Skip to content

Why Things Matter to People
Social Science, Values and Ethical Life


  • Date Published: January 2011
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521171649

£ 23.99

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Hardback, eBook

Looking for an inspection copy?

This title is not currently available on inspection

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • 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
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    '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

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2011
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521171649
    • length: 296 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.48kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    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

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Advanced Sociological Theory
    • Interpersonal and Social Power
    • Social and Cultural Theory
    • Sociology of Everyday Life
    • The Meaning of Life
    • Topics in Contemporary Political Theory ll
  • Author

    Andrew Sayer, Lancaster University
    Andrew Sayer is Professor of Social Theory and Political Economy in the Department of Sociology at Lancaster University. His most recent publications include The Moral Significance of Class (2005) and Realism and Social Science (2000).

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×
warning icon

Turn stock notifications on?

You must be signed in to your Cambridge account to turn product stock notifications on or off.

Sign in Create a Cambridge account arrow icon

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.