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Andrew Sayer

R. Andrew Sayer (born 1949) is Professor of Social Theory and Political Economy at Lancaster University, UK. He is known for significant contributions to methodology and theory in the social sciences.



Sayer studied a BA in Geography at the Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology (now Anglia Ruskin University) in the late 1960s, and then did an MA and D.Phil. in Urban and Regional Studies at Sussex University in the early 1970s. He was lecturer in the School of Social Sciences at Sussex until he moved to a lectureship at Lancaster University in 1993. Although strongly affiliated with sociology, he has affinities with other disciplines, particularly human geography and urban and regional studies, and defines himself as 'post-disciplinary'.[1]


Sayer's early work was on radical understandings of uneven development in Western societies, and urban and regional change.[2] His book with Kevin Morgan, Microcircuits of Capital (1988), was a result. He reworked aspects of political economy and Marxist thought at a time when authors like Anthony Giddens were also redefining explanations of political and economic change (Radical Political Economy: A Critique, 1995). In the late 1990s he incorporated a cultural understanding of political-economic change, building on Pierre Bourdieu's work on economic and cultural capital. The Moral Significance of Class (2005) analyses the ethical aspects of people's experience of class inequalities: how people value one another and themselves. People can be in denial about the existence of class in modern society, even though it influences their livelihoods and careers. The moral economy and its links to political economy form his current interest (Why Things Matter to People: Social Science, Values and Ethical Life, 2011), and he has conducted work on the moral economy and the super-rich (Why we can't afford the rich, 2015).

Sayer is perhaps best known for his effort to recast the philosophy and methodology of the social sciences, developing critical realism as a philosophy of and for the social sciences (Method in Social Science, 1984, and Realism and Social Science, 2000). Critical realism argues for "theoretically informed concrete research".[3] Method in Social Science has been cited over 4230 times as of Feb. 2016.[4] Debates about Sayer's approach have been extensive, particularly his view that empirical modelling techniques in the social sciences cannot show real causal relationships, and his dissatisfaction with social constructionism and postmodernism.[5]


  • Honorary Doctorate, Lund University, 2009
  • Peter Townsend Prize, British Academy, 2015 (for Why we can't afford the rich)


  • Sayer, R.A. 2015. Why We Can't Afford the Rich. Polity Press.
  • Sayer, R.A. 2011. Why Things Matter to People: Social Science, Values and Ethical Life. Cambridge University Press.
  • Sayer, R.A. 2011. 'Habitus, work and contributive justice', Sociology, 45(1): 7-21.
  • Sayer, R.A.2009. 'Who's afraid of critical social science?', Current Sociology. 57(6): 767-786
  • Sayer, R.A. 2005. The Moral Significance of Class. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, published in Chinese 2008
  • Sayer, R.A. 2005. 'Class, worth and recognition' Sociology, 39 (5) 947-963 reprinted in Lovell, T. 2007 Misrecognition, Social Inequality and Social Justice, Routledge, pp. 88–102.
  • Sayer, R.A. 2005. The Moral Significance of Class. Cambridge University Press.
  • Sayer, R.A. 2000. Realism and social science. London: Sage.
  • Ray, L. and Sayer, R.A. (eds.). 1999. Culture and Economy After the Cultural Turn. London: Sage.
  • Sayer, R.A. 1995. Radical Political Economy: Critique and Reformulation. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Sayer, R.A. and Walker, R. 1992. The new social economy. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Morgan, K. and Sayer, R.A. 1988. Microcircuits of capital. Cambridge: Polity.
  • Sayer, R.A. 1984/1992. Method in Social Science: a realist approach. Hutchinson/Routledge.
  • Sayer, R.A. 1981. ‘Abstraction: a realist interpretationRadical Philosophy 28: 6-15
  • Sayer, R.A. 1982. ‘Explanation in economic geography’ Progress in Human Geography 6: 68-88


  1. ^ Pratt, A. 2004. Andrew Sayer. In Hubbard P, Kichin R and G Valentine. (eds.) Key thinkers on space and place. London: Sage.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-01-19. Retrieved 2012-08-24. Home Page
  3. ^ Pratt, A. 2004. Andrew Sayer. In Hubbard P, Kichin R and G Valentine. (eds.) Key thinkers on space and place. London: Sage.
  4. ^ Google Scholar, Andrew Sayer
  5. ^ Review of Sayer 2000 by Karl Maton