Andrew Sayer undertakes a fundamental critique of social science's difficulties in acknowledging that people's relation to the world is one of concern. As sentient beings, capable of flourishing and suffering, and particularly vulnerable to how others treat us, our view of the world is substantially evaluative. Yet modernist ways of thinking encourage the common but extraordinary belief that values are beyond reason, and merely subjective or matters of convention, with little or nothing to do with the kind of beings people are, the quality of their social relations, their material circumstances or well-being. The author shows how social theory and philosophy need to change to reflect the complexity of everyday ethical concerns and the importance people attach to dignity. He argues for a robustly critical social science that explains and evaluates social life from the standpoint of human flourishing.
• A novel approach to a much neglected aspect of social life - the fact that our relation to the world is one of concern • Sayer shows how the many forms of human suffering and flourishing arise, and how our values and actions are related to these • Opens up fundamental issues of how we interpret social life and action to a non-specialist audience
Preface and acknowledgements; 1. Introduction: a relation to the world of concern; 2. Values within reason; 3. Reason beyond rationality: values and practical reason; 4. Beings for whom things matter; 5. Understanding the ethical dimension of life; 6. Dignity; 7. Critical social science and its rationales; 8. Implications for social science; Appendix: comments on philosophical theories of ethics; Bibliography; Index.
'This is an outstandingly well written text, clear and accessible but without oversimplification. Given recent assaults on the human/non-human distinction, Sayer's sturdy defence of what is distinctively human in our liability to suffering and our ability to thrive is more than welcome.' Margaret S. Archer, University of Warwick
'This is a fascinating book. It challenges disciplinary boundaries, and encourages us to rethink the way we explain human behaviour and construct social theories.' Ingrid Robeyns, Erasmus University Rotterdam
'Sayer's book is to be lauded for returning social theory to fundamental humanistic principles of shared basic needs and concerns for well-being. At the present time of economic crisis and austerity measures, a stronger sociological engagement with basic human cares and concerns is much to be welcomed.' E. Stina Lyon, Sociology