1st Edition

Ethics, Economy and Social Science Dialogues with Andrew Sayer

Edited By Balihar Sanghera, Gideon Calder Copyright 2022
    260 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    260 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book is a collection of critical engagements with Andrew Sayer, one of the foremost postdisciplinary thinkers of our times, with responses from Sayer himself.

    Sayer’s ground-breaking contributions to the fields of geography, political economy and social theory have reshaped the terms of engagement with issues and debates running from the methodology of social science through to the environment, and industrial development to the ethical dimensions of everyday life. Transatlantic scholars across a wide range of fields explore his work across four main areas: critical realism; moral economy; political economy; and relations between social theory, normativity and class.

    This is the first full-length critical assessment of Sayer’s work. It will be of interest to readers in sociology, economics, political economy, social and political philosophy, ethics, social policy, geography and urban studies, from upper-undergraduate levels upwards.


    Balihar Sanghera and Gideon Calder

    Part I: The Nature and Scope of Realism

    1. Why Andrew Sayer Matters

    Douglas V. Porpora

    2. Andrew Sayer: Human Nature and Social Critique

    Ted Benton

    3. Objectivity and Normativity

    Justin Cruickshank

    4. Abstract and Concrete: Some (More) Groundwork

    Steve Fleetwood

    Part II: Dimensions of Moral Economy

    5. Critical Realism and Moral Economy: Sympathetic Reflections on Andrew Sayer’s Work

    Bob Jessop

    6. Why (Mundane) Things Matter: From Moral Economy to Foundational Economy

    Kevin Morgan

    7. Moral Economy: A Framework and a Manifesto

    Dave Elder-Vass

    8. Putting Resistance Back in Moral Economy

    Balihar Sanghera and Elmira Satybaldieva

    Part III: Applications in Political Economy

    9. Andrew Sayer on Inequality, Climate Emergency and Ecological Breakdown: Can We Afford the Rich?

    Jamie Morgan

    10. Hard Work: Restructuring, Realism, and Regions

    Jamie Peck

    11. Varieties of Unfreedom

    John O’Neill

    12. The Persistent Radicalism of Andrew Sayer

    Richard Walker

    Part IV: Social Theory, Normativity and Class

    13. A Social Scientist for Our Times: Unravelling the Moral Morass of Class, Wealth, Profit

    and Oppression

    Diane Reay

    14. The Elephant in the Room: Sayer on Social Class

    Graham Scambler

    15. From Dispositions to Interaction and Relations

    Nick Crossley

    16. Ordinary Inequality: Sayer, Political Theory and the Human Good

    Gideon Calder

    Part V: Responses

    17. Responses to the Contributors

    Andrew Sayer


    Balihar Sanghera is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Kent. His research has focused on neoliberal reforms in post-Soviet Central Asia, and charitable giving and philanthropy in the UK. In both areas, he uses moral economy to emphasise the ethical dimensions of economic and social life. His book is Rentier Capitalism and Its Discontents: Power, Morality and Resistance in Central Asia (2021), co-authored with Elmira Satybaldieva.

    Gideon Calder is Associate Professor of Social Philosophy and Policy at Swansea University. His ten books include, most recently, How Inequality Runs in Families: Unfair Advantage and the Limits of Social Mobility (2016) and the co-edited Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Childhood and Children (2018). He has written extensively on issues in social, political and ethical theory and their application to various issues of policy and practice, and is co-editor of the journal Ethics and Social Welfare.

    "A stimulating collection of critical engagements with Andrew Sayer whose ground-breaking, postdisciplinary contributions to debates on critical realism, moral economy, inequality and social theory are relevant now more than ever. A fascinating book."

    Prof. Karen Rowlingson, University of York, UK

    "This book gives a central place to Andrew Sayer within critical realist theory, as his work richly deserves. His contributions always pivot on the humanistic, but his scope is much broader than is generally recognised. The contributors deal admirably with this range as well as its consistent concern with human well-being. This collection is not another ‘introductory text’ and so much the better for that. It shows critical realism doing as it should; fostering its own theoretical development through clear dialogues such as are presented here."

    Prof. Margaret Archer, University of Warwick, UK

    "Restoring the place of ethical values in social enquiry has been the central focus of Andrew Sayer's widely admired and influential work over the past two decades. This timely collection explores and engages with his contribution to this crucial task, and its relationship to his earlier work on critical realism in the social sciences. It will be essential reading for anyone concerned with how to conceptualise, study and evaluate the ethical character of contemporary capitalism and its implications for social relationships and human well-being." 

    Prof. Russell Keat, University of Edinburgh, UK

    "Ethics, Economy and Social Science makes a strong case for the urgent relevance of Andrew Sayer’s work for our time. The editors and authors draw from work that spans the breadth of Sayer’s remarkable career, taking his most familiar ideas in challenging, sometimes surprising, and always inspiring directions. The interdisciplinary scope of Sayer’s contributions is on full display in these chapters, as is the compelling promise of his ideas for the future of social science. As a collection, it offers a robust critique and timely guidance for those who hope that being a social scientist or philosopher is, in the end, an opportunity to advance human dignity and flourishing."

    Prof. Elizabeth Olson, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA