This unit is taught in FOUR modules. Each module includes three related topics.
MODULE ONE: Introduction to the concepts, focusing on neo-liberalism and new public management
In this first module, we start by map different types of ideas. Such ideas include ‘big ideas’, such as Keynesianism or neo-liberalism, but also second tier ideas such as prevention, new social risks, social exclusion, activation, new public management, or the three ideas that we explore in more detail in this unit, user choice, mutual obligation and social investment. We begin by establishing what we mean by idea before exploring where ideas come from, who helps to spread them and how they spread across time, space and policy areas. To ground the conversation, we finish this module by exploring the shift from Keynesianism to neo-liberalism.
MODULE 2: User choice
In this second module, we focus on user choice. Choice is framed differently depending on whether choice is imagined within liberal/economic framework or within a human rights framework, for example. In both frames, choice is seen to be an inherent good. But the operationalisation of the concept varies immensely. Within a liberal framework, the policy response to more user choice is outsourcing, personal budgets and similar, while choice within a human rights framework is used to call for removal of barriers to participation and more support. To get a grip on how the framing matters for policy outcomes, we mostly focus on aged care and disability care to investigate how choice has influenced how care is now organised and carried out.
MODULE 3: Social Investment
Since the late 1990s, new ideas and strategies concerning the role and shape of the Welfare State have been formulated. Policy developments point towards a similar policy logic based on ‘social investment’. In fact, the idea of social investment has been central to recent social policy debates in several OECD countries. In this module, we explore this new perspective. First, we ask what a social investment approach is. That entails exploring the concept at the ideational level. Later in the module we explore how the idea has been operationalised in terms of the policies implemented; when and where can social investment paradigms be applied. A related question is about where and where it should be applied. We also focus on how this particular idea has spread across countries and investigate the achievements as well as the shortcomings.
MODULE 4: Welfare-to-work
In this last module, we closely consider the 'welfare-to-work' paradigm that has influenced work and social policy in countries like Australia and the US. We investigate how this paradigm emerged as central to an emerging policy monopoly in social policy that emphasised tough -- even harsh -- policies to compel working-age people to participate in low-wage labour markets. Has 'welfare-to-work' reduced 'welfare dependence' and encouraged employment? What problems persist? We take a look at the ongoing impact of tougher welfare-to-work policies on poor communities in a cross-national perspective and consider alternative policies.