Skip to main content

Unit information: The State of Labour in 2017/18

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name The State of Labour
Unit code SPOLM5110
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Doogan
Open unit status Not open




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


This unit has been developed in a period of great economic uncertainty when major questions are raised about the nature and the prospects for contemporary capitalism. Many accounts of societal transformation present supporting evidence of projected employment trends and occupational and compositional change in the workforce. The transformation or work therefore portends, not simply structural change in the economy, but a qualitative shift in the nature of capitalism. This unit will explore the transformativity of globalisation, technological change, and welfare restructuring and the extent to which the labour market acts as the medium through which societal change emerges. This unit considers, not only the realms of production and industrial transformation, but also the domain of reproduction with a thematic focus on welfare state restructuring, pension reform and demographic change.

It begins by examining public perceptions about the world of work and the narratives of societal transformation, ranging from postindustrial society to ‘new capitalism’. It will examine the forces for change and ask what is meant by neoliberalism. It will address influential accounts of labour market change including deindustrialisation and the rise of the service sector, dual labour market models and more recent perspectives on ‘the uberisation of the workplace’ and the gig economy’. Finally, it will explore the ‘Great Recession’ and its differential impacts on the labour market and the welfare state

Intended learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of this unit students will be able to demonstrate critical knowledge and understanding of:

  • The forces which drive and constrain the transformation of work, both nationally and internationally;
  • Labour market theory; and
  • The range of the social, technological and institutional factors that are associated with societal transformation and expressed through labour market change.

Teaching details

Ten, one hour lectures followed by one hour classes.

Assessment Details

4,000 word assessed essay, reflecting the learning outcomes listed above.

Reading and References

  • Boltanski, L., and Chiapello, E., The New Spirit of Capitalism, London Verso
  • Bonoli, G., George, Taylor-Gooby. P., (2000) European Welfare Futures, Towards a Theory of Retrenchment, Cambridge Polity Press
  • Castells, M. (1996) The Rise of the Network Society, Oxford, Blackwell
  • Doogan K (2009) New Capitalism? The Transformation of Work, Cambridge, Polity Press
  • George, V., Wilding, P., (2002) Globalization and Human Welfare, London, Palgrave
  • Harvey, D., (2007) A Brief History of Neoliberalism, OUP Oxford 4th Edition