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Unit information: Social Policy and the Welfare State: Theoretical Perspectives in 2016/17

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Unit name Social Policy and the Welfare State: Theoretical Perspectives
Unit code SPOL10012
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Eroglu-Hawksworth
Open unit status Open




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

Description including Unit Aims

The unit provides an introduction to the major theories and ideologies that have influenced social policy and welfare provision since the 19th century with a particular focus on the UK. It is organised into three main parts. The first part outlines the classical ideologies of welfare, i.e. conservatism, liberalism and socialism, and their most influential offshoots. The second part demonstrates how these ideas have influenced social policy and welfare provision in Britain since World War II. The third part presents a range of theoretical perspectives, such as Marxist, gerontologist, feminist, anti-racist and post-modernist, that provide a critique of the welfare state. The unit concludes with a discussion of the future of the welfare state in the wake of the recent financial crisis that has led to austerity measures.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will:

  • be familiar with the key theories in British social policy since 1945
  • demonstrate an appreciation of the contexts in which different theories have gained popularity.
  • understand the key critiques of mainstream theories of social policy and the welfare state

Teaching Information

Lectures and seminars

Assessment Information

Assessment will be against the programme criteria defined for the appropriate level.

Formative assessment: One essay up to 2000 words

Summative assessment : One essay up to 2500 words

Reading and References

    • Fitzpatrick, T. (2011) Welfare Theory: an Introduction. Hampshire: Palgrave.
    • Fives, A. (2008) Political and Philosophical Debates in Welfare. Hampshire: Palgrave
    • Greve, B. (2014) Welfare and the Welfare State: Present and Future. New York: Routledge.
    • George, V. and Wilding, P. (1994) Welfare and Ideology. London: Routledge.
    • Lavalette, M. and Pratt, A. (2005) (3rd edn) Social Policy: Theories, Concepts and Issues, London: Sage
    • Lister, R. (2010). Understanding Theories and Concepts in Social Policy. Bristol: Policy Press.
    • Pierson, C. Castles, F. and Naumann, K. (2014) The Welfare State Reader. Cambridge: Polity Press. JC479 WEL
    • Taylor, G (2007) Ideology and Welfare. London: Palgrave