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Unit information: Societal Change and the Transformation of Work in 2018/19

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing and student choice.

Unit name Societal Change and the Transformation of Work
Unit code SPOL22030
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Doogan
Open unit status Open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit explores the interaction between the transformation of work and the key drivers of societal development such as globalisation, technological change & institutional restructuring. It is said that traditional stable forms of employment have been replaced by insecure jobs and uncertain futures. The pace of change is said to engender a precariousness and a greater sense of individualisation. This unit will look critically at these claims and seek to explain the gap between public perception and statistical evidence of social change.


The unit aims to expose students to the key debates about societal transformation as they relate to the transformation of work. The impact of globalisation and the spread of neoliberalism will be explored in relation to the restructuring of the state and the delivery of welfare services. The emergence of new patterns of employment, occupational and industrial change will be critically examined, and the role and pace of technological change will be reviewed in relation to the recomposition of the workforce. The unit aims to achieve a balanced assessment of the major factors which both express and suppress the change dynamic. It will also explore the gap between the material and discursive realities in the representation of societal transformation. The labour market impacts of ‘The Great Recession’ will also provide a focus for discussion and debate.

Intended learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of this unit students will have acquired:

  • a critical understanding of the forces which drive and constrain the transformation of work, both nationally and internationally;
  • a critical appreciation of labour market theory;
  • knowledge of the broad range of the social, technological and institutional factors that are associated with societal transformation and expressed through labour market change.

Teaching details

Twelve, one hour lectures followed by one hour which will be a mix of classes and clinics.

Assessment Details

Formative: 2,500 word essay

Summative: 3,000 word essay

All assessment will be against the assessment criteria for level I work, as in the Social Policy Programme Handbook.

Reading and References

    • Beck, U. (2000) The Brave New World of Work, Cambridge, Polity Press
    • Bonoli, G., George, Taylor-Gooby. P., (2000) European Welfare Futures, Towards a Theory of Retrenchment, Cambridge Polity Press
    • Castells, M. (1996) The Rise of the Network Society, Oxford, Blackwell
    • Doogan K (2009) New Capitalism? The Transformation of Work, Cambridge, Polity Press
    • Harvey, D., (2007) A Brief History of Neoliberalism, OUP Oxford 4th Edition
    • Standing, G (2011) The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class. London Bloomsbury