An introduction to Social Policy

Social Policy: Theory and Practice - 3rd edition

Paul Spicker

Readings in Social Policy

The readings listed here have been chosen to complement the text of Social Policy: Theory and Practice.

Almost all the readings are PDF downloads.They have been selected to meet four basic criteria:

  1. Although some of the readings are wide-ranging, and they may include material that is also relevant elsewhere, they needed to relate to the material covered in the relevant chapter.
  2. They have to be  legitimately available on the Internet for all users. (I have confined the links to sites that appear to be legitimate, including university sites, publishers' sites and institutional repositories. If I am mistaken, please inform me and I will take down the link.)
  3. They have to be free.  It has already happened that an open-access reading from this list has been replaced with a pay-to-view link; if this happens again, let me know and I will take the link down.
  4. They cover general issues in social policy rather than material that is specific to one country. The selection is skewed, as a result, to the work of international organisations.

Students in universities will usually have a much wider range of options to choose from.The process of selection means that these are not necessarily the leading references in the field, but they are all worth reading, and they generally go further than the text alone.

Readings to accompany Social Policy: Theory and Practice

1. The nature of social policy

Part 1: Social policy and society

2. Welfare in society

3. Inequalities

4. Problems and responses

5. Needs and welfare

6. Indicators - quantifying social issues

Part 2: Policy

7. Public policy

8. Welfare states

9. Principles and values

10. Strategies for welfare

11. Policy in practice

Part 3: Social administration: The organisation and delivery of welfare

12. Welfare sectors

13. The organisation of public services

14. Value for money

15. Service delivery

16. Receiving welfare

17. The administrative process

Part 4: The methods and approaches of social policy

18. Research for policy

19. Evidence and policy

20. Social policy for practice.

Social Policy: Theory and practice (Policy Press, 2014)

Social Policy: Theory and Practice can be ordered from the Policy Press's website

Updating and commentary

Paul Spicker's blog on social policy issues includes updates on social policy and comments on new developments; his open access page includes links to more than 100 published works, including seven full-length books.

The most cited works in Social Policy

This is a different kind of reading list, which will mainly be of interest to people who have already decided to make their way in academic social policy.  It has been selected by identifying all the works relating to Social Policy which have been cited in Google Scholar more than 5000 times.  Many of these works have come to form part of the common vocabulary by  which the subject is discussed.

The list does not include every influential work in social science, politics or economics; it is confined to texts which relate directly to social policy as well as to the authors' own discipline.   Using a count of citations leads to some bias:  works are cited more often if they appeal to a range of disciplines, and some of the references are specifically concerned with the USA. By contrast, most of the the leading works in UK social policy - the Poor Law report, the Beveridge report, or Titmuss - don't make the cut.  International and American sources have a much greater reach.

Books have far more influence than academic articles; it is worth noting that only four of the texts below come from journals. Martin Powell has run an analysis of the impact of five leading journals: the highest rate of citation on Google Scholar for any single article was under 1200.  That article was Arts, W.and Gelissen, J. (2002), Three worlds of welfare capitalism or more? A state-of-the-art report, Journal of European Social Policy, 12, 2: 137-58. Most of the most- cited articles were conceptual rather than research-based.  See M Powell,  2016, Citation classics in social policy journals, Social Policy and Administration 50(6) 648-672.

Published text          
citations (Apr. 2019)
M Foucault, Discipline and punish (Surveiller et punir), 1975 81067
P Freire, The pedagogy of the oppressed, 1970  
R Puttnam, Bowling alone, 2001 58695
J Coleman, Social capital in the formation of human capital, American Journal of Sociology 1988 45410
G Hardin, The tragedy of the commons, Science 1968 39219
A Sen, Development as freedom, 1999 36896
G Esping-Andersen The three worlds of welfare capitalism, 1990 33849
M Friedman, Capitalism and freedom, Chicago 1962 20667
W Wilson. The truly disadvantaged, Chicago 1987
S Arnstein, A ladder of citizen participation, Journal of the American Town Planning Institute 1969 18014
J Coleman, Equality of educational opportunity, 1966 16827
World Health Organization, Obesity, 2000
M Lipsky, Street level bureaucracy, 1980 15212
WHO, International classification of functioning, disability and health 14645
M Foucault, Madness and civilisation (Historie de la folie) 1961 14366
E Goffman, Asylums, Penguin 1961 14373
S Bowles, H Gintis, Schooling in capitalist America, 1976 12716
A Sen, Poverty and famines, Oxford 1983 12525
R Thaler, C Sunstein, Nudge, 2009 12507
T Marshall, Citizenship and social class, 1950 11799
C Hood, A public management for all seasons?, Public Administration 1991 11596
R Herrnstein, C Murray, The Bell Curve, 1994  10043
A Sen, Commodities and capabilities, 1999  9313
G Esping-Andersen, 1999, Social foundations of post industrial economies. Oxford University Press  9153
A Hollingshead, F Redlich, Social class and mental illness, 1958  9018
J Habermas, Legitimation crisis, 1975  8950
WHO, World Health Report 2001
C Pollitt, G Bouckaert, Public management reform, 2004
WHO, World Health Report 2002
C Jencks, Inequality, 1972  6736
C Murray, Losing Ground, 1984
P Townsend, Poverty in the United Kingdom, 1979
WHO, World Health Report 2000 5180
P Pierson, Dismantling the welfare state?, 1994
P Pierson, The new politics of the welfare state, World Politics 1996

Most of these works are available on the internet in PDF format, but I have not been able to establish whether the copies are legitimate.

The inclusion of these works in this list should not be taken to indicate agreement with their content.   Some of them are rather badly informed (for example, Foucault on mental illness; consult Kay Jones' Asylums and After for a devasting critique) and some of the arguments are very weak (Hardin does not seem to understand the difference between common grazing rights and robbing banks).  They should not be taken on trust.