Portuguese - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Salazarist Portugal was a hierarchical society with a small upper class composed of latifundists, industrialists, financiers, top military personnel, the Catholic episcopate, university professors, and other professionals; a small middle class composed of people in the service sector; and a mass of urban and rural poor. Since 1960, as urbanization has progressed, a lower-middle class of skilled workers and technicians has emerged.

Political Organization. Before 1974, the Portuguese state was based on corporative bodies that in theory channeled class interests but in practice were often circumvented by means of personal contacts. Electoral politics were absent. Between 1974—when the Salazar regime was bloodlessly overthrown—and 1976, the Portuguese established a constitutional democratic representative system. Recently, some of the more socialist clauses of the 1976 constitution have been revised. At the local level, villages are still run by a parish council ( junta da frequesia ), the members of which are elected by village households. Throughout the Salazar period, the juntas had little real power and few economic resources of their own, though the members had local prominence. They depended on the câmara, the administrative body in the county seat, and today the câmara is still the important unit of political organization and administration. Since 1974 Political parties and agricultural cooperatives have assumed importance, though participation varies by region. The other important local social institutions are the religious Brotherhoods ( confrarias ). Traditionally they served as lending institutions; today they are largely ceremonial and cover funeral expenses.

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