Welfare, Work and Wealth


This course introduces students to three key aspects of social policy (welfare, work and wealth) in order to develop understandings of the relationship between the state, markets and personal life.

There will be a particular emphasis on the post-war welfare settlement in the UK and the shift towards a "workfare state" in contemporary neoliberal democracies.

The course focuses on the political underpinnings and social and geographical outcomes of social policies, examining debates concerning territorial justice, fairness and inequality.

Trends in benefits, housing, health and education policies will be covered in their modern historical and geographical contexts. The course will be essential to students considering a career in policy-making, non-governmental/voluntary organisations or the public sector.

Topics will include:

  • The changing state of welfare since 1945
  • The cultural production of so-called "welfare dependents"
  • New orthodoxies of welfare conditionality, personalised responsibility and paternalism
  • The changing nature of work, worker identities and labour geographies
  • Living wage campaigns in the global city, migrant labour and the casualisation of the "precariat" workforce
  • The relationship between economic policy and the wealthy
  • Strategies used by the middle classes to secure social goods

The course will examine how such topics are gendered, classed and racialised, and will explore the policy implications of current research in the geographies of welfare, work and wealth.

The course will outline the relative merits of political economy and cultural economy approaches to understanding such issues.

Students will also consider the theoretical and empirical contributions of scholars from sociology, social policy, politics and education.

The module is made up of 10 lectures and 10 interactive workshops during which students will be given the opportunity to develop work-related professional, personal and learning skills which go beyond traditional academic activities.

Students will practice and critically reflect on a range of corporate, governmental and third sector decision-making tools and activities, including conducting a needs analysis, project planning, critical policy analysis and producing policy briefings.

Students will also be expected to critically reflect on how these skills are valued by different types of employers in relation to changing labour markets and the practices of active citizenship.

In addition, students will present their work to a local employer and receive formative feedback on the quality of their work.

Preparation for these workshops is an essential requirement of the course and involves student-led enquiry and research beyond the lecture material.


  • Examination
  • Project report 
  • Presentation
  • Class participation 

Key skills

  • Critical analysis
  • Verbal and written communication
  • Team work Project planning
  • Decision-making
  • Problem-based enquiry
  • Presentation skills
  • Synthesis and evaluation of evidence
  • Independent research skills