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Social Structure and Social Change

Universidad Carlos III de Madrid


Social Structure and Social Change (14068-86)  (in English) Click here for a detailed course description

Estructura y Cambio Social (13240-47) (en Español) Siga este enlace para una descricción detallada del curso

Javier G. Polavieja

Last update 2016-01-27 





This course introduces students to the major contemporary theories and the central concepts relevant to the study of social stratification, with particular attention to the study of advanced industrial societies. It presents some of the key findings from the comparative literature on social stratification and shows how theoretical debates can be tested against empirical data. The course offers a comprehensive introduction to key debates in the field of social stratification, including debates on meritocracy, the declining significance of social class, the causes of income polarisation, and the determinants of gender and ethnic stratification in contemporary societies. 




1) to give students a good knowledge of the academic literature and debates about social stratification in advanced contemporary societies;

2) to give empirically-based knowledge of the ways in which social structures vary across contemporary advanced societies;

3) to enable students to understand how contemporary stratification theories can be tested against the empirical evidence;

4) to introduce students to theories of social change by looking at changes in the social structures of advanced industrial societies;

5) to enable students to understand how social scientists make sense of the complexity of social phenomena by combining theory and empirical research;

6) to understand the role played by labour-markets, households and welfare states in the production and reproduction of inequality;

7) to introduce students to the complexities of measuring (class, income, gender and ethnic) inequality

8) to introduce students to some key concepts and debates in the study of social behaviour, including the role of preferences vs. constraints, biological vs. environmental influences, socialization vs. agency; 

9) to understand the differences between micro, meso and macro levels of analysis;

10) to understand the difference between demand and supply-side theories of gender and ethnic stratification;


Competences to be achieved in the subject


1) Ability to analyse and synthesize different approaches to the study of inequality

2) Familiarity with the basic conceptual framework of social stratification research

3) Ability to identify the main arguments of a scientific text

4) Critical thinking

5) Ability to present orally in English

6) Cooperation and communication with fellow students


Teaching Arrangements


The course is divided into 13 lectures and 13 practical sessions where students will be asked to discuss readings and visual materials, as well as to carry out various practical exercises and assignments.








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