Social Power and Social Change

Social power and social change are the two unifying features of the social sciences and yet all too often they are taken as a given without careful definition. This course explores these two features in theory and in practice. The first part of the course presents a “unified theory” of social power, providing students with the analytic tools necessary for better understanding social change in a comprehensive, nuanced, and empirical manner. What distinguishes the work in the Learning Community from other courses in the social sciences is its emphasis on agency. In particular, the course highlights how organizations wield social powers both to promote social changes, but also to impede them.

The second part of the course focuses on a specific area of contemporary social change. The topic changes each semester. Previous topics have included: the rise of the extreme right groups in Europe, the role of the business enterprise in affecting positive changes (like sustainability and inclusion) and also negative social changes (like the spillover effects of business-generated pollution on communities and the global environment), and the fathers’ rights movement in Europe.
Learning Community Activities
Spring 2024 Activities

Wednesday, March 27th, 2024 16h15 to 18h30 (CET)
Lecture: The Modern Corporation: The Problem of Purpose

Professor Andrej RUS, Andrej RUS, University of Ljubljana, Faculty for Social Sciences, Ljubljana, Slovenia Corporations are fantastic beasts. They exist only on paper and yet they employ hundreds of thousands of people, they build factories, skyscrapers, and business campuses. They produce goods and services, market and sell them, make money and use it to expand and buy other companies. They own diverse assets from land, buildings, machinery to art. They can borrow huge amounts of money, own any number of other companies, get sued and go bankrupt. They are everywhere on the streets, shopping centers, homes and in human neural systems where corporate brands can induce pleasure comparable to satisfaction of basic human needs.  Discussion and Q&A: The Modern Corporation: Hope for the Future ? Calin GOINA, Associate professor of sociology at Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj, Romania,  Andrej RUS, Professor of management at the University of Ljubljana, Faculty for Social Sciences, Ljubljana, Slovenia  Brian T. SCHMITT, Associate professor of American studies at CY Cergy Paris University, Cergy-Pontoise, France  A discussion and Q&A on the power of corporations to make social change, either positive or negative. What makes corporations so powerful? How effective can governments – at the national, regional, and municipal levels – be at reigning in corporations? Are new legal structures needed to counter-balance corporate power? What might they look like?

Spring Semester 2023 Activities

The EUTOPIA University Learning Community (“LC”) Social Power and Social Change is excited to announce two Learning Activities for the .

The lectures will be delivered at CY Cergy Paris Université and also be available via Zoom. They are open to students, faculty, and staff from all ten members of the EUTOPIA University.
The goal of the LC Social Power and Social Change is to engage students in a debate about what is social change and how it takes place. These lectures will provide an overview of two of the most significant agents of social change – complex organizations and corporations. As both lectures are intended for a general audience, no previous knowledge of the topics is necessary.

Lecture 1. An Introduction to Complex Organizations

Who: Brian T. SCHMITT, Associate professor, CY Cergy Paris Université and Agora Laboratoire

Summary: One of the most distinguishing characteristics of modern life is the ubiquity of large, formal organizations. From governmental entities to universities, from hospitals to arms manufacturers, complex organizations are everywhere. Yet the basics of how organizations function – their purposes, their capacities, and their tensions – are rarely included in the typical university curricula. This lecture aims to fill that gap. After a brief review of how simple organizations are structured, the lecture will
present a framework that identifies the key actors in complex organizations: leaders, sub-leaders, rank-and-file, boards, and members. Knowing the capacities and responsibilities of each of these actors can help us understand how they can be changed for the better.

When: Thursday, March 9th, 2023 from 16h15 to 17h45 (Central European Time)

Lecture 2. Are corporations evil or good? The neglected question of corporate purpose

Who: Andrej RUS, Professor at the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences and the Research Center for Strategy and Governance

Summary: What are corporations? Where did they come from? From their beginnings in the 17th century as joint stock companies, the purpose of the corporation has been contested. We will examine different conceptions of the purposes of corporation. One prevalent view is that corporations have one and only one purpose and that is to make profits for shareholders. We will look at other perspectives. To promote in class debate, the lecture will present two short case studies exploring the sudden departure of two CEOs in spite of their sustainability credentials.
When: Thursday, April 6th, 2023 from 16h15 to 17h45 (Central European Time)

You can download the document here

2021-2022 Activities
  • November 24th, 2022 -- Katarzyna WOJNICKA, professor of sociology at the University of Gothenburg, delivered a Zoom talk entitled the European Fathers’ Rights Movements. There were ten students from CY and approximately eight students from the University of Gothenburg participating online. The talk was followed by a question-&-answer period.
  • April 14th, 2022, Azrini WAHIDIN, professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick, delivered an in-person lecture at CY Cergy Paris Université for the course with approximately 40 students from CY.  The title of the talk was Green Criminology.
  • Guest Speaker EXIT UK followed by a question-and-answer with the students (December 2nd, 2021). (LC Social Power and Social Change). Exit UK works with individuals who want to leave extreme right-wing and white supremacist organisations but may not know how to do it on their own. The Zoom presentation was open to all students associated with the members of the Learning Community, giving them the opportunity to come in contact with each other and discuss an important social issue facing Europe, particularly Europe’s youth. 
            Modality: Zoom presentation, hybrid CY in-person and UoW online 
  • First edition of EUTOPIA LU EUTOPIA LU 'Social Power and Change', led by Brian Schmitt (CY) - When? Autumn 2021
How to get involved?

(Students and educators)
Contact the community lead Brian T. Schmitt ( or the local facilitator Tomy Quenet (
Learning Community Members
Lead: Brian T. Schmitt (CY). Email:

Brian SCHMITT is an associate professor of American Studies at CY Cergy Paris University. His current research looks at social power & social change. He has published on the role of the cinema in the entrepreneurial “revolution,” the impact & limitations of think tanks on US health care policy, and the rise of Bill Clinton and the emergence of a global investment class. In the School of Languages & International Studies he teaches courses in the master’s program on the US economy & US business practices. In the first year license he teaches a course entitled Contemporary American Society. Before emigrating to France in 2005, he worked for five years as Director of Research at the Community Development Venture Capital Alliance in New York City. In 2002 he graduated with a PhD from the Bloustein School of Planning & Public Policy at Rutgers University.

Partner: Andrej Rus (UL). Email:

coming soon

Partner: Calin Goina (UBB). Email:
​​​Calin GOINA is an associate professor of sociology at Babes-Bolyai University, Romania. His current research focuses on social change and the sociology of generations. He has published on the role of the state in the formation of Romanian nation, on the intersection between nationalism and Marxism in Romania’s communist regime, on the changes in the rural world during the process of collectivization of agriculture and on the impact of 1968’s Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. He teaches a class on qualitative research methods, one on rural sociology, one on fieldwork as well as a class on comparative historical sociology for undergraduate students. At MA level he teaches a class on academic writing and the ethic of social science research. In 2012 he graduated with a PhD from the Sociology department, University of California, Los Angeles.