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Welfare States in Crisis - SPY00070H

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  • Department: Social Policy and Social Work
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Kevin Farnsworth
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

Welfare states grew out of crisis and have weathered various crises since the day they came into being. Just as capitalism is moulded by crisis, so welfare states constantly face new economic, political and social crises as they mature. Most recently, welfare states have had to respond to global financial crashes, a global health pandemic and the environmental crisis. These crises have repositioned many welfare states in unexpected ways in terms of their capacity to build and sustain progressive welfare systems and the kinds of reforms enacted. This module explores the idea of ‘crisis’ and the impact of various crises - economic, political and social - on the relationships between states, markets and citizens. Students will develop a critical appreciation of contemporary debate on the sustainability of welfare states, and the theoretical frameworks used in the analysis of economic crises and their impact on social policy development.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module students will be able to:

  1. Apply appropriate theoretical frameworks to the analysis of crises and evaluate their significance for welfare states

  2. Summarise and critically evaluate key contributions to the explanation of economic, political and social crises and their impact on social policy

  3. Assess the role of different actors and organisations in the emergence and management of crises and welfare state reform

  4. Identify and explain cross-national, international and global commonalities and divergence in the experience of, and social policy response to crises

  5. Identify and assess a range of statistical and other evidence that informs debate on crises and possible policy responses

Indicative assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay 2
N/A 50
Portfolio of critical summaries - essay 1
N/A 50

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Indicative reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay 1
N/A 50
Essay 2
N/A 50

Module feedback

Essay feedback will be given in accordance with the University Policy on feedback in the Guide to Assessment as well as in line with the School policy.

Indicative reading

Farnsworth, K. & Irving , Z. (eds) (2011) Social policy in challenging times: economic crisis and welfare systems. Bristol: The Policy Press

Farnsworth, K. 2021. ‘Retrenched, Reconfigured and Broken: The British Welfare State After a Decade of Austerity. Social Policy and Society.

Gough, I. 2017. Heat, Greed and Human Need London: Palgrave

Hemerijck, A., Knapen, B. and van Doorn, E. (2009) Aftershocks, Economic Crisis and Institutional Choice, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press

Schäfer, A. and Streeck, W. and (2013) Politics in the age of austerity, Cambridge: Polity.

Streeck, W. (2017) How will Capitalism End?, London: Verso.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University constantly explores ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary. In some instances it may be appropriate for the University to notify and consult with affected students about module changes in accordance with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.