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UIS professor's book presents new concept of the public sphere

March 3, 2008

Contact: Richard Gilman-Opalsky, 217/206-8328, rgilm3@uis.edu

SPRINGFIELD – Richard Gilman-Opalsky, assistant professor of political philosophy at the University of Illinois at Springfield, is the author of Unbounded Publics: Transgressive Public Spheres, Zapatismo, and Political Theory, published this month by Lexington Books.

The cover of Unbounded Publics

The book examines the concept of the public sphere and the various ways it has been theorized as a driving mechanism for social and political change.

Gilman-Opalsky explains: "Public spheres are the places where people come together to communicate, to evaluate, and to circulate ideas and arguments. In the public sphere, people form a collective political opinion and will. Ultimately and ideally, the public sphere gives rise to movements that bring the interests and demands of the public to bear on powerholders."

While public spheres have traditionally been defined in a national context – national citizens who gather in particular places and times to speak to their government – with current debates about globalization, theorists have also begun to discuss the public sphere in a transnational context. In Unbounded Publics, however, Gilman-Opalsky argues for the existence of a transgressive public sphere, one that exists in both contexts at once, and without which institutions that function within and beyond national boundaries grow increasingly unaccountable.

Andrew Arato, professor of political and social theory at The New School for Social Research, noted, "This is an excellent piece of research ... Gilman-Opalsky has a solid understanding of his sources ... and an original approach in going beyond them. He brings together contemporary political concerns and theory in quite a convincing way to overcome the sway of more abstract varieties of currently fashionable cosmopolitanism, the negative results of which have contributed to the present near catastrophic situation of the world …"

A member of the UIS faculty since 2006, Gilman-Opalsky facilitates the popular Political Art and the Public Sphere series, which each month presents a showing or performance of some kind of "political art," followed by a group discussion of the issues it raises. His teaching focuses on such topics as globalization and the future of democracy, the history of political philosophy, ideologies, and democratization and the public sphere.

More information about the book is available from the Lexington Books website at www.lexingtonbooks.com/.

 

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The University of Illinois at Springfield, one of three U of I campuses, is a small, public liberal arts university that offers 42 degree programs: 21 bachelor's, 20 master's, and the Doctorate of Public Administration. UIS has a special mission in public affairs and service and is known for extraordinary internships, a wireless campus, extensive online offerings, and a commitment to teaching.

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