Newsmakers | Greece

Following political party Syriza’s triumph in the recent Greek elections, Finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, an academic with a background in game theory (the study of strategic decision-making), faces the most critical match of his career. As a vigorous political activist, Varoufakis published an unrelenting stream of criticism against the 2010 Greek bailout by the so-called Troika (the EU, the IMF and the European Central Bank). But now he finds himself trying to renegotiate the terms of the bailout agreement with the very architects of Greek austerity.

How has this self-styled “erratic Marxist” scored in his first negotiations? He may be losing ground by taking such a strident public offensive with provocative announcements. Nicholas Economides, economics professor at the Stern School of Business, New York University, voices concern about Varoufakis’s strategy. “It’s disturbing he managed to shorten the negotiating period from four to two weeks, when all he needed was a more reasonable position.” Varoufakis has antagonized Germany, a key party to the negotiations, by attacking its Nazi past. He may be courting local approval at home, but substance must prevail over showmanship in the final agreement with all the European countries.

Since completing his PhD at the University of Essex in 1987, Varoufakis has worked as a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney and as a professor of economic theory at the University of Athens. Since 2013 he has been teaching at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. He has published several books, including a 1995 introduction to game theory. His recent book, The Global Minotaur, discusses the financial crisis and future world economy.