Processes of Change and Inequality in Contemporary Societies

« Return


It is intended that students develop two core competencies. Acquisition of theoretical knowledge to enable them to criticize and understand changes and social inequalities in general. Development of a greater understanding of the processes that are transforming the Portuguese society.

In concrete terms, and in relation to the theoretical knowledge, we demand that students learn to identify the major controversies and the theories that shape it. The question of social change will be approached from two elements particularly representative of this type of processes: for its growing importance the social identity and, in the opposite direction, the question of social classes.

Regarding the Portuguese society we will discuss the seminal texts that have come to mark the research and the discourse about its evolution, performing the bridge with the theoretical analyzes adapting them to the national reality and, more specifically, to the islands framework.


A - Forms of social stratification

1. Classes, orders, castes and slavery

2. Classical theories of social classes

a) Karl Marx

b) Max Weber

c) Richard Hoggart

B - Processes of rebuilding social ties

1. The sliding of the identity construction process to the center of modernity

2. The new social question, between employment and social ties

3. Social classes and their (alleged) end versus the emergence of new (old) inequalities

C - The extreme forms of inequality

1. Definitions of poverty

2. Poverty and social change in contemporary society

D - From theory to practice, social change in Portuguese society

1 - Portugal: from the singular portrait to the unfinished modernity

2 - The Azores: possible reflections

Teaching Methodologies

Teaching is done in three ways, oral presentations by the teacher, discussion of the topics presented with the students and presentation of papers by students and respective discussion.


Aron, Raymond (1999), As etapas do pensamento sociológico, Lisboa, Dom Quixote.

Bajoit, Guy (2003), Le changement social : approche sociologique des sociétés occidentales contemporaines, Paris, A. Colin.

Dubet, François e Martuccelli, Danilo (1998), Dans quelle société vivons-nous?, Paris, Seuil.

Estanque, Elíseo e Mendes, José Manuel (1997), Classes e desigualdades sociais em Portugal, Porto, Afrontamento.

Fitoussi, Jean-Paul e Rosanvallon, Pierre (1997), A nova era das desigualdades, Oeiras, Celta.

Gaulejac, Vicent e Léonetti, Isabel Taboada (1994), La lutte des places, Paris/Marselha, Hommes et Perspectives e Desclée de Brouwer.

Giddens, Anthony (2000), Capitalismo e moderna teoria social, Lisboa, Presença.

Silva, Manuel Carlos (2009), Classes sociais: condição objectiva, identidade e acção colectiva, Ribeirão, Húmus.

Viegas, José Manuel Leite e Costa, António Firmino da (org.’s) (1998), Portugal, que Modernidade?, Lisboa, Celta.



ECTS Credits



  • Orientação Tutorial - 10 hours
  • Teóricas - 15 hours
  • Teórico-Práticas - 15 hours

Evaluation Methodology

  • Individually written paper on one of the four points of the program: 75%
  • Oral presentation of the paper in class: 25%