The paper is divided in two clearly distinct parts. In the first one, after discussing the notions of citizenship and quality of democracy, the results of a survey showing a weak propensity of the Portuguese population to exercise its citizenship rights are presented. The sociological correlates are predictable and they tend to confirm the tendency of strata with more education and social capital to concentrate in their hands the instruments of political participation and representation. On the contrary, the distance felt by the majority of the population towards political power does not depend on its social properties. In the second part, the results of a historical research accounting for such 'power distance' from the standpoint of 'real civil societies' are presented. In the course of the presentation, the research will be expanded to Brazil with the help of several authors who have discussed the issue of citizenship there. Two main elements are identified in the chain of effects accounting for deficits in the exercise of rights: mass illiteracy and the 'administrative despotism' of the State. To conclude, popular strategies of resistance and adaptation to modernization, however negative in the light of the liberal notion of citizenship, such as the so-called 'amoral familism', are called upon in order to more fully account for the distance towards political power felt in Portugal and perhaps Brazil.
Citizenship; State; Civil-society; Amoral-familism