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Unit information: Concepts and Ideologies of Welfare in the Contemporary World in 2018/19

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Unit name Concepts and Ideologies of Welfare in the Contemporary World
Unit code SPOL10030
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Eroglu-Hawksworth
Open unit status Not open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


The unit seeks to provide an introduction to the major concepts, theories and ideologies that have shaped social policy and perspectives on welfare and welfare states. It also introduces a range of theoretical perspectives that provide a critique of the welfare state and/or an alternative vision of welfare society. It highlights the socio-economic, political and historical contexts of these theories to illustrate their relevance to and impact upon policy making and welfare provision.

It is organised into four main parts. The first part introduces key social policy concepts, such as needs, citizenship and community, the mixed economy of welfare, equality and risk. The second part considers ideologies of welfare, such as Conservatism, Liberalism, Socialism, Social Democracy, and Neo-Liberalism and their evolution. The third part examines critical perspectives on social policy, such as marxism, feminism, environmentalism, post-modernism and anti-racism. The fourth part brings these concepts, ideologies, and perspectives into focus with analysis of current policy issues in order to illustrate their utility in contemporary analysis in matters such as fiscal crisis, poverty and inequality; diversity, migration, health and aging, and other policy issues as appropriate.

  • To introduce students to key concepts and theories relating to social need and welfare systems together with consideration of the contexts in which they operate.
  • To explore the main features of different perspectives on social policy
  • To consider how differently placed communities and individuals, and current policy issues, are perceived in social policy debates

Intended learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete this unit will be able to:

  • Use established theories and concepts of social policy to analyse how social needs, social problems and policies themselves are constructed and understood
  • Distinguish among, and critically evaluate, different theoretical, conceptual normative, moral and political approaches to social policy issues

Teaching details

Lectures (20 hours) and Seminars (10 hours) plus 1 reading week and 1 revision week.

Assessment Details

Formative assessment: A timed one hour 'practice exam' to assess and support the students' preparations for the summative assessment.

Summative assessment: 2 hour unseen exam (100%) which will enable the students to meet the intended learning outcomes for the unit.

All assessment is marked against the published marking criteria for this level, as stated in the Social Policy Programme handbook.

Reading and References

Alcock, P, May, M and S.Wright (2012) The Student's Companion to Social Policy, (4th Ed.). Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Blakemore, K. and L. Warwick-Booth (2013) Social policy: An Introduction. Buckingham: OUP.

Dean, H. (2012) Social Policy: a Short Introduction. Cambridge: Polity Press

Fitzpatrick, T. (2011) Welfare Theory: an Introduction. Hampshire: Palgrave.

George, V. and Wilding, P. (1994) Welfare and Ideology. London: Routledge.

Greve, B. (2013) The Routledge Handbook of the Welfare State. London: Routledge.

Lister, R. (2010) Theories and Concepts in Social Policy. Bristol: Policy Press

Taylor, G (2007) Ideology and Welfare. London: Palgrave.

Pierson, C. Castles, F. and Naumann, K. (2014) The Welfare State Reader. Cambridge: Polity Press.