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Unit information: The State of Welfare in 2018/19

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Unit name The State of Welfare
Unit code SPOL30044
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Doogan
Open unit status Open




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


This is a period in which the provision of social welfare is subject to immense social and economic pressures. A seemingly endless period of retrenchment and austerity poses risks to the sustainability of key welfare services. Additionally the demographic timebomb and the migration crisis in Europe raise major questions about the viability of social welfare provision. In these contexts the unit will ask what is the future for social welfare?

The unit examines the big questions about social welfare’s current developments and future prospects. The ‘state’ in this case implies the economic conditions and the political and institutional environments in which welfare operates. It will explore the relevance of key theoretical contributions to the understanding of welfare origins, trajectories and futures. It will examine the contributions of Marxism, Varieties of Capitalism, Social Reproduction Theory, and The New Political Economy of Welfare, with a particular focus on the contributions of Polanyi, Foucault, Thelen and Schmidt. In looking at the current period it will exam welfare in crisis and welfare retrenchment and resilience and will consider recent debates about labour market change, social differentiation and dualism. The institutional environment will be examined in the decommodification and recommodifcation of welfare and a review of international experience will explore the varieties of liberalisation.

The unit aims to:

Familiarise students with the theoretical literature on social reproduction and the current literature on welfare trajectories.

Familiarise students with an understanding of the variable impacts of the economic crisis

Facilitate an understanding of the impact of fiscal and demographic (age and migration) pressures on welfare services

Facilitate an understanding of the debates around social differentiation and dualism and their relevance for social welfare provision

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit students

will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the political economy of welfare capitalism

will be able to give an account of welfare regime change

will be able to demonstrate an appreciation of the changing social, economic and institutional contexts in which welfare operates

will be able to make a well informed assessment of the prospects for welfare retrenchment and resilience

Teaching details

Lectures, seminars, and workshops

Assessment Details

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

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

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

Reading and References

Bonoli, G., Natali, D., (2012) The Politics of the New Welfare State, Oxford University Press,

Doogan, K., (2009) New Capitalism? The Transformation of Work, Cambridge Polity

Hay, C., Wincott, D (2012) The Political Economy of European Welfare Capitalism, London, Palgrave

Hemerjik, A., Changing Welfare States, Oxford University Press

Pierson, C., Castels, F., and Naumann, I (2014) The Welfare State Reader, Third Edition, Cambridge Polity

Polanyi, K., (1944) The Great Transformation, New York Rinhart

Thelen, K., (2014) Varieties of Liberalisation and the New Politics of Social Solidarity, Cambridge University Press