Welfare States in the Current Era: Origins, Issues and Challenges

Academic Year: 
Course Description: 

Starting from 14 February

The course aims to examine welfare states and current welfare policies in a comparative perspective. In order to achieve this, different approaches on the relationship between welfare, market and state are analyzed. In the first part of the course fundamental concepts, origins and typologies of welfare state are reviewed. This part tries to answer the questions of what a welfare state is, why it exists and how they differ across countries. The second part covers a variety of issues such as active and passive labor market policies, pensions, health care, work and life balance, and redistribution. Given the complexity of welfare state, we are not able to cover all of the policies but the course captures the highly relevant areas and provides a comparative perspective. In the final part of the course, welfare state challenges are examined to understand the impact of globalization, migration and post-industrialization on social policy. At the end of this part we will be able to understand the extent and reasons of retrenchment, liberalization and privatization of social expenditures. Throughout the class both theoretical and empirical material are covered.

Class structure:
Most meetings consists of a 15-minute critical presentation by a discussant, followed by an instructor-led structured discussion of key concepts; key arguments; key theoretical and methodological approaches; puzzles & questions; the relevance of the subject matter. Meetings with a different structure will be announced in due course.

Learning Outcomes: 

At the end of this course, the students are expected to;

* understand the basic terms in welfare state research

* have sufficient knowledge to apply these concepts in their research

* formulate researchable questions

* to be able to follow and understand the literature related to the subject matter

* be able to follow theoretical and empirical debates about social policy

* acquire knowledge of methodologies and assumptions in the study of globalization and the welfare state.

* gain skills for presenting and critically discussing scholarly work by others


All of the students are expected to attend and actively participate in the class discussion. The participation counts for 10% while the presentations make up 20% of your grade for the course. There is also midterm and final paper, which counts for 30% and 40% respectively. The grades won’t be based on a curve.

Participation: 10%
Presentations: 20%
Midterm Exam: 30%
Final Exam: 40%

The grades will be marked down in case of late submissions, and in case of plagiarism departmental rules apply.


Useful Textbooks:

F.G. Castles, S. Leibfried, J. Lewis, H. Obinger, and C. Pierson (eds.) (2010) The Oxford Handbook of the Welfare State. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

B. Greve (ed.) (2013) The Routledge Handbook of the Welfare State, New York, NY: Routledge.

C. Pierson and F. Castles (eds.) (2013) The Welfare State Reader, 3rd ed. Oxford: Polity Press.