the Steam digital delivery platform, specifically looking at exchange rates and trade deficits. In June 2012, he began a blog about his research at Valve. In February 2013 his function at Valve was to work on a game for predicting trends in gaming.[14][15][16][17]

Personal life[edit]

Varoufakis is married to installation artist Danae Stratou, who is his second wife. He has a daughter in Sydney from his first marriage to academic Margarite Poulos.[18]

Finance Minister[edit]

Varoufakis became the finance minister of Greece after the election win of Syriza on 25 January 2015 over the reduction and restructuring of Greece's debt and abolition of austerity measures.

The Adam Smith Institute, one of the leading free-market think tanks of the United Kingdom,[19] has "enthusiastically" supported Varoufakis's debt-swap plan and has asked British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne to support it. Varoufakis has proposed debt swap measures, including bonds pegged to economic growth, which would replace the existing bonds of the European bailout programme.[19]

Bloomberg has called Varoufakis a "brilliant economist". American economist and academic James K. Galbraith has described him as "the most intense and deep intellectual figure I've met in my generation", while academic economist and past British Labour Party MP Stuart Holland has said that "Yanis knows far more about the current situation than some of the people he will be negotiating with."[20] Galbraith, referring to Varoufakis's expertise in game theory, has said that he knows as much about this subject "as anyone on the planet," and that "[he] will be thinking more than a few steps ahead" in any interactions with the Troika.[20]

In February 2015, the government needed to negotiate an extension on its loans with the Troika. Eurozone officials warned Varoufakis that talking to journalists of "bankruptcy" could lead to capital flight.[21] On the 20th February a four-month extension on the loans was agreed.[22]

In March, the Wall Street Journal pointed to several tensions between Greece and the other Eurozone countries, saying that some countries feel they have taken the "tough medicine" and the €195 billion owed is not insignificant. Further, they stated other governments have philosophical differences with Varoufakis and his Anglosphere and Keynesian leanings. Peter Ludlow said Varoufakis and his colleagues "turned instinctively... to the U.K. and the U.S. even before they called on the European Left."[23]

On 20th March, Varoufakis wrote that he felt that the Greek state has not been able to service its debts since 2010. Furthermore, taking the "bailout" loan in that year was a mistake, as it transferred private bank losses to the Greek taxpayer. Also, he wrote that the latest agreement "was an excellent opportunity to move forward."[24]

In a discussion with Nobel laureate Stiglitz on invitation of U.S. economic think tank Institute for New Economic Thinking, Varoufakis stated on 9 April that "the Greek state does not have the capacity to develop public assets." Therefore, he announced that his government was "restarting the privatization process." However, unlike the former governments they would insist on establishing public–private partnerships with the state retaining a minority stake to generate state revenues. They would also require a minimum investment on behalf of the bidder, and "decent working conditions" for the workers.[25] Varoufakis also said that although the government needed to avoid a primarily budget deficit, the bailout program's target of a surplus of 4.5 percent of GDP was too high.[26]

Books in English[edit]

  • And The Weak Suffer What They Must?: Europe's Crisis and America's Economic Future. New York: Nation Books, 2016 (ISBN 1568585047)
  • Europe after the Minotaur: Greece and the Future of the Global Economy. London and New York: Zed Books, 2015 (ISBN 9781783606085)
  • Economic Indeterminacy: A personal encounter with the economists' most peculiar nemesis. London and New York: Routledge, 2013 (ISBN 0415668492)
  • The Global Minotaur: America, the True Origins of the Financial Crisis and the Future of the World Economy. London and New York: Zed Books, 2011 (translations in German, Greek, Italian, Spanish, Czech, Finnish and French); second edition 2013
  • Modern Political Economics: Making sense of the post-2008 world. London and New York: Routledge, 2011 (with Joseph Halevi and Nicholas Theocarakis)
  • Game Theory: A critical text. London and New York: Routledge, 2004 (with Shaun P. Hargreaves-Heap; translation in Japanese)
  • (ed.): Game Theory: Critical Perspectives. Volumes 1–5, London and New York: Routledge, 2001
  • Foundations of Economics: A beginner's companion. London and New York: Routledge, 1998 (translation in Mandarin)
  • Game Theory: A critical introduction. London and New York: Routledge, 1995 (with Shaun Hargreaves-Heap)
  • Rational Conflict. Oxford: Blackwell, 1991
  • (ed.): Conflict in Economics. Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf and New York: St Martin's Press, 1990 (with David P. T. Young )

His next book has the working title Reverse Alchemy: Europe on the Road to Disintegration.


Selected interviews/reviews[edit]


  1. ^ "The rise of 'Dr Doom': Yanis Varoufakis' explosive new role". The Sydney Morning Herald. 29 January 2015. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  2. ^ "Curriculum Vitae of Yanis Varoufakis" (PDF). UOA Economics department. 
  3. ^ Philip Innan and Katie Allen (26 January 2015). "The Guardian". Retrieved 27 January 2015. 
  4. ^ Helena Smith (26 January 2015). "The Guardian". Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  5. ^ Prarthito Maity (January 27, 2015), Valve Economist Yanis Varoufakis Appointed Finance Minister of Greece, International Business Times 
  6. ^ a b c Βαρουφάκης στο iefimerida.gr: Είμαι απαισιόδοξος για την πορεία της Ελλάδας. Τα χειρότερα έρχονται. Δυστυχώς.... Efimerida (in Greek). 4 February 2013. Retrieved 13 April 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c d e "Yanis Varoufakis, Greek finance minister". The Financial Times Limited. 6 February 2015. Retrieved 14 February 2015. 
  8. ^ "Meet the new Greek Finance Minister: Our Robbie Smyth spoke to Yanis Varoufakis". An Phoblacht. 27 January 2015. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  9. ^ Christides, Giorgos (13 February 2015). "Profile: Yanis Varoufakis, Greek bailout foe". BBC. 
  10. ^ http://wdwreview.org/
  11. ^ Yanis Varoufakis: Euro Crisis
  12. ^ Russell Shorto: The Way Greeks Live Now. In: The New York Times. 13 February 2012
  13. ^ Vital Space: Mission and Biographies
  14. ^ Yanis Varoufakis (15 February 2013). "Yanis Varoufakis' Twitter". Retrieved 14 July 2013. 
  15. ^ Yanis Varoufakis (14 June 2012). "It All Began With a Strange Email". Valve Corporation. Retrieved 14 June 2012. 
  16. ^ Daniel Nye Griffiths: The Value of Fun: Valve Software Appoints In-House Economist. In: Forbes. 15 June 2012
  17. ^ "Real lessons from virtual worlds". Financial Times. Retrieved 31 January 2015. (subscription required (help)). 
  18. ^ "Profile: Yanis Varoufakis, Greek bailout foe". BBC. 17 February 2015. Retrieved 17 February 2015. 
  19. ^ a b Guy Bentley. Adam Smith Institute calls on Osborne to back Varoufakis's Greek debt-swap plan "Adam Smith Institute calls on Osborne to back Varoufakis's Greek debt-swap plan". City A.M. 
  20. ^ a b Carol Matlack. "Greece's New Finance Minister Is Brilliant. So Why Does He Make Everyone So Nervous?". Bloomberg News. 
  21. ^ "Greek Minister Yanis Varoufakis’s Style Irks His Eurozone Peers". WSJ. Retrieved 21 March 2015. 
  22. ^ "Eurozone chiefs strike deal to extend Greek bailout for four months". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 March 2015. 
  23. ^ "In Greece’s Bailout Talks, Why It’s 18 Eurozone Countries Versus One". WSJ. Retrieved 21 March 2015. 
  24. ^ Varoufakis, Yanis. "Of Greeks and Germans: Re-imagining our shared future". Varoufakis. Retrieved 21 March 2015. 
  25. ^ Yanis Varoufakis and Joseph Stiglitz on YouTube, live stream, 9 April 2015
  26. ^ "Greece to restart privatization program: Varoufakis". Reuters. 9 April 2015. Retrieved 13 April 2015. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Gikas Hardouvelis
Minister of Finance
since 27 January 2015