Welfare Regimes in Transition. Comparative Perspectives on Policies, Management and Reform
The aim of the course is to introduce analytical tools that will enhance students’ ability to pursue advanced studies on the organization of welfare politics in a comparative perspective. This is an interdisciplinary course where theories and perspectives from social policy and social work, sociology, and political science contribute to give a wide-ranging understanding of welfare traditions and transitions in a global context. The interdisciplinary approach is used throughout the course; hence, the main themes are all problematised and reflected on from different theoretical perspectives. Although many of the empirical examples used in the course are from a European context, theories and patterns of institutionalization of welfare policy are continuously related to global transformations.
The course addresses three main issues related to welfare regimes and their transitions:
a) Welfare Regimes
During the first part of the course welfare regimes are discussed on an abstract level with the objective of giving a broad understanding of the research field. Different categorizations of welfare systems are discussed. Normative foundations of welfare politics, theories of rights, in particular duties and equality, are emphasized. Normative theories as well as organizing principles of social policies are related to theoretical models of democracy and citizenship.
b) State and Welfare Rescaling, Activation
The spatial dimension of state welfare regulation is portrayed as a delicate structure that is permanently subject to rescaling processes in the course of which new, multi-scalar structures of state organization, political authority and socio-economic regulation emerge. We currently observe an increased importance of scales of intervention and regulation other than at the national level, while new, non-national forms of statehood appear to correspond to increasingly open economies. These processes will be studied through the example of the European Monetary Union and the European Employment Strategy, due to which a great deal of state responsibilities that used to be carried out at the national level have been ‘up-scaled’ to the European level. At the same time, other formerly national state authorities have been ‘down-scaled’ towards local and regional levels. The concept of activation hints at the concomitant new definition of the contractual relationship between the state and the individual in the areas of welfare rights and employment regulation. In the new social contract, it is the individual’s duty to look for work and to improve his or her adaptability to the demands of the labour market, while the state encourages and supports labour market activity of those economically ‘inactive’ persons willing and able to take up a job.
c) Welfare Management
This part of the course examines how local public are designed, managed and changing in different welfare systems. Principles of corporate governance and democratic accountability will be examined. Tendencies of privatization within public services through outsourcing both to private enterprises and the voluntary sector will be examined, as well as the commodification of services. The shaping and packaging of services into marketable items will be analyzed in relation to their impact on the management of public policy. Different areas of managing community care, where local authorities are primarily responsible for assessing need and coordinating care in the community, will be used to demonstrate welfare management difficulties and solutions.