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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Berlin Graduate School of Social Sciences (BGSS)


The structured PhD program "Health and Welfare in the 21st Century: A Comparative, Historical and Global Approach" tackles the topic of the future of the welfare state, with a particular focus on health care. Invented at the end of the 19th century in consequence of the industrial revolution and its ‘social question,’ welfare states face enormous challenges in the 21st century. Population aging, the emergence of post-industrial economies, globalization, transnational migration, European integration, and regional economic competition are some of the most well-known problems. In the health care area, the consequences of the tremendous advances in genetic analysis and engineering, the pandemic spreading of infectious disease, the role of behavior, and coping with global inequality all pose additional burdens by increasing the costs of health care and exacerbating the difficulties of deciding how to distribute health technology and services.

The structured doctoral program aims to prepare young scholars to take the initiative in developing the next generation of basic research and theory-building on the welfare state and health care systems. We are specifically seeking researchers in the fields of political science, sociology and history that are willing to enlarge their social scientific perspective to include broad interdisciplinary, historical, and intercultural dimensions, including medical and demographic perspectives.


Central Research Questions:

  • How are European welfare states today coping with the problems of population aging, increasing migration, diversification of lifestyles, increasing medical progress, and limited funding? Are there important differences in the reform capacities of European welfare states?
  • How are welfare states developing in regions of the world outside of Europe? What historical, political and institutional factors—in particular, the type and quality of democracy—are most critical for these emerging welfare states?
  • From an historical and comparative perspective, how can we best understand the emergence of the post-war European Social model? What seem to be the future developmental dynamics? To what extent can this become a global model?
  • How do welfare states shape social inequality across the life course and which new forms of inequality are emerging? Which social policies are effective in reducing inequality or at least preventing extreme increases in inequality?