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DSOC 25A00 - Comparative Social Policy: A multidisciplinary Outlook

Type d'enseignement : Seminar

Semester : Autumn 2019-2020

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

The course provides a comprehensive outlook on comparative social policy across the OECD world. The twelve lectures aim to make students knowledgeable about the broad field of comparative social policy by analysing theory, welfare state change, and welfare state outcomes. At the end of the course, students will be able to understand the most important issues surrounding social protection from a comparative perspective and also get a sense of more practical issues, i.e. how much do countries diverge in protecting individuals from social risks? How much do countries diverge in supporting families and gender equality through cash benefits and service provisions? How much do countries diverge in the allocation of spending for different policies? How do different welfare states impact on people's real lives? How do welfare states enact redistribution? The course provides a comprehensive outlook of comparative social policy, spanning from theory to practice. The lecture series is divided in four parts. The first part introduces the comparative method and its centrality within the social policy literature. We reflect upon the possibility to generalise from the analysis of few cases by moving up and down on the ‘ladder of abstraction'. In addition, we define the comparative social policy field in accordance with the contemporary and historical literature. The second part illustrates the main explanations of welfare state development and describes Esping-Andersen's welfare regimes. We also critically assess the evolution of welfare regimes over time and their ‘potential' heuristic validity for the future. The third part highlights the main challenges (namely new social risks, family changes, the demographic evolution, globalization and crises) for welfare states and analyses how different countries are coping with social change. The fourth and last part of the course considers welfare states as an independent variable: alternative welfare state configurations have different effects on redistribution, social capital creation, and the competitive advantage of countries. For this reason we analyse how countries use social policy to address simultaneously societal and economic issues. With the exception of the first, sixth and final lectures the other classes will be structured as follows: (1) short recap of the previous class, (2) frontal lecture, (3) Q & A session.


FERRAGINA, Emanuele (Assistant Professor of Sociology at Sciences Po)

Pedagogical format

Students are expected to read ‘the required readings' every week, which constitute the backbone of the coursework. ‘Recommended and additional readings' provide fine-grained insights about specific topics and broader theoretical frameworks. The final grade has three components: (1) class participation; (2) a mid-term exam in week six (including 10 multiple choice questions to be completed in 30 minutes); and (3) a final exam in week 12 (including three open [no more than 300 words] questions to be completed in 90 minutes).

Course validation

Course Requirements • 10 % Class Participation • 30 % Mid-Term Exam (Week 6) • 60 % Final Exam (Week 12)

Required reading

  • Barr, N. (2012) The Economics of the Welfare State, 5th Edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Castles, F. et al. (eds.) (2010) The Oxford Handbook of the Welfare State, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Emmenegger, P. et al. (eds.) (2012) The Age of Dualization. The Changing Face of Inequality in Deindustrializing Societies, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Hay, C. and Wincott, D. (2012) The Political Economy of European Welfare Capitalism, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Hemerijck, A. (2013) Changing Welfare States, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Additional required reading

  • Morel, N., Palier, B., Palme, J. (2012) Towards a Social Investment State? Bristol: Policy Press.
  • Pierson, C., Castles, F.G and Naumann, K. (eds.) (2014) The Welfare State Reader, 3rd Edition, Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Esping-Andersen, G. (1990) The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism, Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Esping-Andersen, G. (2009) The Incomplete Revolution. Adapting to Women's new Roles, Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Pierson, C. (2006) Beyond the Welfare State? The New Political Economy of Welfare, 3rd edition, Cambridge: Polity Press