Richard Gilman-Opalsky

Richard Gilman-OpalskyAnchor link to John Martin videoListen to Professor Gilman-Opalsky on political philosophy

Meet Richard Gilman-Opalsky
Assistant Professor of Political Philosophy,
Political Science



  • B.A. Philosophy, Hofstra University (1996)
  • M.A. Philosophy, The New School for Social Research (2001)
  • Ph.D. Political Science, The New School for Social Research (2006)


  • Despite the impressive research agendas of faculty, UIS remains a “teaching university” in very fundamental ways.I am a political philosopher and social theorist. I was born and raised on the East Coast and studied in New York. I have lived in Springfield since 2006 with my partner, and now have a son. I am seriously interested in “avant-garde” jazz music and all kinds of movies.

Interesting facts:

  • I am a “freejazz” drummer and percussionist specializing in collective improvisation and unorthodox techniques and have performed in ensembles as small as a duo and as large as a full orchestra.

Learning philosophy:

  • A good classroom should be personally safe, but never intellectually safe. If one does not find in the classroom something that challenges, forms, or transforms their understanding of the world around them, they have probably had a safe experience, but not a very good one.

Research interests:

  • My research and teaching areas include the history of political philosophy, Continental and contemporary political theory, socialist philosophy, Marxism, capitalism and its crises, autonomist politics, postmodern theory, and post-structuralism. I am the author of Unbounded Publics: Transgressive Public Spheres, Zapatismo, and Political Theory (Lexington Books, 2008), as well as numerous articles on Jean Baudrillard, Guy Debord, radical theory, and autonomist politics. My newest book is Spectacular Capitalism: Guy Debord and the Practice of Radical Philosophy (Autonomedia, 2011).

Major project underway:

  • I am just now getting into a new stream of research exploring desire and politics. I am generally interested in the acceptance of the unacceptable, the toleration of the intolerable, and how these seemingly contradictory phrases relate to the history of social and political movements. From Frederick Douglass and Karl Marx to revolutionary theorists today, “struggle” has occupied a central place in the radical imagination. For Douglass, all progress requires struggle, and for Marx, human history consists of human conflict and class struggle. But from an “affective” point of view, who wants to struggle? There is an intractable absurdity at the heart of any politics that valorizes struggle. If the narrative on “virtuous struggle” is not deconstructed, it shall always be ultimately undesirable to make the world that we desire. In exploring this, I am studying the works of Raoul Vaneigem, Félix Guattari, and Franco Berardi.

Listen to Professor Gilman-Opalsky talk about his research:

Advice to prospective students:

  • There will be plenty of time to subordinate your passions to the obligations of everyday life. For many (not all) students, the university is the last open space for the radical exploration of intellectual and existential enrichment. So don’t close yourself off from the very start because you feel that your education should only be a means to an economic or vocational end. Economics and work are inescapable, but while you are here, take the time to explore as much as possible. Of course you should consult with your peers and advisors, but don’t be afraid to change your major, to add or to change a minor, and if you discover an intellectual appetite you didn’t know you had, feed it well.

Best thing about UIS:

  • The thing about UIS I would most emphasize to students is the rare accessibility of faculty members. Despite the impressive research agendas of faculty, UIS remains a “teaching university” in very fundamental ways. What this means is that students can sit down and talk to professors one-on-one as they need to throughout their whole college experience. Students should know that at many “larger” campuses across the country faculty members are rarely as accessible as they are at UIS. This is because at UIS, most faculty members take their commitment to students very seriously.