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Markets in the Welfare State


Admission requirements



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 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 politicians and policy-makers have recalibrated the relationship between states and markets through the introduction of new types of welfare provisions (e.g. social investment, asset-based welfare). 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), and the concomitant developments of marketization and financialization. We will analyze cases from advanced economies around the world.

This course complements the specialization course on Welfare State Economics. Whereas Welfare State Economics offers an economic perspective on the welfare state, in this course we will consider the politics and policies of the welfare state. For instance, we will identify the different types of welfare states, we will study political support and opposition to the welfare state, and we will discuss how welfare state institutions and policies change over time. Although the broader history of the welfare state since the early 20th century will be taken into account, the focus of the course will be on recent developments since the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Course objectives

After taking this course, students will be able to:

  • describe historical changes in state-market relations 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 in the realms of social and economic policy;

  • analyze and explain specific outcomes of change 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 result.


On the right side of programme front page of the Prospectus you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Brightspace.

Mode of instruction

On campus seminars and self-study.

Assessment method

Assessment consists of a final paper assignment (50%), peer review (10%), blog post (20%) and course participation (20%). Each assignment needs to be completed with a grade of 5.5 or higher to pass the course. The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average of the partial grades. Compensation of partial grades with other partial grades is not possible. Failed assignments can be resubmitted during the retake exam week.

Partial grades will not remain valid after the exam and the resit of the course.
You can find more information about assessments and the timetable exams on the website. Details for submitting papers (deadlines) are posted on Brightspace.
More information about participation in exams can be found in the Rules & Regulations.

Resit written exam
Students that want to take part in a resit for a written exam, are required to register via uSis. Use the activity number that can be found on the ‘timetable exams’.

Partial grades are only valid in the current academic year; partial grades will not remain valid after the exam and the resit of the course.

Reading list

Course readings will consist of academic articles and book chapters. Readings will be announced on Brightspace one week prior to the start of the course.


Registration in uSis is possible from four weeks before the start of the course. Due to the closure of the university on the 4th of October registration for the MPA electives of block 2 will open on the 5th of October on 13 hours.

From the academic year 2020-2021 Leiden University uses Brightspace as its online learning management system. After enrolment for the course in uSis you will be automatically enrolled in the Brightspace environment of this course.


Dr. F. Bulfone