The Welfare State

Syllabus | News

Lecturer: Ryszard Szarfenberg Ph.D. Hab.

Institute of Social Policy
Duty hours


Course aims and description

Introduction to knowledge about the welfare state is main aim of this course. Welfare state is a complex phenomenon with many different institutions being parts of it. Labour market, social security, health care or education treated as institutions of our societies are complex too. They have their own histories and literatures. It is important to understand all this welfare world and its connections with other parts of economy and society. Welfare state is a controversial subject with many debates and argument. It is considered as a great achievement of humanity and simultaneously there are many critics of it.

The course is divided into two sections.  In theory and resaearch section we will review definitions of the main concepts related with our subject e.g. what kind of state is the welfare state or which institutions are part of it and which are not. There are many general definitions but empirical researchers need quantitative indicators to draw scientific conclusions. First we have many historical works about welfare state genesis, expansion and transformation without quantification of it, but many researchers want to be more scientific. The measurement of complex socio-political phenomena is of course very difficult and controversial task. When researchers agree on comparative indicators they have chance to gather empirical results for different countries. This is base to infer empirical classifications of the welfare state. The most famous of them is proposed by Gosta Esping-Andersen: three worlds of welfare capitalism. History, indicators and classifications are important but explanations are crucial task of the theory. We need explanations of genesis and evolution of the welfare state institution. Welfare state was under heavy fire in eighties and nineties. We have to understand arguments of proponents and opponents of it. It was assumed then that the welfare state is in crisis and need deep changes or even dismantling. Theories of retrenchment was created in response to crisis discourse.

Second section of the course is divided into parts according to main areas of the welfare state or main social policies. Here we take a closer look to details and institutional practices in comparative perspective.

Course policies

Reading: Finish the readings before class, otherwise it will be hard for you to follow. Required readings to each topic with links see below.
Paper: topic of the paper should be related with area of the theory, research and/or practice of the welfare state, e.g. in your country. Topic is suggested by student and it is to be accepted by lecturer. You should finish paper before 30th of May and send it to lecturer by e-mail. There are academic honesty requirements – any kind of plagiarisms and fraud  (e.g. copy & paste without qoutation marks, notes and references) is not allowed, if detected work is disqualified. To avoid plagiarism and fraud use APA style in-text citations.  Paper should have 18000 signs counted with spaces as a minimum standard and not more than 36000 signs.

Attendance and participation: there will be an attendance list and you should take part in class discussions.

Grading: your final grade equals grade for paper with consideration of attendance and participation.


New course May 2015 - Introduction to the Welfare State

General part - 5 and 12 May 2015

  1. Welfare state theory I – definitions, indicators
  2. Welfare state theory II – models, typologies, explanations

Core social policies’ part: 18 and 26 May 2015

  1. Labour market policy
  2. Social protection


Additional Readings e.g. inspiration to student papers

  1. Social Europe: Current challenges and the way forward, Social Protection Committee, 2012
  2. Bea Cantillon, The Paradox of the Social Investment State. Growth, Employment and Poverty in the Lisbon Era
  3. Jane Jenson, Diffusing Ideas for After Neoliberalism: The Social Investment Perspective in Europe and Latin America, 2011
  4. Anton Hemerijck, When Changing Welfare States and the Eurocrisis Meet
  5. Ann Orloff, Gendering the Comparative Analysis of Welfare States: An Unfinished Agenda, 2009
  6. Mary Daly, What Adult Worker Model? A Critical Look at Recent Social Policy Reform in Europe from a Gender and Family Perspective, 2011
  7. Bruno Palier, The Europeanization of Welfare Reforms, 2006
  8. Gosta Esping-Andersen, A Welfare State for the 21st Century, 2002


Recommended books in print

International handbooks and readers

  1. F.G. Castles, S. Leibfried, J. Lewis, H. Obinger, C. Pierson (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the Welfare State, Oxford University Press, 2010.
  2. B. Greve ed. The Routledge Handbook of the Welfare State, Routledge, 2013.
  3. C. Pierson , F. Castles (eds.), The welfare state reader, 3rd ed., Polity Press, 2013.

Other books

  1. K. van Kersbergen, B. Vis, Comparative welfare state politics: development, opportunities, and reform, Cambridge University Press, 2014.
  2. A. Hemerijck, Changing Welfare States, Oxford University Press, 2012.
  3. J. Hudson, S. Kuehner, Stuart Lowe, The Short Guide to Social Policy, Policy Press, 2008.
  4. P. Pestieau, The Welfare State in the European Union: Economic and Social Perspectives, Oxford University Press, 2006.
  5. M. Seeleib-Kaiser (ed.), Welfare State Transformations: Comparative Perspectives, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.


International data sources on social policies and welfare states in Europe

Social Security Programs Throughout the World: Europe, 2010

EU's Mutual Information System on Social Protection (MISSOC)


Other sources of data and information

Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities European Commission



Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs OECD


Recommended journals

Journal of European Social Policy

Global Social Policy

Critical Social Policy

Social Policy and Society

Social Policy & Administration

Social Politics




Past courses

Topics excluded from the main course 2013/2014

  1. Health policy
  2. Education policy


Information on Education Systems and Policies in Europe (EURIDYCE)

European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies



Topics of the classes and required readings for 30 hours' course


  1. Introduction to the course
  2. Definitions and understandings of the basic terms
  3. Historical development of the welfare state in Europe – genesis, development, crisis, transformation
  4. Measurement of the welfare state
  5. Classifications of the welfare states – different models and their characteristics in Europe
  6. Explanations of the genesis, development and reforms of the welfare states
  7. Disputes and debates over the welfare state – theoretical and empirical arguments


Specific areas of the welfare state (required readings will be supplemented)

  1. Employment policy and the unemployment problem
  2. Social insurance and the social risks problem
  3. Social assistance and the poverty problem
  4. Social care and the insufficient family care problem
  5. Health policy and the disease problem
  6. Education policy and the illiteracy problem
  7. Housing policy and bad housing conditions problem



  1. The future of the welfare state in Europe

Final exam - short multiple response test with one true answer rule, sample questions