Ethics and Social Theory: The Work of Andrew Sayer

February 22, 2013
University of Wales, Newport

United Kingdom

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Time: 09:45-16:45

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  orthodoxies, and of the tendency among social scientists to neglect or deny the importance of normativity in social relations.  As an alternative, Sayer offers a qualified ethical naturalism, combined with a realistsocial theory.  It is a position which draws 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 theorists and 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) | £30

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

Further details| Gideon Calder: [email protected]

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