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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 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 policy, 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, consumer organizations), and the impact of marketization on social inequality. We will analyze cases from the Netherlands and other advanced political economies.

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 of marketization in the realms of social and economic policy;

  • Analyze 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.


On the right side of programme front page of the E-guide you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Blackboard.

Mode of instruction

Seminars and self-study.

Course Load

  • Seminars: 21 hours

  • Self-study: 70 hours

  • Assignments: 49 hours

Assessment method

Assessment consists of a written take-home assignment at mid-term (40%), a final paper assignment (50%) and class participation (10%). 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.

You can find more information about assessments and the timetable exams on the website.
Details for submitting papers (deadlines) are posted on Blackboard.
On the Public Administration front page of the E-guide you will find links to the website, uSis and Blackboard.

Students will be permitted to resit an examination if they have a mark lower than 5.5 or with permission of the Board of Examiners.

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’.


A Blackboard website for this course will be made available one week prior to the start of the course. Blackboard will be used for course communication, the distribution of course information (syllabus, readings, assignments) and for the submission of assignments.

Reading list

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


Use both uSis and Blackboard to register for every course.

Register for every course and workgroup via uSis. Some courses and workgroups have a limited number of participants, so register on time (before the course starts). In uSis you can access your personal schedule and view your results. Registration in uSis is possible from four weeks before the start of the course.

Also register for every course in Blackboard. Important information about the course is posted there.


Dr. Natascha van der Zwan