Michael Richards
Michael Richards
Graduate Student
HCK 303
Political Theory, Women and Politics

Michael Richards has degrees in history, politics, and political theory from study in the UK and the US, and is a doctoral candidate in political theory at Rutgers University, New Brunswick.


In 2018 he received the prestigious University and Bevier Fellowship, which funds fewer than a dozen advanced graduate students with demonstrated excellence in research, including richness and conceptual complexity of the dissertation project and broader significance and contributions of the project.


In 2018 the journal Polity accepted for publication his article “Pathos, Poverty, and Politics: Booker T. Washington’s Radically Reimagined American Civilization”. This paper makes the case that although many understandably claim that the rise of Jim Crow laws and racial animus at the end of the nineteenth century prove that Washington’s philosophical and political program of economic uplift was miserably incapable of improving the condition of African Americans, his political writings at this time nonetheless contain an internally coherent and often-attractive account of civilization comprised of black citizens who share equal social standing with white citizens, as all are industrious, confident, clean, and dignified. It’s argued that in these works, Washington’s methodological tool of the object lesson contain examples of precisely this dynamic of civilization and that, because of this, Washington is part of a tradition of black political theory, which qualifies him as deserving of consideration as a political theorist on his own terms.


Michael’s dissertation is entitled Dystopophobia: Aversion to the worst in the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, Edmund Burke, and Karl Popper. This work turns on the issue that motivated Judith Shklar’s Ordinary Vices and “Liberalism of Fear” – that suffering and cruelty is a tragedy to be avoided. The contribution of the dissertation is to identify a family resemblance in the thinking of Hobbes, Burke, and Popper that points to a distinct political worldview that is deeper and richer than Shklar’s “Liberalism of Fear” and constitutes a viable aversional political philosophy that he has called dystopophobia.


Michael Richards’ research interests lie primarily in normative political theory, especially liberal political theory, theories of justice, contemporary political philosophy, political realism and idealism, and the methodology of political theory. He expects to defend his dissertation in spring 2019.

“Pathos, Poverty, and Politics: Booker T. Washington’s Radically Reimagined American Civilization,” Polity, Forthcoming.


“Resurrecting Karl Popper’s Negative Utilitarianism,” Article, Draft.


“Rescuing Rationalist Philosophy: A Response to Linda Zerilli’s Democratic Theory of Judgment,” North Eastern Political Science Association Conference; Nov. 2017.


“The Education of Booker T. Washington: Understanding Washington Through the Experiences of His Childhood,” North Eastern Political Science Association Conference; Nov. 2014.


“A Critical Analysis of N. G. Mankiw’s Just Deserts Theory and its Consequences for Democratic Deliberation,” North Eastern Political Science Association Conference; Nov. 2013.

Nature of Politics (TA) – Political Science, New Brunswick (2013, Fall 2014; Fall 2017)

Student rating (2017): Effectiveness: 4.92/5; Answering Questions 4.77/5; Positive Attitude 4.92/5


Extinction (TA) – Anthropology Dept., New Brunswick (2016)

Student rating: Effectiveness: 5/5; Answering Questions 5/5; Positive Attitude 5/5.


Expository Writing (Lecturer) – English Dept., New Brunswick (2015)

No student evaluations given.


Introduction to Ethics (Lecturer) – Philosophy Dept., New Brunswick (Fall 2014)

Student rating: Effectiveness: 4.82/5; Answering Questions 4.95/5; Positive Attitude 5/5.


American Political Thought (Lecturer) – Political Science, Rutgers Newark (Spring 2014)

Student rating: Effectiveness: 4.65/5; Answering Questions 4.88/5; Positive Attitude 4.88/5.