The background for this project is on one hand a society that has undergone radical changes over the last generations: continued urbanisation, de-industrialisation, decrease in blue-collar sector and a simultaneous increase in white-collar sector, growth in public sector, increased level of education, entry of many women into the labour market, new immigrant population etc. On the other hand there is an evolution in theoretical sociology, where some persist to claim that social class still is an important differentiating factor, while a number of other analysts claim this factor has been replaced by new patterns of differentiation, and others again claim a new individualism has rendered all ideas about such patterns obsolete.
The overall aim of this project is to enhance the knowledge of social differentiation as a multidimensional phenomenon and analyse its consequences in contemporary society through a thorough empirical study of one city - Aalborg in Denmark – based on a multifaceted methodological approach: a survey, an analysis of register data and qualitative interviews. Further, the aim is to craft improved tools for such analyses. Based on data gathered through different sources, current patterns of social differentiation will be uncovered, as well as patterns of socio- geographical segregation. At a theoretical level, the findings from the project will be used to contribute to ongoing debates on social differentiation (see for instance the debate in Acta Sociologica 2002 no. 3). The project has, however, a point of departure within Pierre Bourdieu’s sociology, and will seek to explore the potentials and limitations of his model of social differentiation. Two of Bourdieu’s books are of particular interest in this respect: Distinction (1984 ) and The Weight of the World (1993 [La Misère du monde 1993]).