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2023/24 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

SLSP1221 Debating Welfare States

20 creditsClass Size: 105

Module manager: Dr Bethany Robertson

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

This module is mutually exclusive with

SLSP1220Social Policy: Poor Laws to the Present

Module replaces

SLSP1220 Social Policy: Poor Law to Present

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module explores some of the social, political, economic and cultural influences that have shaped welfare states over time. Besides examining the policy-making process, theories related to poverty, inequality and social exclusion are introduced to demonstrate how social policy has developed over the years and delimited the redistributive and integrative functions of welfare states. More specifically, students are introduced to key debates and developments within welfare politics to explore how these have impacted on questions of gender, race and ethnicity, disability, poverty and inequality.


This module will:

- Enable students to grasp the main theoretical and policy perspectives relating to the nature of welfare provision in contemporary society
- Contribute to informed debate in relation to issues surrounding key developments in social policy formulation over time;
- Critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the various theories and perspectives on these issues

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module students will be able to:

1. Understand the impact upon welfare provision of changing political ideologies, of changes in family structure and patterns of partnering and parenting, of changes in the nature of work and the level of poverty, of social exclusion, of unemployment, of changing understandings of national identity, and of changes in the authority and status of welfare professionals

2. Understand the fundaments of the policy making process

3. Develop confidence in reading texts in social policy

4. develop skills in applying social policy concepts to societal contexts

5. Begin to evaluate the role of political and social movements, and of popular and political attitudes towards welfare and welfare claimants


Political actors (parties, politicians) of different ideological stripes have long used the state to intervene in the lives of citizens. For example, social democrats have emphasised addressing inequalities by instituting public welfare programmes, whilst conservatives typically focus on disciplining ‘problem’ populations and maintaining social hierarchies. Beyond the state, assorted social movements and special interests work with or against these actors to expand, reduce or ‘reform’ the nature and scope of ‘welfare state’ intervention. Anarchists and libertarians would, typically, prefer to live without a welfare state at all.

In this module, we will explore how the concept of ‘welfare’ and the field of ‘social policy’ have been politicised over time by these different actors and interests to create deeply contested ‘welfare states’. We will connect this to some underlying sociological dynamics of inequality and domination and how these intersect with the language of welfare state development: rights, responsibilities, justice and citizenship. Additionally, we will introduce you to the social policymaking process and explore which agendas become official Government ‘policy’, why this happens and reflect on how these shift or remain fixed over time. The module will also equip you to think about pre-, post- and non-welfare state societies and assess the multiple pressures and crises (ageing societies, climate change, population mobilities, nationalism and nation-state conflict) shaping the governance of ‘welfare states’ in the world today.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
On-line Learning111.000.00
Group learning111.0011.00
Independent online learning hours11.00
Private study hours167.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students will receive formative feedback during tutorial discussions and at tutor’s open-door hours.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1 x 1,500 words100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 26/07/2023


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