Themed Section on Political Economy and Social Policy
Social Policy and Political Economy: A Tale of (at least) Two Disciplines
This article discusses the nature of, and links between, the academic disciplines of Social Policy and Political Economy. Two core concerns of mainstream Social Policy are identified: firstly, a focus upon the development and operation of the welfare state and, secondly, a concern with concepts such as equity. Political Economy is identified as a discipline based upon the understanding that the production and distribution of wealth can only effectively be studied alongside the operation of power. It is argued that the core concerns of Social Policy are best approached from a Political Economy perspective. Three contemporary trends make this a particularly opportune time to apply the Political Economy approach to the concerns of Social Policy. These are, firstly, the growing importance of processes of ‘globalisation’, secondly, the increasingly explicit linking of economic and social policies by governments and, thirdly, the emergence of new actors in the social welfare field, particularly for-profit corporations.