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Between Nation-Building and Liberalization: The Welfare State in Israel (JEWISHST 132)

Course Description: 

According to one commentator, the political economy of Israel is characterized by embedded illiberalism. In the context of a national and territorial conflict, the Israeli state fostered comprehensive nation-building projects (such as immigration absorption), via employment and social protection schemes. This course surveys the distinctive development of the Israeli welfare state in comparative perspective, and analyzes its particular politics and outcomes in the form of inclusion but also exclusion of different populations from full citizenship. The course will follow a chronological path from the pre-state crystallization of national welfare institutions to the current neo-liberalization trend that seems to undermine collectivist projects and advance the re-commodification of citizenship. Throughout the course we will discuss issues such as: the role of labor and nationalism in the design of social policy, the production of national, ethnic and gender inequality, and the dynamics of change and continuity following heightened liberalization and internationalization since the 1980s. The course exposes students to key issues of the sociology of the welfare state with particular emphasis on the development and role of the state in a deeply conflicted society, using the Israeli experience. At the conclusion of the course students are expected to understand how welfare state institutions reflect but also reproduce societal schisms and conflicts, and be familiar with central aspects of Israeli politics past and present.

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