This course provides a graduate-level survey of the politics that shape social and redistributive policies in the advanced democracies. In different ways, both Europe and the United States have confronted multiple challenges to long established patterns of politics and public policy. Economic shifts have exacerbated inequality and created new economic divisions in most, but not all, advanced democracies. Key social and infrastructure policies have been altered with new forms of public-private provision for financing and delivering public services. Finally, rising numbers of immigrants from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds have disrupted settled national identities. As they challenge existing institutions and politics, these underlying shifts toward dualism, privatization, and diversity raise fundamental questions about the boundaries of public power and the political coalitions that undergird public policy in advanced democracies.
This seminar examines the politics and policy conflicts that accompany these changes. The course begins with key debates drawn from both political economy and political sociology. It then examines contending viewpoints generated by the (underlying) economic and demographic shifts identified above. Among the topics to be considered are: housing policy in light of the 2008 recession; nonprofit/nongovernmental organizations and the delivery of social policy; financialization as a strategy deployed by strapped public agencies; and the ethnic and racial dimensions of conflict over the public role. The readings consider alternative theories of policy evolution, federalism, political mobilization and organizational strategy.