Speaker: Andrew Sayer

6.15 pm, Wednesday 22nd February 2017

 Professor Stuart Hall Building, lecture theatre LG01, Goldsmiths


Using the example of political economy, Professor Andrew Sayer will talk about social science’s conflicted stances towards normativity, and how these derive from unsatisfactory treatments of culture-nature relations, and a false equation of objectivity with value-freedom. The problems have been institutionally underpinned by the fragmentation of the social sciences into separate disciplines, each pursuing its parochial yet imperialist ventures. One consequence of this has been the divorce of positive (descriptive) and normative thought, exemplified by the lack of communication between political theory and political economy or sociology.

Sayer will argue that social science cannot avoid concepts of well-being or flourishing. In this respect, there are lessons to be learned from what we now retrospectively call ‘classical political economy’. This was written by ‘moral philosophers’, whose work preceded this fragmentation and seamlessly combined positive and evaluative or normative commentaries. He will make a case for a ‘moral economic’ approach that seeks to revive and renew this approach to address contemporary societies.

Andrew Sayer is Professor of Social Theory and Political Economy at Lancaster University. His last two books Why Things Matter to People: Social Science, Values and Ethical Life (Cambridge UP, 2011) and Why We Can’t Afford the Rich (Policy Press, 2014) cover these two fields. The talk will draw upon and extend themes from both.

This talk is part of a series of events hosted jointly with the Centre for the Understanding Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP).

All are welcome and no registration is required. For details on how to find Goldsmiths, click here.


You can now listen to a podcast of Andrew Sayer’s lecture below.