STV2313 – The Welfare State: Politics, Policies, and Feedback

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

The welfare state was a European invention that took shape gradually during the twentieth century. It consists of several policy domains, for example social insurances/cash benefits such as pensions, unemployment benefits, sickpay, parental leave, and social assistance. It also consists of public services like health care, elder care, child care, and so on. It is no exaggeration to say that the welfare state fundamentally restructured Western societies. Roughly half of state expenditures, and up to around a third of GDP, in advanced industrial democracies now concern the welfare state. This makes it a crucial subject matter for social science in general and political science in particular.
This course asks three groups of questions.
  • One has to do with the politics of the welfare state. What were the political-historical origins of the welfare state? How do voters, parties, and governments relate to various policy areas today? Are patterns of conflict and levels of support changing?
  • A second group of questions zooms in on policies themselves. What are the main policy dimensions and how do these vary across countries? Is there still a “Nordic model”? And how do welfare states now respond in the face of current challenges, such as population ageing, economic globalization, European integration, and immigration?
  • The third set of questions has to do with policy feedback. Can welfare state policies, once established, affect the “input side” of democratic politics? For example, do such policies somehow reshape citizens’ participation patterns, policy attitudes, or trust in democratic institutions?
  • The course should be of general interest to political science students and similar, for example to those with a specialization in comparative politics or in public policy.

Learning outcome


Having completed the course you can:

  • define “the welfare state” and account for the key policy areas and dimensions.
  • explain the political-historical origins of the welfare state.
  • describe how and why welfare state policies vary across countries today and how they are changing
  • describe how key democratic actors and groups agree and disagree over welfare state policies.
  • account for how already existing welfare state polices affect democratic politics.
  • discuss current “real-world” public debates concerning the functioning and future of the welfare state.


Having completed the course you can:

  • analyze current real-world political debates and policy processes using research about welfare state politics.


You can:

  • synthesize, evaluate, and apply vast swathes of information.
  • engage in academic dialogue and mutual feedback

Overlapping courses

10 credits overlap with STV4314


4 hour exam

Digital examination

The written examination is conducted in the digital examination system Inspera. You will need to familiarize yourself with the digital examination arrangements in Inspera.

Read more about written examinations using Inspera.

Language of examination

You may write your examination paper in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Students who can document a valid reason for absence from the regular examination are offered a postponed examination at the beginning of the next semester.

Re-scheduled examinations are not offered to students who withdraw during, or did not pass the original examination.

The course is only offered spring 2020

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.

Facts about this course






Spring 2020


Spring 2020

Teaching language