The welfare state is widely regarded as an endangered species. To some, it has become an unaffordable luxury. Heavy social spending may have been acceptable during boom times, but in today's competitive, globalizing environment, "economic" concerns must take precedence over "social" concerns, the "production" of wealth over its "redistribution." To others, the welfare state is not just expensive, but pernicious. Social spending fuels a "culture of dependency," encouraging idleness and setting "poverty traps" from which recipients cannot (or will not) escape. Thus, it is time to "end welfare as we know it."
This course, operating from a comparative, cross-national perspective, presents a different understanding of the welfare state. First, the welfare state is not an "it," but a "they." Welfare states vary tremendously from one country to the next, whether measured in terms of size, instruments, or objectives. Second, although social and political considerations shape welfare policy, economic considerations are no less critical. In other words, rather than operating on parallel tracks, "social policy" and "economic policy" are tightly coupled. Third, "ending welfare as we know it" is not synonymous with ending the welfare state. Social spending is fueled by powerful forces, including economic, so that contemporary welfare reform is as much
an exercise in reallocation and reorganization as in budget-cutting.
PS 147G is open to all upper-division undergraduates. Familiarity with political economy and/or European politics is recommended, but not required.