Ethics and Social Theory: The Work of Andrew Sayer

University of Wales, Newport (City Campus)
22 February 2013  |  09:45-16:45

Ethics and Social Theory: The Work of Andrew Sayer

Andrew Sayer’s work in critical social science has ranged across political economy, social theory and ethics — combining insights from each, and shedding light across them in rare and valuable ways.  His most recent books The Moral Significance of Class(Cambridge, 2005) and Why Things Matter to People: Social Science, Values and Ethical Life (Cambridge, 2011) have developed a distinctive position, critical of both modernist and postmodernist  orthodoxiesand of the tendency among social scientists to neglect or deny the importance of normativity in social relations.  As an alternative, Sayer offersqualified ethical naturalism, combined with a realist social theory.  It is a position whichdraws fruitfully on diverse theoretical resources — Adam Smith, Pierre Bourdieu, the‘capabilities’ approach — while staking out distinctive ground of its own.

This seminar will explore this recent work from a series of critical angles, and include a response from Andrew Sayer himself.  It will be of interest to sociologists, social theoristsand those with an interest in how moral philosophy relates both to wider questions of social understanding and critique, and to everyday lived experience.


Dave Elder-Vass (Loughborough) ‘The moral economy of digital gifts’

Carol Smart (Manchester) ‘Talking about what matters: the view from empirical research’

Gideon Calder (Newport) ‘Lay normativity, critique and the institutions of ethics’

Ted Benton (Essex) ‘Norms, naturalism and social explanation’

Gregor McLennan (Bristol) Summation

Andrew Sayer (Lancaster) Response

Fee (registration and food) | 

Places are limited.  Formal booking will open in mid-January, but places may be reserved before then.

Further details Gideon Calder

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