Fighting Global Inequalities

University Programme Course Overview

Fighting Inequalities and Social Risks in the 21st Century: A Global Perspective

  • Professor: Emanuele Ferragina
  • Session: June (elective course)
  • Language of instruction: English
  • Number of hours of class: 24

Download the 2020 course overview for "Fighting Inequalities and Social Risks in the 21st Century" (pdf, 355 KB)

Objective of the Course

The objective of the course is to allow students to understand how inequalities and social risks are tackled differently across the globe. On the one hand, the course discusses the role of public policy in fighting inequalities across OECD, Latin American, Eastern European and East Asian countries. On the other, it clarifies how the massive political economy changes that took place since the end of the 1960s are conditioning the capacity of different countries to fight against inequality and insure citizens against social risks.


How do countries fight inequalities and social risks across the globe? Which are the main common/dissimilar trends we can identify studying international political economy and public policy? The course will provide a provisional answer to these two questions by employing a mixture of lecture, student presentations, and class discussion.

The course is divided in two parts. After illustrating why fighting inequalities in the 21st century matters in the introductory session, Part I of the course details how countries across the globe – in the Western World (North America, Western Europe, Australia & New Zealand), Latin America, Eastern Europe and East Asia – developed public policy strategies to fight inequalities and social risks. This part of the course will mix a general understanding of public policy (and welfare) regimes in these macro areas with the appraisal of some specific national cases. Part II of the course highlights the main political economy shifts that impact inequalities and social risks. This includes discussion of the passage from Fordism to widespread liberalization processes, the renewal of class and gender issues, the impact of the 2008 financial crisis, and the relation between political economy and societal change. Student presentations and group discussion will allow to further expand upon four questions addressed in the lectures: (1) does greater equality makes societies stronger? (2) is there a paradox in the relationship between the welfare state intervention and redistribution? (3) has the inequality level in China gone too far? (4) is austerity a dangerous idea for our societies? 

The course will be complemented by a selection of additional reading material. Students with specific interests who want to go beyond the information provided during the course can find a rich list of readings for each session.

Organization of the Course

  • Introduction: why fighting inequality matters & course overview + group formation (3 hours)

Part I: Fighting against Inequalities and Social Risks Across the Globe

  • Rich OECD Countries (2 hours)
  • Latin America (3 hours). Debate 1: Does greater equality makes societies stronger? A debate based on The Spirit Level.
  • Eastern Europe (3 hours). Debate 2: Illustrate how the welfare state redistributes, highlighting the insights from the ‘paradox of redistribution’. Is there any way to reduce the continuous polarization of income and wealth? Does the welfare state still play an important role?
  • East Asia (2 hours)

Part II: The Changing Political Economy Context

  • From Fordism to the Liberalization Process (3 hours). Debate 3: Income inequality in China. Has the inequality level gone too far? 
  • Class, Gender and Public Policy Reforms (3 hours). Student presentations of key readings & debate. Debate 4: Is austerity a dangerous idea? 
  • How the Economic Crisis Affects the Capacity to Fight Inequalities? (2 hours)
  • The Rising Invisible Majority discussing the implications of International Political Economy and Societal Change 
  • General Recap (3 hours)

Main Professor Biography

Emanuele Ferragina is an Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology at Sciences Po. He grew up in Catanzaro in the south of Italy. Prior to joining Sciences Po, he was a Departmental Lecturer at the University of Oxford, where he also received his PhD. His main research interest is the political economy of the welfare state. Besides academia, he has established (with a group of Italian researchers) the think tank Fonderia Oxford, which has the objective of raising public awareness about important societal issues, such as the rigidity of the Italian labour market, the lack of social cohesion in the Mezzogiorno, and the Italian brain drain. He also regularly writes for Il Fatto Quotidiano about equality, labour market issues, party politics, the welfare state, and lower league football.

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