1st Edition

European Societies Today Inequality, Diversity, Divergence

By James Wickham Copyright 2020
    296 Pages 28 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    296 Pages 28 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This accessible new text introduces students to contemporary European societies by examining structures of inequality, making sense of the empirical and historical contexts.

    Focusing on seven differing European societies (France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Sweden and the UK), it examines the different ways in which sociology and political economy understand the social structure of contemporary Europe. Separate chapters outline key aspects of inequality, beginning with income, wealth and poverty, followed by occupation and social class, gender, regional inequality, ethnicity, and migration. By focusing on the role of the national welfare states of Europe in restraining economic inequality, the book enables a realistic appraisal of the ‘European Social Model’.

    Key features:

    • Examines European ‘distinctiveness’ and difference;
    • Visual presentation of data accessibly informs the reader about distinctive features of specific societies;
    • Comparative approach extends to evaluate the extent to which Europe differs from the USA;
    • Illustrates how the UK’s half-hearted relationship to ‘Europe’ is not just a matter of history or politics but also of contemporary social structure;
    • Key in-text features include discussion topics and key readings.

    This textbook will be essential reading for students of European studies, European politics, European societies, social inequality/structure, European welfare and policy and more broadly to sociology and public policy and administration.


    1. Where is Europe Anyway?

    2. From Industrial Society to the Knowledge-based Economy

    3. European Capitalisms

    4. Economic Inequality and the Welfare State

    5. Money, Markets and Wealth

    6. Occupations and Social Classes

    7. Gender and Socio-economic Inequality

    8. Spatial Inequality: Europe of the regions

    9. Mobility from/to/within Europe

    10. Ethnic diversity and the national welfare state

    11. Conclusion: The end of the European Social Model before it began?


    James Wickham is a Fellow Emeritus of Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Ireland.

    "James Wickham's valuable text brilliantly synthesises trends on social change and changing inequalities from across Europe. It will be an excellent teaching resource."Mike Savage, LSE, UK.

    "James Wickham has achieved the near impossible: providing clear, succinct and spot on analyses of the current complex trends in European inequalities. The chapters capture the diversity of European countries’ histories and institutional contexts while also illuminating how recent social developments may be leading to processes of European convergence or divergence. This book may be billed as a textbook, but I would recommend all scholars of inequalities in European societies to consult it." - Jill Rubery, University of Manchester, UK.

    "Rich in data, lively and clear in style, reasoned and vigorous, this is an enlightening exploration of contemporary European societies. Seen mainly through the lenses of sociology and political economy, the book is ideal for students seeking a comparative analysis of advanced capitalist societies but will also be of great interest to anyone interested in the current crises of the European project and the future of ‘Social Europe’."Seán O'Riain, National University of Ireland Maynooth, Ireland.

    "This book addresses a big, complex, vital topic that is central to contemporary debates on European democratic societies and their future. Its skilful mix of theory, illuminating descriptions and illustrative historical comparisons is richly informative and instructive. The book also raises challenging questions and prospects for European welfare states that invite the reader’s careful reflection and response. This is a highly valuable, authoritative, text that will attract a wide audience." - Catherine Casey, Loughborough University, UK.