2023 Annual Lecture to discuss political conflicts of public welfare provision


As Silja Häusermann sits on a stage wearing a green suit, she appears to be in a discussion and expressing herself with her hands.

Professor Silja Häusermann, University of Zurich 

Western European welfare states are facing three key social and economic challenges in the 21st century: the rise of the knowledge economy, demographic ageing, and the massive political polarisation over questions of immigration and integration.

How can these challenges be addressed with the tools of social policy? How much resource can and should be spent on correcting market outcomes and equalising incomes? Should the welfare state honour its promise of providing encompassing social security by shielding citizens from the risks and challenges of the early 21st century, or by helping them adapt to these new realities, and by expanding the pool of solidarity to new risk groups? The answers different citizens and political parties in Europe give to these questions differ dramatically. 

Join us on Friday 10 November as guest speaker Silja Häusermann (Professor of Political Science, University of Zurich) discusses this topic in depth for the Department of Social Policy and Intervention's 2023 Sidney Ball Memorial Lecture.

Silja Häusermann is Professor of Political Science at the Department of Political Science, University of Zurich. Her research is in comparative politics, comparative political economy and behaviour, with specialisms in socio-structural change, electoral and party system change, and their impact on distributive policies, as well as the transformation of welfare state in advanced post-industrial democracies. 

In her forthcoming book, 'The Politics of Welfare Reform in 21st Century Western Europe’, Professor Häusermann studies political conflict over the provision of public welfare in the early 21st century, identifying structural and coalitional opportunities for reform across policy fields and regional contexts. Its main claim is that the question of inclusion vs. segmentation has become a key dividing line in the politics of welfare reform. Both voters and elites debate whether to expand the boundaries of welfare programmes to address new social risks and prioritise future economic opportunities - inclusion - or whether to target expenditure in ways that prioritise the current community and its income security - segmentation. 

To study politicisation and reform opportunities in different fields of social policy, the book builds on large amounts of original data from public opinion surveys and content coding in eight West European countries (Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, UK, Ireland, Italy and Spain). 

Oxford’s Department of Social and Policy and Interventions Sidney Ball Memorial lectures began in 1917, shortly after Barnett House was founded in 1914. The first lecture was published as the Barnett House Papers No.1 by Oxford University Press in the same year.  When Sidney Ball, chairman of the Barnett House Committee, died in March 1918, the annual talks were renamed as the Sidney Ball Memorial lectures. This historic lecture has been a signature event in DSPI since 1917. 

This year’s lecture will take place from 5 – 6pm on Friday 10 November in the Auditorium at St John’s College and will be followed by a drinks reception. Registration is required and can be made on our Eventbrite page.  

The lecture will be recorded and released online after the event date. For recordings of previous Sidney Ball Memorial lectures, visit Sidney Ball Memorial Lectures.