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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 marketisation 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 marketisation 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 behaviour of market actors (e.g. private providers or consumers), the influence of interest groups on governmental regulation and oversight (e.g. business associations, labour unions), and the concomitant developments of marketisation and financialisation. We will analyse cases from advanced economies around the world, with a particular focus on Western Europe.

This course complements the specialisation 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 by right-wing populist voters and parties, and we will discuss how welfare state institutions and policies change over time to respond to global dynamics like immigration and precarisation. 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;

  • analyse 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 e-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 (20%), blog post (20%) and course participation (10%). 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 possible.

For this course, partial grades from the academic year 2022-2023 will not remain valid.

You can find more information about assessments and the timetable on the website. Details for submitting papers (deadlines) are posted on Brightspace.

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.


Please note, registration for this elective is organised by the OSC in a different way from the regular elective registration.
Students are registered for this elective by using a randomised allocation system. You will receive more information per e-mail at the end of February

Leiden University uses Brightspace as its online learning management system. After enrolment for the course in MyStudymap you will be automatically enrolled in the Brightspace environment of this course.

More information on registration via MyStudymap can be found on this page.

Please note: guest-/contract-/exchange students do not register via MyStudymap but via uSis.


Dr. F. Bulfone