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The Political Economy of Welfare - SPY00167M

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

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

This module will provide you with the analytical tools to engage in informed debate about the ways in which politics and economics, state and market, interact with welfare institutions and societal needs. You will examine key concepts and theoretical frameworks used to understand contemporary capitalisms and the political economy of welfare, and explore their application in both the comparative study of welfare states and the analysis of the global distribution of welfare. The module explores key domains of welfare such as labour markets and social protection and considers the ways in which social actors and their interests conflict and compete, and what the possibilities might be for reshaping the politics and economics of welfare to benefit the public good.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to

  • Demonstrate familiarity with debates on the forms of contemporary capitalism, how different models are theorised and their empirical basis.

  • Critically evaluate the ways in which different types of economy balance the needs of people, government and business

  • Critically assess the roles and functions of labour markets, social protection arrangements and the wider social relations of welfare within the economy and society, and the drivers of reforms in these areas

  • Demonstrate understanding of the ways in which the politics of welfare are shaped by interests of social partners and institutions, political cleavages and the nature of conflict and consensus in welfare politics

  • Appreciate the ways in which the economics of welfare can incorporate understandings of the public good and possibilities for reorganising economic systems and business to meet societal needs


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 4000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules




Module feedback

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

Ellison, N. & T. Haux (2020) Handbook of Society and Social Policy, Edward Elgar, Part III.

Esping-Andersen G. (1990) The three worlds of welfare capitalism. New York, NY: Polity Press.

Farnsworth, K. and Irving, Z. (2015) Social Policy in Times of Austerity, Bristol: Policy Press.

Hemerijck, A. (2013) Changing Welfare States, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Izuhara, M. (2013) Handbook of East Asian Social Policy, Edward Elgar

Kennet, P. and Lendvai-Bainton, N. (2019) A Handbook of Comparative Social Policy, 3rd Edition, Edward Elgar, section IV.

Korpi, W. (1983) The Democratic Class Struggle, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Midgley, J., Surrender, R., and Alfers, L. (2019), Handbook of Social Policy and Development, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Morel, N., Palier, B. and Palme, J. (2012) Towards a Social Investment State? Ideas, Policies and Challenges, Bristol: Policy Press.

Nijhuis, D. O. (2019) Business Interests and the Development of the Modern Welfare State, London: Routledge.

Pierson, P. (ed.) (2001) The New Politics of the Welfare State, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Skocpol, T. (1992) Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States, Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Wilensky, H. L. (1975) The Welfare State and Equality: Structural and Ideological Roots of Public Expenditure, London: University of California Press.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring 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 by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.