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Markets in the Welfare State



The traditional role of the welfare state is to protect citizens from market risks in various aspects of their lives, from sickness and unemployment to old-age. Since the 1980s, this traditional role of the welfare state has been redefined, as governments have introduced different degrees of marketization in their welfare states. The shift from public to market-based provision of social goods can be found across all three types of welfare states (liberal, conservative, social-democratic), although the ways in which marketization is achieved varies widely. In this course, we will examine the various ways in which governments have created new welfare markets by focusing on three policy domains: health care, education and pensions. We will focus in particular on the tensions that arise between the government’s role as market regulator versus its responsibilities for the provision of social welfare. To this end, we will consider the importance of institutional design in shaping the behavior of market actors (e.g. private providers or consumers), the influence of interest groups on governmental regulation and oversight (e.g. business associations, labor unions, consumer organizations), and the impact of marketization on social welfare and the public budget. We will analyze cases from the Netherlands and other European political economies.

Learning objectives

  • Describe historical changes in the interactions between politics and markets in the realm of the welfare state;
    • Identify and evaluate different types of welfare markets;
    • Illustrate theories of political economy and welfare state development with contemporary examples of marketization in the welfare state;
    • Analyse and explain specific outcomes of marketization processes in different policy areas;
    • Critically evaluate academic research in the area of welfare state development and political economy;
    • Independently carry out a case study and communicate the results in a research paper.



Methods of instruction

This course consists of lectures and self study. This course is compulsory.

Study load

Total study load is 140 hours, of which 21 contact hours and 119 self-study hours.

Method of assessment

Assessment for this course consists of a take-home exam (40%), a final research paper (50%), and class participation (10%). Students need to earn a grade of 5,5 or higher for each assignment to successfully finish the course. Partial grades cannot be compensated.


Yes, the Blackboard site will become available a week prior to the start of the course.

Other course materials/literature

Course readings consist of a selection of academic articles and book chapters. The readings for the first week of the course will be announced a week in advance on Blackboard.


(To be completed)


Dr. Natascha van der Zwan