Science & Technology

[Summary Course] SOCI811 North, South, East, West: Comparative Social Policy

Social policies that aim to enhance public welfare are often incorrectly considered to solely be the province of wealthy Western democracies. In fact, some of the most interesting social policy experiments in recent times have occurred in East Asia, Latin America and beyond. We analyse social policy in richer and poorer countries, considering similarities as well as differences in scale, scope, instruments and politics.

Our course proceeds in three sections. The first engages with frameworks for comparing social policies, welfare states and understanding historical developments and considers recent developments in the welfare regimes of Europe, North America and the Antipodes. The third section outlines contemporary experiments in East Asia, Latin America and Africa, contemplating their implications for social policy. And, our final section approaches comparative inquiry at the policy domain level, examining what a comparative lens offers for understanding population ageing, markets for social care an

  • Week 1: Comparative methods
    • In our first seminar, we discuss the course, how it will run over the semester and provide an overview of the weekly schedule and assessments to give you an idea of what to expect. We then turn to the question of what comparative social policy is. Moving beyond textbook definitions, we chart out some of the major  features of the field and discuss some of the main types of study. To introduce our discussion of social policy, we turn to the Community Understandings of Poverty and Social Exclusion (CUPSE) survey, asking which items we consider to be essential and what responsibilities the state has. 
  • Week 2: Classifying social policies: welfare states or regimes?
    • As the ‘dependent variable’ of country level comparisons, the distinction between welfare states and welfare regimes is important to comparative social policy analysis. While the term welfare state encapsulates state activity to affect wellbeing by redistributing resources, the concept of the welfare regime situates the welfare state within the broader political economy including the market, households and civil society. We turn this week to look at influential frameworks that theorists have developed to classify welfare states and regimes. We consider two main approaches to classifying welfare policies. The first, by Titmuss, classifies welfare regimes according to their underlying logic. The second, by Esping-Andersen, has become the reference point for studies of comparative social policy – it ambitiously seeks to classify welfare regimes and seeks to explain their development. We then consider more recent developments in regime level comparisons. We start by thinking about Esping-Andersen’s (1999, 2009) subsequent revisions to his typology and the debate about whether there is a fourth world of welfare among the 18 countries included in his analysis.
  • Week 3: Redistribution and a more equal society
    • One of the supposed advantages of comparative social policy analysis is its purported capacity to shine light on how particular social policy designs compare to others. This week, we ask a question at the core of comparative social policy analysis: which welfare model is likely to achieve more redistribution and a more equal society – targeted or universal welfare models? We orient the lecture component of our session around the Korpi and Palme (1998) reading, which provides the theoretical backdrop for our discussion of OECD data in our weekly chat.
    • To make the discussion more concrete, we compare two welfare states: Sweden and the United States. More than a small Nordic country, Sweden‘s welfare model has led some to call it a ‘moral superpower‘ or in Swedish – the folkhemmet (people‘s home). Critics see Sweden as a ‘nanny state‘, reaching too far into people‘s lives. Built on high taxes and extensive government under long stretches of social-democratic rule, Sweden has produced a society with low inequality and an efficient economy. Commentators wrote off Sweden‘s approach as too expensive for a global economy, but the model has proved resilient. We find out what forces produced the Swedish model. While Sweden provides extensive welfare, the US puts faith in ‘self-reliance‘ and lean welfare. To its supporters, limited welfare is behind America‘s economic dynamism. To its critics, it is the source of the country‘s deep poverty, crime problems and growing gaol population. After declaring a ‘war on welfare‘ in the 1980s and 90s, America led a reform-wave, influencing other countries in adopting ‘workfare‘: measures designed to get welfare recipients into jobs.
  • Week 4: Gender-Sensitive frameworks
    • This week, we look to so-called gender-sensitive frameworks.
    • Esping-Andersen’s typologies in Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism  have been criticised on a number of counts, most notably by feminist writers who have noted that the framework was developed to address issues of class rather than gender, deeming it inadequate for understanding some key gender effects of policy. We visit some of these frameworks.
  • Week 5: How welfare states care
    • They argue that a mother is not primarily the homo economicus welfare state scholars tend to presume. ‘to work or to care ‘is above all a moral predicament. What explains better the differences in Europe is to place care centrally and analyse welfare states as cultural agents. In the case of caring and paid employment, welfare states send culturally-defined moral images of good-enough caring in the form of ideals of care. An ideal of care implies a definition of what is good care and who gives it. These ideals of care are embedded in welfare states and their regulations, laws and implementation processes. Each welfare state promotes specific ideals of care. Cultural explanations downplay the role of the state too much. Culture, as is shown, is located within rather than outside the welfare state. The welfare state is not only a notary drawing contracts between the state and citizens or a merchant connecting supply and demand, but also a priest.This week, we focus particularly on the work of Monique Kremer and Pfau-Effinger.


Tulisan ini merupakan rangkuman sesi kuliah SOCI811 North, South, East, West: Comparative Social Policy oleh Dr Charlotte Overgaard di Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia pada sesi pertama tahun 2019

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