Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 2010

The Political Sociology of the Welfare State: Institutions, Cleavages, Orientations

LecturerProfessor Stefan Svallfors,
Department of Sociology,
Umeå University, Sweden

Main disciplines: Sociology, Political Economy

Dates: 2 - 6 August 2010
Course Credits: 10 pts (ECTS)
Limitation: 30 participants

Political sociology seeks to understand the relation between social and political life. Its aim is to map variations in the relationship between social structure, political orientations, and political action, and to explain the patterns that arise. Thus broadly conceived, the field will include analyses of issues as different as the rise and fall of political parties, the development and effects of political institutions, or the orientations and action patterns of mass publics.

The field of survey-based political sociology has changed considerably since its early postwar inception. It has become explicitly comparative, using country variation as an important tool for understanding the mechanisms of political life, and it has become more attentive to the effects of the output side of politics on orientations and action patterns.

The objective of this course is to present current research related to this field of research. It aims to describe variations and untangle mechanisms in the links between political institutions, social cleavages, and orientations among citizens in the advanced industrial societies. A particular focus is set on the determinants and development of welfare state attitudes, and their base in social cleavages, especially the class cleavage. The course also deals with methodological strategies and pitfalls in comparative survey research and presents the most prominent data collaborations in the field. Empirical examples from comparative survey research are presented and analysed in detail.


Preparatory readings
Students should obtain and read these books in advance of the course.



Monday 2 August

Lecture 1:  Introduction: The political sociology of the welfare state
On the basic concepts, perspectives and history of the field.



Lecture 2: Institutions and institutionalisms
Presents different institutionalist theories and their implications for comparative research.



Tuesday 3 August

Lecture 3: The Class Cleavage
Presents different class concepts and theories.



Lecture 4: Class and attitudes
Discusses the relation between social class and attitudes in comparative perspective, and what affects the links between class and attitudes.



Wednesday 4 August

Lecture 5: Welfare States in Comparative Perspective
A brief overview of current comparative research on welfare state determinants and recent changes.



Lecture 6: Welfare State Attitudes
Deals with studies and perspectives in the analysis of attitudes towards the welfare state.



Thursday 5 August

Lecture 7: Comparing countries
On different methodological approaches in comparative research and how they relate to comparative survey research.



Lecture 8: Comparative attitude research: data collaborations and indicators
Presents the International Social Survey Program and the European Social Survey, and the attitude indicators that are found in these data sets.



Friday 6 August

Lecture 9: Class, Attitudes and the Welfare State: Trends and mechanisms
Presents current empirical analyses of the relation between class and welfare state attitudes, and about the relation between institutional and attitudinal change.



Lecture 10: Summary and the future of the research field
Summarises some of the key topics from the course and discusses where the field is heading now



Reading list (preliminary):


The lecturer
Stefan Svallfors is professor in Sociology at Umeå University. His research field is the comparative study of attitudes and values and their links to social structure and institutions. He is involved in two major comparative attitude research programs: the International Social Survey Program and the European Social Survey. His current research mainly concerns class differences in attitudes in Western countries. He has been a visiting scholar in London, Sydney and Oxford. Among his latest publications are found The Political Sociology of the Welfare State: Institutions, Social Cleavages, and Orientations. (Stanford University Press, 2007) and The Moral Economy of Class. Class and Attitudes in Comparative Perspective. (Stanford University Press, 2006), and contributions to The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Social Policy (2010) and European Political Science Review (2010).

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