7AAYM215 Political Economy of the Welfare State
Credit value: 20 credits
Module tutor: Dr Magnus Ryner
Assessment: One 4,000 word essay
Teaching arrangements: One two-hour weekly seminar
The provision of welfare is one of the core points of intersection between the state and the market. Particularly post World War II, Europe hailed the welfare state as a cornerstone of the European social and economic model, which offered protection against social risks such as old age, unemployment and illness and at the same time facilitated economic growth. More recently, traditional systems of welfare have come under pressure as a result of demographic changes, globalisation and modernisation processes. Some have argued that these social processes have rendered the welfare state at a competitive disadvantage and made it unsustainable in the longer term.
The module focuses on the changing fortunes of the welfare state by concentrating on three main areas/themes. The first set of seminars look at macro-economic conditions and different national variants of welfare state development in Europe. The second block of seminars deal with the crisis of the welfare state resulting from globalisation processes and the rising dominance of neoliberal policies. Pressures for retrenchment and recalibration are investigated, based on different theoretical approaches to crisis analysis. The third group of seminars uses the new social risks approach, which stresses challenges such as the reconciliation of work and family life and the ‘problem’ of low skills in a knowledge-based economy. While traditional welfare systems are mainly shaped by national policy action, the new risks agenda is heavily influenced by the EU. Thus, the module analyses both nation states’ and the EU’s involvement in welfare provisioning, using political economy approaches.
This module looks at the theoretical questions that arise when analysing welfare states from a comparative perspective. Students will be familiarised with debates, definitions and theoretical frameworks pertaining to the concept of the welfare state, the different models of welfare in existence, and the need for a rigorous analysis of the welfare state.
In this context we look closely at the feminist challenge to “malestream” welfare state models.
The objective of the module is to enable students to read and interpret challenging literature on welfare state theory. They will be introduced to theoretical problems, which in consequence will help them to identify and analyse concrete political problems convincingly. Their knowledge and understanding of the interaction between the state, social policy, and life-experiences will accordingly increase.
P Pierson, et all (eds.), (2001) The New Politics of the Welfare State, Oxford: OUP.
P Starke, (2008) Radical Welfare State Retrenchment: A Comparative Analysis, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
F Castles (2007) The Disappearing State?: Retrenchment Realities in an Age of Globalization, Edward ElgarPublishings,
G Esping-Andersen (ed.) (1996), Welfare States in Transition, London: Sage.
Daly, M. and Rake, K. (2003) Gender and the Welfare State: Care, Work and Welfare in Europe and the USA, Cambridge: Polity Press.