Philosophy

profile image for Professor Sean Sayers

Professor Sean Sayers

Emeritus Professor of Philosophy

Philosophy

About

Sean Sayers has written extensively on Hegelian and Marxist philosophy from a Hegelian‑Marxist perspective. He has worked in the areas of social philosophy, ethics, theory of knowledge, metaphysics and logic. He has also written on Freud and psychoanalysis, and is currently working on issues in aesthetics. He studied at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford and holds a PhD from the University of Kent. He has held visiting appointments in Massachusetts, Colorado, Sydney, Istanbul, Beijing, Shanghai and Wuhan. His work has been translated into Chinese, Korean, Japanese, French, German, Turkish and Greek.

His books include Marx and Alienation: Essays on Hegelian Themes (2011), Plato's Republic: An Introduction (Edinburgh University Press, 1999), Marxism and Human Nature (Routledge, 1998, paperback 2007), Reality and Reason: Dialectic and the Theory of Knowledge (Blackwell, 1985), and Hegel, Marx and Dialectic: A Debate (with Richard Norman 1980; reprinted Gregg, 1994). He has also co‑edited Socialism, Feminism and Philosophy: A Radical Philosophy Reader (Routledge, 1991), Socialism and Democracy (Macmillan, 1991) and Socialism and Morality (Macmillan, 1990). He has published numerous articles in scholarly journals and books. He was one of the founders of the journal Radical Philosophy (1972), and of the Marx and Philosophy Society (2003). He is founder and editor-in-chief of Marx and Philosophy Review of Books (2010).

Professional Activities

  • Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Marx and Philosophy Review of Books (since 2010)
  • Editorial Advisory Board, 'Current Research in Western Marxism' book series, Renmin Publishing House, Beijing (since 2006)
  • Co-founder and Organizing Committee, Marx and Philosophy Society (since 2003)
  • Consulting Editor, Episteme (since 2002)
  • Editorial Board, 'New Critical Thinking in Philosophy' series, Ashgate (1999-2006)
  • Editorial Advisory Board, Cultural Logic: An electronic journal of Marxist theory and practice (since 1997)
  • Advisory Editorial Board, Historical Materialism (since 1997)
  • Co-founder of Radical Philosophy and member of editorial board (1972-2001); Book Reviews Editor (1993-8)
back to top

Publications

Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository
Books

    Sayers, Sean (2011) Marx and Alienation: Essays on Hegelian Themes. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke and New York, 216 pp. ISBN 9780230276543.

    Abstract

    What does Marx mean by 'alienation'? What role does the concept play in his critique of capitalism and his vision of a future society? Marx and Alienation deals in depth with some of the most important philosophical assumptions of Marx's work. It sets Marx's account of alienation and its overcoming in the context of the Hegelian philosophy from which it derives, and discusses it in relation to contemporary debates and controversies. It challenges recent accounts of Marx's theory, and shows that knowledge of Hegel's philosophy is essential for an understanding of central themes in Marx's philosophy. Marx and Alienation explains and discusses Marx's ideas in an original and accessible fashion and makes a major contribution to Marxist philosophy.

    Sayers, Sean and Alpagut, ?ükrü (2009) Marksizm ve insan do?as? Yordam Kitap, Istanbul, 264 pp. ISBN 9789944122474.

    Sayers, Sean (2008) Marxism and Human Nature. Oriental Press, Beijing, 272 pp. ISBN 978-7-5060-2490-7.

    Sayers, Sean (2008) Plato's Republic: An Introduction. Seo-Kwang-Sa Publishers, Seoul ISBN 9788930606257.

    Sayers, Sean (2007) Marxism and Human Nature. Routledge, London, 214 pp. ISBN 9780415449021.

    Abstract

    Defending the controversial theory that human nature is a historical phenomenon, this book provides defends the Marxist and Hegelian historical approach, engaging with a range of work at the heart of the contemporary debate in social and moral philosophy.

    Sayers, Sean and Norman, Richard J. (1994) Hegel, Marx and Dialectic: A Debate. Ashgate Publishing; New edition edition (December 1993), Aldershot, 196 pp. ISBN 978-0751202199.

    Sayers, Sean and Norman, Richard J. (1980) Hegel, Marx and Dialectic: A Debate. Harvester Press, Humanities Press (1980), Brighton, 188 pp. ISBN 978-0391017795.

Articles

    Sayers, Sean (2009) Marxism and the Crisis of Capitalism. Philosophical Trends, 2009 (5). pp. 19-21. ISSN 1002-8862.

    Abstract

    Capitalism is going through its greatest crisis since the 1930s or before. The banking system has been saved from meltdown (at least for the time being) only by extensive government intervention in the USA, Britain, and a number of other countries. Stock markets all over the world have plummeted. A long and deep recession is in prospect. Capitalism, it is sometimes said, may be on the verge of collapse.

    Sayers, Sean (2008) Review of John Rawls, Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy. Radical Philosophy (148). pp. 49-50. ISSN 0300-211X.

    Sayers, Sean (2008) Hegel and Marx's theory of Creative activity and alienation. Marxism and Reality, 2008 (2). pp. 37-44. ISSN 1004-5961.

    Sayers, Sean (2008) Marxist Philosophy in Britain: An Overview. Modern Philosophy, 2008 (2). pp. 52-57. ISSN 1000-7660.

    Sayers, Sean and Haijuan, Chen (2008) On the Revival of Marxism: an interview with Sean Sayers. Social Sciences Weekly (1120).

    Sayers, Sean (2007) The concept of labor: Marx and his critics. Science & Society, 71 (4). pp. 431-454. ISSN 0036-8237.

    Abstract

    Marx conceives of labor as form-giving activity. This is criticized for presupposing a "productivist" model of labor which regards work that creates a material product - craft or industrial work - as the paradigm for all work (Habermas, Benton, Arendt). Many traditional kinds of work do not seem to fit this picture, and new "immaterial" forms of labor (computer work, service work, etc.) have developed in postindustrial society which, it is argued, necessitate a fundamental revision of Marx's approach (Hardt and Negri). Marx's theory, however, must be understood in the context of Hegel's philosophy. In that light, the view that Marx has a "productivist" model of labor is mistaken. The concept of "immaterial" labor is unsound, and Marx's ideas continue to provide an illuminating framework for understanding work in modern society.

    Sayers, Sean (2007) Individual and society in Marx and Hegel: Beyond the communitarian critique of liberalism. Science & Society, 71 (1). pp. 84-102. ISSN 0036-8237.

    Abstract

    Marx's concepts of individual and society have their roots in Hegel's philosophy. Like recent communitarian philosophers, both Marx and Hegel reject the idea that the individual is an atomic entity, an idea that runs through liberal social philosophy and classical economics. Human productive activity is essentially social. However, Marx shows that the liberal concepts of individuality and society are not simply philosophical errors; they are products and expressions of the social alienation of free market conditions. Marx's theory develops from Hegel's account of "civil society," and uses a framework of historical development similar to Hegel's. However, Marx uses the concept of alienation to criticize the liberal, communitarian and Hegelian conceptions of modern society and to envisage a form of individuality and community that lies beyond them.

    Sayers, Sean (2007) Dialectic and Social Criticism. Spartacus (89). pp. 86-90. ISSN 1106790.

    Sayers, Sean (2007) Marx's Concept of Labor. Science & Society, 71 (4). pp. 431-454. ISSN 0036-8237.

    Abstract

    Marx conceives of labour as form giving activity. This is criticised for presupposing a `productivist' model of labour which regards work that creates a material product – craft or industrial work – as the paradigm for all work (Habermas, Benton, Arendt). Many traditional kinds of work do not seem to fit this picture, and new `immaterial' forms of labour (computer work, service work, etc.) have developed in postindustrial society which, it is argued, necessitate a fundamental revision of Marx's approach (Hardt and Negri). In this paper I argue that Marx's theory must be understood in the context of Hegel's philosophy. In that light, I show that the view that Marx has a `productivist' model of labour is mistaken. I criticise the concept of `immaterial' labour, and argue that Marx's ideas continue to provide an illuminating framework for understanding work in modern society.

    Sayers, Sean (2007) Marxism And Morality. Philosophical Researches, 2007 (9). pp. 8-12. ISSN 1000-0216.

    Sayers, Sean (2007) Karl Marx and his Doctrine. Spartacus (90). pp. 72-74. ISSN 1106-790.

    Sayers, Sean (2007) Marxist Philosophy in Britain: An Overview. Journal of the Institute of Marxist Studies (CASS Beijing).

    Sayers, Sean (2006) Religion and Politics in the Modern World. Modern Philosophy, 4. pp. 1-11. ISSN 1355-2198.

    Sayers, Sean (2005) Why Work? Marx and Human Nature. Science & Society, 69 (4). pp. 606-616. ISSN 0036-8237.

    Abstract

    Why work? Most people say that they work only as a means to earn a living. This instrumental view is also implied by the hedonist account of human nature which underlies utilitarianism and classical economics and which has been influential in recent `analytical’ Marxism. It is argued in this paper that Marx's concept of alienation involves a more satisfactory theory of human nature which is rooted in Hegel's philosophy. According to this, we are productive beings and work is potentially a fulfilling activity. The fact that it is not experienced as such is shown to be at the basis of Marx's critique of capitalist society.

    Sayers, Sean (2003) Creative Activity and Alienation in Hegel and Marx. Historical Materialism, 11 (1). pp. 107-128. ISSN 1465-4466.

    Abstract

    This article sheds important new light on the philosophical assumptions about human nature in Marx's account of alienation. The key to understanding these lies in Hegel's philosophy. This paper explains Hegel's account of the role of labour in human development and shows how it underlies Marx's theory. The paper focuses particularly on Hegel's Aesthetics and demonstrates that this work contains crucial but hitherto neglected material on this topic. It then goes on to discuss how Marx's views differ from Hegel's, and to criticise Arendt.

    Sayers, Sean (2001) The Importance of Hegel for Marx: Reply to Zarembka. Historical Materialism, 8. pp. 367-372. ISSN 14654466.

    Abstract

    Explores how the Hegelian ways of thinking have influenced the philosophy of Karl Marx. Problems encountered by Marx in completing Volumes II and III of "Capital"; Role of Hegel in the theoretical structure of Marx's thought; Arguments regarding the thesis that Marx abandoned Hegelianism.

    Sayers, Sean (2000) Review of G.A. Cohen, If you're an egalitarian, how come you're so rich? Radical Philosophy (104). pp. 39-41. ISSN 0300211X.

    Sayers, Sean (1999) Identity and Community. Journal of Social Philosophy, 30 (1). pp. 147-60. ISSN 0047-2786.

    Sayers, Sean (1997) Who are my peers? The Research Assessment Exercise in philosophy. Radical Philosophy (83). pp. 2-5. ISSN 0300-211X.

    Sayers, Sean (1997) Progress and Social Criticism. European Legacy: Towards New Paradigms, 2 (3). pp. 544-549. ISSN 1084-8770.

    Sayers, Sean (1997) Marxismus. Ein Überblick. Marxisticsche Blätter, 97 (2). pp. 54-58. ISSN 0542-7770.

    Sayers, Sean (1996) Dialectic and Social Criticism. Annalen der Internationalen Gesellschaft für Dialektische Philosophie - Societas Hegeliana, IX. pp. 241-245. ISSN 0255-3457.

    Sayers, Sean (1995) The Value of Community. Radical Philosophy (69). pp. 2-4. ISSN 0300-211X.

    Sayers, Sean (1994) Philosophy and the Information Superhighway. Radical Philosophy (67). pp. 63-63. ISSN 0300-211X.

    Sayers, Sean (1994) Moral Values and Progress. New Left Review (204). pp. 67-85. ISSN 0028-6060.

    Sayers, Sean (1993) Once more on relative truth - a reply. Radical Philosophy (64). pp. 35-38. ISSN 0300-211X.

Book Sections

    Sayers, Sean (2012) Marx. In: Angier, Tom P.S. Ethics: The Key Thinkers. Bloomsbury, London and New York, pp. 175-196. ISBN 9781441149398.

    Sayers, Sean (2011) MacIntyre and Modernity. In: Blackledge, Paul and Knight, Kelvin Virtue and politics: Alasdair MacIntyre's revolutionary Aristotelianism. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, pp. 79-96. ISBN 9780268022259.

    Abstract

    According to MacIntyre, the advent of modernity has led to the fragmentation and compartmentalization of social life and values. In this paper I argue that it has also involved the creation of new forms of social relation and new liberal values. MacIntyre's critique does not do justice to the complex and contradictory character of these changes. I make this point through a discussion of the notion of tolerance and of developments in the modern university, including the impact of the RAE. Similar issues are raised by MacIntyre's criticisms of the `enlightenment project' and his attempt to return to an earlier Aristotelian model as the basis for moral and social thought. Rather than rejecting modernity and enlightenment ideas, I argue, we should affirm its core values of liberty, equality and community and seek to realise them in the modern world. A more adequate picture of modernity provides some grounds to question MacIntyre's pessimism about the possibilities of doing so.

    Sayers, Sean (2010) Religion and Politics in the Modern World. In: UNSPECIFIED Interpretations of Marxism: Chinese and Western. Social Sciences Academic Press, Beijing, pp. 209-229. ISBN 978750971345-7.

    Sayers, Sean (2009) Labour in Modern Industrial Society. In: Chitty, Andrew and McIvor, Martin Karl Marx and Contemporary Philosophy. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, pp. 143-158. ISBN 9780230222373.

    Sayers, Sean (2007) Philosophy and Ideology: Marxism and the Role of Religion in Contemporary Politics. In: Bates, David Marxism, Intellectuals and Politics. Palgrave-Macmillan, London, pp. 152-168. ISBN 978-1-4039-4998-1.

    Sayers, Sean (2006) Freedom and the "Realm of Necessity". In: Moggach, Douglas The Left-Hegelians: New Philosophical and Political Perspectives. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, US, pp. 261-274. ISBN 0521854970.

    Abstract

    This paper gives an original account of one of the most discussed passages in Marx dealing with the concepts of work and freedom. It criticises the view that there are two conflicting strands in Marx's thought (Cohen, Arendt, et al.). It demonstrates that it is a mistake to interpret Marx as opposing the realms of `necessity' and `freedom'. It refutes the common idea that Marx's views on work and freedom changed significantly in his later writings and argues for a more utopian vision.

    Sayers, Sean (2006) Alienation, Contradiction, Dialectical materialism, Engels, Historical materialism, Ideology, Lenin, Marx, Marxism. In: Protevi, John The Edinburgh Dictionary of Continental Philosophy. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, pp. 22, 107, 149-50, 170. ISBN 9780748617159.

    Sayers, Sean (2006) Alienation, Contradiction, Dialectical materialism, Engels, Historical materialism, Ideology, Lenin, Marx, Marxism. In: Protevi, John The Yale Dictionary of Continental Philosophy. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, pp. 22, 107, 149-50, 170. ISBN 978-0300116052.

    Sayers, Sean (2000) The Prospects for Socialism in the Twenty-first Century. In: Jiaqin, Gu Socialism and the Twenty-first Century. Central Party Translation Bureau Publishing House, Beijing, pp. 71-78. ISBN 7-80109-384-4.

    Sayers, Sean (1997) Marx. In: Parker, Nöel and Sim, Stuart The A-Z Guide to Modern Social and Political Theorists. Prentice-Hall/Harvester Wheatsheaf, Hemel Hempstead, pp. 241-245. ISBN 0-13-524885-X.

    Sayers, Sean (1996) Engels and Materialism. In: Arthur, Christopher J. Engels Today: a Centenary Appreciation. Macmillan, London, pp. 153-172. ISBN 9780333633243.

    Sayers, Sean (1996) Communitarianism and Moral Realism. In: Bransen, Jan and Slors, Marc The Problematic Reality of Values. Van Gorcum, Assen, pp. 121-136. ISBN 9789023231691.

Reviews
Video
Edited Books
Total publications in KAR: 61 [See all in KAR]
back to top

Philosophy, School of European Culture and Languages, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NF

Enquiries: +44 (0)1227 827159 or email Philosophy

Last Updated: 25/07/2014