National University of Singapore, Department of Sociology, Singapore
Fellow of the ZiF research group "Normative Aspects of Public Health"
Volker Schmidt studied political science, cultural studies, and sociology at the Universities of Marburg, Birmingham and Bielefeld, where he graduated with a Master's Degree in sociology in 1987. He finished his academic training with a PhD in 1995 at the University of Bremen and a habilitation in 2000 at the University of Mannheim. In between, he spent the academic year 1997-1998 as a J.F. Kennedy Memorial Fellow at the Center for European Studies, Harvard University. In December 2000, he took up the position of Associate Professor of Sociology at the National University of Singapore. During the academic year 2008-2009, he was a Visiting Fellow at the Excellence Cluster "Religion and Politics", University of Münster, at whose Center for Advanced Study in Bioethics he also held two months-long fellowships in the summers of 2010 and 2011. Before moving to Singapore, most of his work focused on questions of distributive justice and the allocation of health care. Since then, he has broadened the scope of his work considerably, both substantively and spatially, by adding the analysis of large scale social change in East Asia and beyond. At the center of this latter work is the concept of "Gobal Modernity" which he developed and utilizes to make sense of various world historical turning points that he believes were ushered in roughly around the turn to the 1980s.
Related to the above breakthrough of global modernity, but more immediately relevant to the ZiF Research Group, one of Schmidt's current research interests lies in developing the contours of social policies that are both fiscally sustainable and socially just. Empirically, the starting point for this research was the observation that different welfare regimes, especially those of various Scandinavian and East Asian countries on the one hand, and continental European countries on the other, accord very different weights to public health and education, respectively, while only marginally diverging from each other in terms of population health status. Preliminary analysis suggests that the former country groups are making more sensible trade-offs in the allocation of scarce public resources, thus offering useful lessons for political reform in the latter. Normatively, strong sources of inspiration for this work are the writings of John Rawls, Amartya Sen and Norman Daniels.