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Department of Social Policy 100th Anniversary Colloquium

17th December 2012

Banner image for the Colloquium

In 1912 the Department of Social Policy at the LSE was founded.  In the course of the century since then social policies have been transformed. 

To celebrate its centenary the Department hosted a Colloquium in December 2012.

The Department's Centenary Colloquium Social Policy Futures: Wreckage, Resilience or Renewal? considered challenges for the future.

The Department of Social Policy's 100th Anniversary Colloquium took place on 17th December, in the Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, LSE.

Social Policy Futures: Wreckage, Resilience or Renewal?

Welcome by Craig Calhoun and Anne West

Session I: Will a Welfare State Survive?

This session was concerned with the future of the welfare state at a time when large swathes of welfare spending are experiencing substantial real cuts for the first time in the post-war era.

Bob Goodin| considered the basic architecture of the welfare state. Funding cuts surely matter, but perhaps not as much as the damage done to social provision as for-profit suppliers are incorporated alongside state and non-profit suppliers. 

Robert Sugden| considered the welfare state as a political ideal: can it survive in a globalised economy? He focused on the question: "Will the welfare state survive as a political ideal?" Robert argued that the currently most common justification for the welfare state - a justification framed in terms of the idea of social justice - may not be sustainable in a globalised economy.

 Commentator: Jane Waldfogel

 Chair: John Hills


 Session II: The limits of Social and Global Inequalities

This session focused on the issue of inequalities in western democracies and also between the global north and south.

Adair Turner| considered what is driving the inequality trend. In theory inequality between countries should decline as economic catch-up increases. But growing inequality within societies - both developed and emerging - may be more inherent and ever more difficult to overcome.

Frances Stewart| considered why inequalities between groups are unjust and a potential cause of conflict; she also considered how Muslim/non-Muslim inequalities within Western economies and developing countries, and between Muslim and non-Muslim countries contribute to current world tensions.

 Commentator: David Piachaud

 Chair: Ernestina Coast


 Session III: Restructuring Services: Competition, Coordination And Social Justice

This session was concerned with the principles and new organisational forms adopted by reforming western democracies

Ted Marmor| considered how ideas of choice and competition have emerged in areas of social care and health policy across a number of OECD nations in the past two decades. These ideas have worked out quite differently in retirement pensions and the organisation of health care finance and delivery and have an ambiguous relationship to the fiscal strains that are their rationale.

Maurizio Ferrera| considered the frontiers of welfare change in Europe. European societies are struggling with the double challenge of budgetary constraints and rising needs. In various countries, non public actors (and funds) are being mobilised in order to complement the state's role in social protection and social investment (e.g, as regards early childhood education and care, youth training and life-long learning, work-life balance services, long-term care and, more broadly, social inclusion). What are the opportunities and risks of such developments? What are the conditions under which there can be a virtuous alliance between "public" and "non public" in the provision of services - in terms of both efficiency and fairness?

 Commentator: Carol Propper

 Chair: Julian Le Grand


Session IV: State and Society: Social Policy Futures

This session came back to state and society, and the future for social policies

Peter Hall| considered the challenges a changing global economy poses for the welfare state and the political requisites for sustaining it, with a view to elaborating a political economy perspective on the future of the welfare state.

Tony Atkinson| started from the long LSE tradition of careful quantitative research illuminating the key role of social policy in combating poverty. Turning to the future, it is hard not to be pessimistic, but there are some grounds for optimism if we view social policy in the wider context of the other daunting problems facing our societies. This in turn raises crucial questions. What narrative can we now construct to relate new policies to long-standing ambitions? How can political coalitions (with a small c) be built? What is implied for academic disciplinary boundaries?

 Commentator: Howard Glennerster

 Chair: Anne West

Colloquium Booklet (pdf version)|

Departmental Research - Video


Departmental Research - Posters