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Unit information: Theorising Social Welfare in 2015/16

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Unit name Theorising Social Welfare
Unit code SPOL30038
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Bridge
Open unit status Open




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

Description including Unit Aims

This unit introduces students to a range of classical and contemporary philosophical arguments that inform the theorisation of the idea of welfare. Sessions include considerations of – utilitarianism, liberalism, neo-liberalism, egalitarianism, Rawls, Marxism, feminism, poststructuralism, philosophical pragmatism and human welfare in the context of vital life. Students will be encouraged to critically assess these approaches and their implications for social policy.

Aims: to enable students to engage in theoretical reasoning; to demonstrate the ability to assess various philosophical approaches to questions of welfare; to understand the implication of philosophical arguments for contemporary social policy debates.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, rthe student will be able to demonstrate:-

  • Knowledge of a range of philosophical approaches that have informed ideas of welfare
  • Ability to understand and critique philosophical arguments
  • Ability to apply the different theoretical approaches to contemporary social problems and social policy

Teaching Information

Interactive 2 hour lectures

Classes that include exercises in thinking through philosophical dilemmas; analysis and discussion of set specific journal articles; debates involving advocacy/opposition to different theoretical positions.

Assessment Information

3 hour unseen exam

Reading and References

O’Brien M and Penna S 1998 Theorising Welfare London: Sage

Fitzpatrick T 2001 Welfare Theory: An Introduction London: Palgrave

Fitzpatrick T 2005 New Theories of Welfare London: Palgrave

Alcock P, May M, Erskine A (ed) 2003 The Student’s Companion to Social Policy Oxford: Blackwell 2nd edn

Walsh M, Stephens P, Moore S (eds) 2000 Social Policy and Welfare Nelson Thomas

Fraser N and Honneth A 2003 Redistribution or Recognition: A Political Philosophical Exchange London: Verso

Sen, A. and B. Williams (eds) Utilitarianism and Beyond

Pogge T 1989 Realizing Rawls

Dworkin, R. (1981a) What is Equality? Part 1- Equality of Welfare, Philosophy and Public Affairs 10, 185-246

Dworkin, R. (1981b) What is equality? Part 2 – Equality of resources, Philosophy and Public Affairs 10, 283-345.

Foucault M 1977 Discipline and Punish

Latour B (2007) Re-assembling the Social OUP

Hayek F (1944) The Road to Serfdom

Bernstein R 1990 The New Constellation Cambridge: Polity