SPOL28170 Work & the Welfare State

Academic Year 2023/2024

In advanced capitalist democracies, the welfare of individuals, families, households and the population writ large fundamentally rests upon one’s labour – primarily through formal participation in the labour market, but in some cases also informal labour. This becomes problematic when we consider the impact of ‘new social risks’, the automation of labour, and longer-term changes from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy. Various ‘solutions’ have been proposed to address these problems, from small tweaks to (labour market, migration, education etc.) policy, wider ranging structural changes to how the welfare state operates (e.g. Universal Basic Income and/or Universal Basic Services), and the introduction or deepening of governance strategies and policy paradigms, such as resilience, social investment, flexicurity and so on.

In this module we will ask why is welfare (and the welfare state) so tied up with the idea and practice of work? Students will critically engage with the relationship between welfare and labour, and the challenges posed by fundamental changes in the organization of societies, economies and patterns of work. We will consider changes in the role of the welfare state vis a vis work, especially considering issues such as the decline (or reconfiguration) of social citizenship and decommodification in favour of an increasing recommodification of labour and the financialization of welfare. Students will also consider some of the major attempts to address the frailties of the traditional welfare settlement, and the extent to which the responses represent something fundamentally new and thus a departure from the traditional welfare state, or simply a tinkering around the edges, thus not challenging or acknowledging the conditions that have brought about these changes to work and welfare.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of the module, students will be able to:
• Understand the relationship between labour and the (objectives of) the welfare state.
• Critically assess the ways in which various threats to the traditional welfare state have been addressed.
• Evaluate the policies, reforms and governance strategies that have arisen from the attempts to address threats to traditional
• Apply key concepts to the analysis of the traditional welfare state and welfare (state) futures.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning






Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Teaching will be delivered via twice weekly lectures. These lectures will have interactive components. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Multiple Choice Questionnaire: A MCQ that will assess your knowledge of the first half of the module. Week 7 n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Essay: Students will write an essay of no more than 2000 words. Students will have a number of questions to choose from. Week 12 n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Online automated feedback

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.

Name Role
Iñigo Aldama Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Assoc Professor Nessa Winston Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 Thurs 10:00 - 10:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 Tues 10:00 - 10:50