Contemporary and modern political theory

Research Projects:

Politics in civil society: creation of capabilities, new functions, and modus operandi

Description: What is the political statute of civil society in democracies? Or better yet: is there, in the field of civil society theories, a specific political statute for civil organisations related to democracy, capable of theoretical specification regardless of context? The answer is yes, at least from the point of view of the most influential literature in the field of civil society theories in the 1990s. Paradoxically, this understanding turned out to encourage depoliticised characterisations of civil society, eclipsing its relations with political institutions and preventing reflection on civil society politics itself. Thus, many questions that are sociologically and politologically relevant are still awaiting systematic treatment, despite the prominent position of the civil society theme in the academic literature and the public policy intervention literature. We know little of disputes over the construction of civil society actors, conflicts between these actors for access to public resources, ambitions and differences regarding form and scope of its impact on the State, as well as the factors underlying their political performance capabilities and operation or functioning form. It is assumed, in this work agenda, that cognitively useful questions about politics in civil society requires not only distinctions capable of capturing interests, practices and actors involved in the construction and reproduction of civil society, but, above all, distinctions that escape the normative and autonomist record that has characterised the most influential understandings of civil society in recent years. When it comes to such understandings, it is as if the practices of its actors were pre-political or, at best, as if there were two policies - one of civil society and another of the traditional political institutions, their professional actors and organised interest groups.

Professor in charge: Adrian Gurza Lavalle (


Political actors and constitution of States in England, 1647-1697

Description: From the idea that, at the beginning of the 1640s, the conflict between King and Parliament in England caused the total collapse of the old political conventions, the project aims to investigate some theoretical efforts employed to overcome this unprecedented sovereign crisis, efforts that can be designated as constitutional experiments. Among the political speeches that harboured this intent, we can mention the ‘Agreements of the People,’ by the Levellers; ‘Leviathan,’ by Thomas Hobbes; and ‘The Commonwealth of Oceana,’ by James Harrington. These texts are converted into documents for contemporary interpreters, allowing them to see how abstract ideas were conveyed by different political actors and, on the other hand, how contingent issues were converted to abstract proposals by theory.

Professor in charge: Eunice Ostrensky (


Political representation, state and society: conceptual subsidies to understand the constitutional process (1985-1988)

Description: This project aims to create the thread of a narrative about the political process that resulted in the 1988 Constitution. In addition to the definition and delimitation of the object, the project presents an outline of concepts that will guide the pursuit of historical and empirical elements to be articulated within the targeted narrative. These concepts make up a game that provides an abstract ‘dynamic’ of the political process, as if anticipating, by hypotheses, the real historical process. The theoretical scheme to be investigated is based on the distinction of two conceptual poles, the People and the Civil Society, which constitute a primary structure of representation and a set of representable actors with a possible reciprocal interaction. The latter, however, has different modulations depending on the context. From this point, we intend to investigate how this abstract framework can support the understanding of important aspects of the recent Brazilian history, including the transition and its development towards the constitutional process, in addition to the coincidence between the authoritarian regime crisis and the crisis of a certain pattern (prior to the regime itself) of the Brazilian state performance.

Professor in charge: Cicero Romão Resende de Araújo (


Modern political theory

Description: The aim is to investigate the different languages and traditions of political thought developed between the 16th and 19th centuries; republicanism, law and right of nature, contract, democracy, form of government, state, and liberalism.

Professor in charge: Eunice Ostrensky (


Classical and modern political theory

Description: The aim is to investigate the different languages and traditions of political thought developed during the classical period and the modern age: polis theory, republicanism, law and right of nature, contract, democracy, forms of government, State, and liberalism.

Professor in charge: Patrício Tierno (