He is Professor Emeritus and full professor of Sociology at the Faculty of Philosophy, Languages and Literature, and Human Sciences at the University of São Paulo, institution from which he received his bachelor’s degree, licentiate, PhD and tenure. At the University of Cambridge (England), he was a visiting professor in the Center for Latin American Studies (1976) and a full professor and chair in the Simón Bolivar Program and fellow of Trinity Hall (1993-1994). He was a visiting professor at the University of Florida (United States) (1983) and in the Social Sciences Institute at the University of Lisbon (Portugal) in 2000.
He was a member of the Defense Council of Historical, Archeological, Artistic and Tourist Heritage for the state of São Paulo (Condephat) during the 1998-2000 biennium.
He was a member of the United Nations Voluntary Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery in Geneva, Switzerland from 1995 to 2007. He was also a member and coordinator of the Special Committee of the Ministry of Justice that drafted the National Plan to Eradicate Slave Labor (2001 to 2002) and a pro-bono special assistant on child and slave labor issues to Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, named from May 13 through December 31, 2002.
He was a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the Journal of Peasant Studies (London, England) from 2000 to 2008, and has been a corresponding editor of the journal La Somme et le Reste (Études Lefebvriennes) in Paris, France since April 2002.
He is the author of numerous books that include O Cativeiro da Terra [Earth’s Captivity] (1979), A chegada do estranho [The Arrival of the Stranger] (1993), O poder do atraso [The Power of Backwardness] (1994), Fronteira - A degradação do Outro nos confins do humano [Frontier – The Degradation of Others within the Confines of Man] (1997), Exclusão social e a nova desigualdade [Social Exclusion and the New Inequality] (1997), A sociabilidade do homem simples [Sociability of the Simple Man](2000), A sociedade vista do abismo [Society Viewed from the Abyss] (2002), O sujeito oculto [The Hidden Individual] (2003), A Aparição do Demônio na Fábrica [The Apparition of the Devil in the Factory] (2008). Sociologia da Fotografia e da Imagem [Sociology of Photography and Images] (2008), José de Souza Martins [Photography] (2008), A Política do Brasil: Lúmpen e Místico [Brazilian Politics: Pleibian and Mystic] (2011), Uma Arqueologia da Memória Social [An Archeology of Social Memory] (2011), and A Sociologia como Aventura [The Adventure of Sociology] (2013).
Among the many distinctions he has received are: the Érico Vannucci Mendes Prize (1993) from CNPq, the Jabuti Prize (1993, 1994 and 2002) awarded by the Brazilian Book Chamber; the Researcher Award by the Bunka Research Foundation-Sumitomo Mitsui Bank/Brazilian Society of Japanese Culture (2002); and the Florestan Fernandes Prize (2007) awarded by the Brazilian Sociology Society. He was also awarded the honorary degrees of Professor Honoris Causa at the Federal University of Viçosa (2013) and Doctor Honoris Causa at the Federal University of Paraíba (2013).