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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Social Policy

Undergraduate Course: Analytical Perspectives in Social Policy (SCPL10024)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryAnalytical Perspectives in Social Policy introduces students to the study of social policy from different disciplinary angles (Economics, Sociology, Political Science).
Each perspective is concerned with specific themes and guided by different analytical interests and key research questions. The central aim of the course is to consolidate students' earlier learning by locating the subject of Social Policy at the intersection of disciplinary perspectives, identifying benefits and limitations of each, and showing how they may work together to provide rigorous analyses.
Course description 1. Introduction (themes and structure of the course)
2. Economic perspectives (2 lectures; 2 tutorial group sessions)
3. Political perspectives (2 lectures; 2 tutorial group sessions)
4. Sociological perspectives (2 lectures; 2 tutorial group sessions)
5. Comparative Analysis (2 lectures)
6. Two additional tutorial group sessions
7. Group presentations and discussions

Indicative course content:
Economic Perspectives: we will discuss key questions in analysing social policy from an economic perspective. A central theme is the actual and potential economic impact of social policy. Does social policy hinder or foster economic output? This question will be considered from a macro (social spending and economic growth) and micro perspective (incentives, choice, risk and insurance). A second theme is the role of markets versus the role of the state as provider of social policy.

Political Perspectives: which political forces that led to the establishment of social policies? Why do they differ across countries and how do they change? Lectures and tutorials provide analytical tools to tackle these questions. We review structuralist explanations that identify the establishment of social policies as a by-product of the political demands triggered by processes of industrialisation and urbanisation. We then explore the role of political parties and social partners (unions and employers) in explaining why - once established - social policies took different forms across countries. Finally, we examine the role of institutions and ideas as explanatory variables to understand social policies' stability and change.
Sociological Perspectives: key sociological concerns in the study of social policy include inequality, poverty, class, gender and social norms. Addressing social inequality through various social policies is a core function of welfare states. However, while welfare states can alleviate inequalities and disadvantage, they can also reproduce or deepen inequalities, create winners and losers of welfare provision. We will address why social inequality is a problem for modern societies and look at different strategies of addressing income inequalities. We will explore the link between social policy and positions of disadvantage, mainly along the dimensions of class and gender, but also addressing aspects of intersectionality.

Comparative Analysis: Key themes: objectives of comparative analysis; comparing a few countries, comparing many countries and the logic of case comparison.
Finally, all students will prepare and be involved in a group presentation, reflecting on the three analytical perspectives in the context of a research theme and question of their choice.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 3 Social Policy or closely related courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2019/20, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  48
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 8, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 8, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 180 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 80 %, Practical Exam 20 %
Additional Information (Assessment) The course is assessed by means of two 2000 word essays (each 40% of the overall grade) plus group work in the form of presentation and power point slides (20%).
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. have a strong understanding of, and ability to apply, three key analytical perspectives on social policy
  2. independently analyse social policy across a number of sectors
  3. develope their skills in developing and supporting a line of argument, presenting information visually and orally
  4. develope their skills in working effectively as part of a team
  5. have a strong foundation of knowledge, understanding and skills that can be utilised in other honours level courses
Reading List
Barr N (2004/2012) The Economics of the Welfare State, Oxford: Oxford University Press (chapter 4 and 5).

Béland, D. (2016) Ideas and institutions in social policy research. Social Policy & Administration, 50(6), 734-750.

Giddens, A. (2009) 'Theories and Perspectives in Sociology', Chapter 3 in Sociology, 6th ed., Cambridge: Polity.

Häusermann, S. (2018) Welfare State Research and Comparative Political Economy. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics.

Korpi, W. (1983) The democratic class struggle, London, UK: Routledge and Kegan. (Chapter 2 in particular)

Korpi, W. (2000) 'Faces of Inequality: Gender, Class, and Patterns of Inequalities in Different Types of Welfare States', Social Politics, 7(2): 127-191.

Korpi, W. and Palme, J. (1998) The Paradox of Redistribution and Strategies of Equality, American Sociological Review, 63(5): 661-687.

Kuhnle, S., & Sander, A. (2010). The emergence of the western welfare state, in The Oxford Handbook of the Welfare State, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Le Grand, J., Propper, C. and Smith, S. (2008) The Economics of Social Problems, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. (chapter 1 and chapter 10).

Mandel, H. (2012) 'Winners and Losers. Consequences of Welfare State Policies for Gender Wage Inequality', European Sociological Review, 28(2): 241-262.

Myles, J. and Quadango, J. (2002) Political Theories of the welfare state, The Social Service Review, Vol. 76(1), 34-57.

Pierson, P. (1996) The new politics of the welfare state. World Politics, 48(2), 143-179.

Propper, C. (2008; 2012; 2016) Efficiency, Equity and Choice, in P. Alcock, M. May and K. Rowlingson (eds.), The Student's Companion to Social Policy, (various editions and years), Wiley-Blackwell.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and skills

By the end of the course students should have strengthened their skills in:
- independently analysing policy issues across a number of sectors;
- analysing evidence and using this to develop and support a line of argument,
- presenting information visually and orally,
- searching for and summarising available literature, and writing an extended essay,
- learning to work effectively as part of a team;
- the understanding and skills that can be utilised in other honours level courses;
- making an informed choice about the perspective(s) which will be utilised in their final year dissertation project.
Additional Class Delivery Information Classes will be held on Thursdays and Fridays between 12.00 and 1.00pm.
Keywordsstudying welfare reform,analysing economic impacts and societal effects of social policy
Course organiserDr Jochen Clasen
Tel: (0131 6)50 9922
Course secretaryMs Alison Lazda
Tel: (0131 6)51 5572
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