Thursday, June 07, 2012


At an altitude of 10 200 metres, our Boeing 777-300ER is just about to cross into the Gobi Desert. I am plying a route that feels very familiar after a spring divided between Scandinavia and Korea. But beyond the green line on the IFE screen, I must admit that I know practically nothing about this arid expanse. I remember reading somewhere that the Chinese call it Hànhǎi or “endless sea”. From history I of course know about Sven Hedin and his adventures at the turn of the last century. However, except for such trivia, I am practically lost. The vastness of the desert seems to defy all standard measurements. According to Wiki, the Gobi desert is 1610 km long and 800 km wide. A quick calculation tells me that it would take forty or maybe fifty days to cross the desert by foot, a distance which our two General Electric GE90-115BLs engines will have cleared in less than two hours.

This journey marks the end of my first year at HUFS. Thinking back, I feel a profound sense of gratitude towards all the wonderful people who have made this year one of the best on record, not the least the fantastic students who I have had the privilege of teaching. Of my three courses this spring, I am particularly happy to see the interest that the course on “Globalization and the welfare state” has garnered, both from students and friends. I will definitely try to offer it again in the future. Until then, I thought I should share the synopsis for the course here on Rawls & Me:

From the beginning, the welfare state has been at the centre of many ideological debates. For the Left, it has been a symbol of inclusive citizenship and a path to greater social mobility. For the Right, the same welfare state institutions have been seen as a threat against human freedom and the paradoxical cause behind much poverty and dependency. More recently, in the wake of economic globalization, it has often been argued that the welfare state has become fiscally unsustainable and that it must be dismantled in the name of international competition. Yet, other scholars have argued the very opposite, that in order to compete in the global market, countries need precisely the kind of investment in human capital which the welfare state provides and that higher education levels are crucial for driving economic growth. This course will examine such statements and offer a comparative as well as historical approach to the study of welfare regimes, focusing on difference and similarities between Europe, the United States and Asia. Towards the end, the course will also look at emerging demographic challenges, the possible advantages and drawbacks of universal basic income schemes and new global forms of welfare capitalism.



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