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Michael Illuzzi

Associate Professor

Faculty Michael Ulluzzi

Michael Illuzzi is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Lesley University and Director of the Lesley CLAS Honors Program. He has led a group of faculty that has transformed the Honors program to focus on critical community engagement and co-created and is co-teaching a course entitled: Doing Good or Looking Good: The Politics and Ethics of Community Engagement. 

His research and teaching interests include American political development and political thought, with a focus on issues of American peoplehood and racial, gender, and class inequalities. 

His current book project is Populism and Peoplehood in America: Moderating Visions and Leading Moderates. Scholars from all fields are turning their attention to the resurgent nationalist and populist movements in the United States and abroad. The nationalist, racist, xenophobic invocations to return to a simpler time when a purer majority had more opportunity and newcomers didn’t “cut the line” and “paid their dues” has proved popular. Are there more inclusive alternatives that can compete with this dangerous nostalgic tale? If we are to counter these forces, we need more than new carefully worked out theoretical frameworks.

Populism and Peoplehood in America argues rather than turning to creating new theories for alternatives to right-wing nationalism, we can instead learn from past American actors and activists. Using thousands of historical newspapers, archival sources, and historiographic texts, Michael shows how Lincoln’s redefinition of the American founding, a social gospel urban mayor’s campaign to bring greater economic justice for new immigrants, Martin Luther King’s attempts to save the soul of the American nation, and even Illinois Black Panther chairman—Fred Hampton’s—efforts to form a cross-racial coalition to fight the racial and economic oppression all used invocations to religion, patriotism and sometimes populism to redefine what America meant to their followers and called them to form a coalition to fight to preserve this renewed vision. This history of advocacy suggests that left-wing variations of stories of community building complete with invocations to religion, patriotism, and populism were no less prevalent or powerful as the current right-wing variations and now more than ever we cannot afford to keep this more moderate variation buried. 

At Lesley, Michael teaches the following courses: Introduction to Political Science, Introduction to Political Philosophy, Doing Good or Looking Good: The Politics and Ethics of Community Engagement, U.S. Politics, Violence, Markets, and Globalization: Theorizing the Contemporary World, Elections and Democracy, U.S. Constitutional Law, and HBO's "The Wire": The Politics of U.S. Urban Inequality.

Michael holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and a B.S. in Culture and Politics from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.


Book project

  • Michael J. Illuzzi. Populism and Peoplehood in America: Moderating Visions and Leading Moderates. (Under Review).

Peer-reviewed journal articles

  • Michael J. Illuzzi. 2014. “Lincoln’s “Race of Life” Is Not the American Dream of Equal Opportunity,” American Political Thought: A Journal of Ideas, Institutions and Culture 3 (Fall): 228-253.
  • Lawrence R. Jacobs and Michael Illuzzi. 2004.  “In the Shadow of 9/11: Health Care Reform in the 2004 Presidential Election,” The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 32(3)(Fall): 454-460.

Chapters in peer-reviewed books

  • Michael J. Illuzzi. 2020. “Lessons for Left Populism: Organizing Revolt in Babylon.” In Mapping Populism: The Student’s Handbook for Understanding and Studying Populism, 74-84 (London and New York: Routledge).  

Encyclopedia articles

  • “Social Gospel,” "Reforming America: A Thematic Encyclopedia and Document Collection of the Progressive Era", ed., Jeffrey Johnson (ABC-Clio, March 2017).
  • “Equality,” The Encyclopedia of Political Thought, ed., Michael T. Gibbons, Diana Coole, Elisabeth Ellis, and Kennan Ferguson (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014).  

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