The course aims at providing the fundamental analytical tools for the comparative study of social protection systems by adopting a political science perspective, which then looks at social policy development mainly as result of political dynamics. It analyses welfare state development, since the origins in the XIX century until the recent phase of crisis and reform, by focusing on its exogenous and endogenous determinants. Particular attention is paid to how the interaction between institutional arrangements ("structures") with political and social actors ("agency") contributes to shape social policies in multilevel - European, national, sub-national - and multi-stakeholder arenas. The course includes 3 units: Unit 1 provides: a) some fundamental analytical tools for the study of social protection systems in a comparative perspective and, b) an analysis of developmental factors and dynamics; c) a discussion of the "crisis" of the welfare state, paying special attention to its endogenous and exogenous determinants. Unit 2 concentrates on the recent process of change and re-adaptation, by analysing how the different welfare regimes have responded to the crisis. Unit 3 adopts a comparative perspective to provide an in-depth analysis of policy developments and political dynamics in a key social protection sector: pensions. The focus will be kept on the modes of institutional change, the politics of pension reforms, as well as the emergence of new flexicurity arrangements in a life-course perspective.
Expected learning outcomes
Knowledge and understanding: At the end of the course students are expected to know the main differences across welfare states in different world areas; also they must be able to understand cross-country variation across the various social policy sectors (pensions, social assistance, health care, labour policy, etc.).
Applying knowledge and understanding: Through interaction in the class, students are stimulated to apply the aquired analytical tools to the study of comparative welfare state development. Also, students are ecnouraged to write a short essay instead of taking the final sit-down exam. At the end of the course, students are expected to fully understand the content of academic contributions in the comparative welfare state literature, as well as the content of official documents, grey literature, etc.
Making judgements: Students are expected to be able to apply the fundamental analytical tools in order to fully understand both the functioning of social protection systems and the main drivers of institutional change in the field. They will also learn how to assess the varying effectiveness of different welfare institutional arrangements by relying on empirical evidence - i.e. using both qualitative information and quantitative data. Communication skills: The lectures are mostly conducted in a very interctive way in oder to strenghten students' oral communication skills. The sit down written exams always include broad open questions to allow students to elaborate extensively on pre-defined topics.
Learning skills: At the end of the course, students should be autonomous in both analyzing welfare state development and link observed empirical phenomena with more abstract theoretical arguments.