Photo of Richard Lachmann
Richard Lachmann

Obituary of Richard Lachmann

September 19, 2021

Richard William Lachmann, age 65, of New York, NY, died in the early morning of September 19, 2021 of a heart attack. He was born on May 17, 1956 in New York City, the oldest son of Karl Lachmann and Lotte (Becker) Lachmann, who fled the Nazi regime in their native Germany. Richard grew up in Queens and graduated from the United Nations International School in 1974. He then attended Princeton University, where he skipped a year and graduated in 1977 majoring in sociology and European Cultural Studies. There, he met the love of his life, Arlyn Miller, and the two of them moved to Madison, Wisconsin after their wedding in 1983, the same year he received his Ph.D. in sociology at Harvard University.

Richard was an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Madison from 1983 to 1990 and then professor at the University at Albany, State University of New York from then until his death. The author of multiple award-winning books and articles, he mentored students and young sociologists all over the world, teaching courses and workshops in Portugal, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, and China. His books have been translated into nearly a dozen languages.

Richard had many extracurricular interests. With Arlyn, he traveled throughout the world, enjoyed the cuisines he encountered there, and wrote reviews for travel blogs. He was a regular at independent film showings and off-Broadway theater when he moved full-time to New York City in 2015. Arlyn, an author of books for young readers, chronicled on her blog his decision to move to the city of his birth. His greatest pride, though, was his two children, and he appreciated working in a profession that allowed him to play an active role in their lives and more recently in the lives of his grandchildren.

Richard is survived by his spouse, Arlyn Miller-Lachmann; his children Derrick and Madeleine Lachmann and Derrick's spouse Lindsey (Steck) Lachmann; his twin grandchildren, Jonah and Reed Lachmann; his mother Lotte (Becker) Lachmann; his aunt, Ruth Becker; and his brother, David Lachmann. He was predeceased by his father, Karl Lachmann, and his sister, Susan Lachmann.

Funeral services will be held at Greenwich Village Funeral Home at 10 am on September 23, 2021. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to City Harvest or the New York Public Library.

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September 23, 2021

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Posted by: Tyler - Venice, CA - September 20, 2021

Richard was one of my professors and I learned so much from him. I will always remember him and cherish. the impact he had on my life and career. He was fun, patient, warm and always always positive. His political commitment and writings were always spot on. He definitely left a positive impact on this world.


Posted by: Dalia Abdelhady - Lund, Sweden, - September 21, 2021

I was so heartbroken to hear of Richard's passing. I have worked with him in the sociology department at the University at Albany for the past 15 years. He was a brilliant sociologist, a wonderful colleague, and a fantastic mentor to many graduate students and other faculty members and researchers. He will be sorely missed. My heart goes out to Lyn and the whole family. I send my deepest condolences. May his memory be for a blessing.


Posted by: Joanne Kaufman - Albany, NY - September 21, 2021

Richard's rare combination of a keen intellect and a kind heart made him a wonderful colleague, mentor, and friend. I am so glad that I had an opportunity to get to know him. Thank you, Richard. It won't be the same without you.


Posted by: Brandon Gorman - , - September 21, 2021

I feel very fortunate to have Richard as my mentor. The sheer idea of having him there was comforting for me as a young student in a foreign country with a foreign language. Sometimes I do wonder how this brilliant scholar could also be such a warm, kind, and generous person, always giving to others. I hope Richard knows how much it means to me and how much I appreciate him.


Posted by: Zhifan Luo - , - September 21, 2021

I was in a denial about the devastating loss of our brilliant, kind, funny professor Richard Lachmann. He was the advisor who would always be there to listen, to talk about, to give advice and assistance in my PhD life. I was very fortunate to have worked with him in the past 8 years and hope that I can carry on his spirit in one way or another.


Posted by: Cecilia Li - New York, NY - September 21, 2021

I am deeply saddened by Richard's unexpected passing. He was an incredible colleague, mentor, and scholar. I remember fondly when my family and I moved to UAlbany in 2008, Richard and Lyn had us over to their home for brunch. Richard always went out of his way for others, and we will miss him dearly. My sincerest condolences to Lyn and his family.


Posted by: Samantha Friedman - Albany, NY - September 21, 2021

Richard was a distinguished scholar, a great humanist, a brilliant mind, a wonderful father and husband and a great cousin. We spent a lot of time together in our youth and I lived him for his intelligence, his wit and his dry sense of humor.


Posted by: Alan Friedman - New York, NY - September 21, 2021

I was reading Richard's book State and Power when I was hesitating whether I should apply for a Ph.D. degree in the U.S. in 2015. The book convinced me to send my application to UAlbany and then I met Richard in person there in 2016. In the following five years, I took four courses taught by him and finished two comp exams and a thesis proposal under his mentorship. His erudition and clarity in writing and his kindness and integrity in life taught me not only how to be a sociologist but also what a sociologist is. Definitely, Richard is among the persons leaving me the greatest impact. He will always be in my thoughts.


Posted by: Yimang Zhou - , - September 21, 2021

Richard was a wonderful human being. Incredibly kind, thoughtful, and generous, on top of being hugely intelligent as well.


Richard served as my introduction to the world of US sociology after taking me on as a presenter for his ASA session back in 2016. Since then he became a steadfast interlocutor, role-model, and friend. I'll miss him dearly.


Posted by: Benjamin Abrams - United Kingdom, - September 21, 2021

The Department of Sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University at Albany mourns the loss of one of our most esteemed colleagues, mentor, educator, scholar, and friend. We send our condolences to his family, friends, and all those who knew Richard, who were enriched by his presence, and who were graced by his generosity, kindness, and giving nature. The College sends its deepest regards to all those who knew him, especially his students whose lives he enhanced beyond measure. They are forever gifted by having spent time with their dear mentor and guide.


Posted by: Jeanette Altarriba - Albany, NY - September 21, 2021

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Professor Lachman. He was a very thoughtful, pleasant and personable man. My condolences to his beloved family members. May his soul rest in eternal peace.


Posted by: Marcia Sutherland - Latham, NY - September 21, 2021

I grew up in New York City sharing the annual viewing of the Thanksgiving Day parade with my cousins, Richard, David and Susan, from the window of our Tante Kate on Central Park West. And although Susan and I were the same age and also went to the same college, Richard was my brilliant, revered older cousin who had a keen wit and love for seemingly exotic cuisine.

Later in life I ended up studying sociology at UW-Madison at just the same time he was teaching, and was fortunate enough to end up having him as my Professor, being able to listen to his lectures and participate in discussions about Hegel, Kant and other formative sociologists.

He will be dearly missed. His memory is a blessing to all of us.


Posted by: ANITA FRIEDMAN - Arlington, VA - September 21, 2021

I am saddened to hear of Richard's passing. As a senior colleague and established scholar, Richard was generous with his time for junior researchers and students. When I joined the department in 2013, Richard invited me for a lunch off campus and over the lunch, I learned how acknowledgeable he was as our conversation covered topics from family to international affairs. Since then, we had had regular lunch to share thoughts and catch up. I will never forget his generosity and intellect and he will be deeply missed.


Posted by: Tse-Chuan Yang - , - September 21, 2021

Words cannot express my deep sorrow in hearing about Richard's passing. Although he was a colleague and a mentor for me for the past 20 years, Richard was first and foremost a good friend, who was always there to share his advice and wisdom, trade overseas travel stories and political commentaries, and bemoan our long-distance bus commutes from New York together. Underneath his quiet, down-to-earth demeanor, he also had a profound sense of compassion and a desire to right the wrongs in the world, which along with his ability to read entire books in one day, earned my deepest admiration and respect. But above all, I knew Richard as a kind and generous man who would do anything for his family, friends, and colleagues and he will be missed dearly.

I am so sorry I am overseas for the year and unable to attend his funeral, but I send my love, thoughts, and prayers to his family during this difficult time. Rest in peace, my friend.


Posted by: Angie Chung - Mahwah, NJ - September 21, 2021

I met Richard when he was a graduate student at Harvard. I remember him as a very sweet man, but also as having a really brilliant, original mind. He offered innovative ways of looking at the great historical questions of our time. I'm incredibly sad to learn of his death, and I send my condolences to his family and many friends.


Posted by: Ann Swidler - Berkeley, CA - September 21, 2021

Richard was an incredible scholar and a wonderful advisor. He was always supportive and encouraging, willing to listen and help out. I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to sit in his classes and get his advisory. I still remember those moments when Richard explained complicated ideas in a comprehensible way, when he encouraged me with his warm smiles, and many many other moments that I will keep remembering. I will always miss him.


Posted by: Yuemin Li - Albany, NY - September 21, 2021

I consider myself very fortunate of having Richard as professor and mentor. I know that many of my views, work and writings are better today because of his advice and the time he dedicate to talk, explain and share ideas. He leaves a big gap, not easy to fill, if ever. Thanks for your kindness and time, you will be missed.


Posted by: Roberto Vélez - New Paltz, NY - September 21, 2021

This is very sad news indeed. I feel for your family, Richard: you were taken from them before your time and that is especially hard. And you were taken too early from Sociology too. You had much to contribute in scholarship. I don't remember exactly when we first met but I recall with great pleasure the numerous discussions we had on any number of topics related both to historical sociology and cultural sociology. You were always in your element talking seriously about the substance and always in good humor and engagement. In your work and your collegial friendship you stand as an example to us all. You are missed.


Posted by: John Hall - Santa Cruz, CA - September 21, 2021

After graduate school, Richard really acted as an early career mentor for me as I tried to navigate the world of sociology. He would always reach out to have lunch at our professional association's annual meeting. I recall very fondly eating at several restaunts and once trying different varieties of oysters while talked about the financialization chapter in his (then) forthcoming book on American empire. Eventually he was kind enough to blurb my my own book when it eventually came out. Richard always came across genuinely concerned and interested. And while he was committed to a certain political perspective, a left one I very much share, he was a totally open and a genuinely intellectually curious person that supported work broadly, beyond what fit his particular lane or even his own strongly held theoretical conclusions. I hold a very strong feeling of appreciation for his kindness and his warmth. Richard was a brilliant thinker, but he was also a truly wonderful person.


Posted by: Michael A McCarthy - Milwaukee, WI - September 21, 2021

I never had the privilege of meeting Professor Lachmann. As a fellow sociologist studying history and politics, I knew him only from his books, articles and other writings. He had a sharp mind, a fierce pen, and a commitment to offering explanations that were admirably precise and reductive. The field of sociology has lost one of its best. Requiescat in pace


Posted by: Steven Pfaff Pfaff - Seattle, DC - September 21, 2021

It was truly a privilege to learn from Dr. Lachmann as a graduate student. He was an extraordinary scholar with a brilliant mind a kind heart. I always took advantage of the time we waited for the 7:45 Megabus together and asked him endless questions. Oftentimes he ended up making me laugh with his witty answers. It is difficult to express how much I appreciated him, but I'm especially grateful to him for his book recommendations, advice on teaching, stories about New York City back in the day, and the opportunity to care for Charlie, the greatest Bichon.


Posted by: Mayuko Nakatsuka - New York, NY - September 21, 2021

Richard was one of the great, original political and comparative historical sociologists of our generation. His work was searching, well-argued and also careful. He also contributed in important ways as a democratic socialist and thoughtful analyst of American as well as global politics. Not least, he was a warm and generous person - one with whom it was a pleasure to share an academic discipline and public commitments.


Posted by: Craig Calhoun - Paradise Valley, AZ - September 21, 2021

I can't express how heartbroken I am to hear of Professor Richard Lachmann's passing. When I saw the book he put in my mailbox at the beginning of this semester, I still couldn't believe we had to say goodbye to him permanently. I was fortunate to have the chance to sit in his classes, get his mentorship and encouragement. I believe his legacy will nourish the rest of my life. He gave me the most important lessons in my life----He taught me how to treat knowledge and treat people. Richard, I didn't get a chance to express my gratitude and appreciation, but you will be missed forever.


Posted by: Yi Lu - Albany, NY - September 21, 2021

I am shocked at the news of Prof. Lachmann's passing. He just replied to my email on August 31, 2021 and wrote an article discussing the 9/11 several days ago. so unexpected and I just cannot accept. I cannot believe but the fact is that I will never have a chance to seek advice from my great mentor and my dissertation committee member. I still remember the day in this year's April when I defended my dissertation, Prof. Lachmann offered to help if I want to develop my dissertation into a publishable book.

Prof. Lachmann is one of the most intelligent, knowledgeable, supportive and humblest professor I ever had in my life. Sometimes I am just wondering how could a person be such a combination of these great qualities. I took Political Sociology in 2017 with Prof. Lachmann and I was impressed by his erudition, brilliance and humbleness. He is extremely smart but he is willing to answer some naive questions from a meaningful way with great patience. During my PhD study, there were many difficult times related to term papers, grant applications, prospectuses, and the dissertation etc. Every time I got in touch with Prof. Lachmann for these problems, he always helped me unselfishly and promptly. Without his support and encouragement, I cannot imagine that I could finish my dissertation.

Dear Prof. Lachmann, you will be missed forever as a great mentor, scholar and role model.


Posted by: Huidong Peng - , - September 21, 2021

I am so sad to hear about the passing of Prof.Lachmann. I first met him in 2014 in a political sociology workshop in China. Through the years, I benefit a lot from his comments and suggestions on papers Yimang and I collaborate. His work and help will be always remembered.


Posted by: Bolun Zhang - San Diego, CA - September 21, 2021

I was very fortunate to be Richard's student and mentee. He cared about teaching sociology as much as he cared about the well-being of his students. As a foreigner, I always felt supported by his wise words of advice on how to navigate academia and life in the US. I often wondered how he made time to talk to me and so many other students and colleagues, regardless of how busy he was. He was a brilliant intellectual and a very kind, generous and compassionate human being. I will do my best to carry forward his lessons and wonderful qualities.


Posted by: Lourdes Aguas - ALBANY, NY - September 22, 2021

Words can't express how sad I am that Richard has left us. I don't remember when I first met Richard numerous years ago, but I'm sure he reached out to me. That's the way Richard was always interested in the work of others, and so caring about them personally. Over the years, we enjoyed lunch dates in Houston when Richard visited his in-laws, he and Lyn hosted me at their home in Albany, and of course many meetings at ASA and SSHA conferences. Richard was the kindest, most generous scholar I believe I've ever known. My deepest condolences to Lyn and rest of Richard's family. I am but one of so many people around the world that will deeply feel the loss of Richard.


Posted by: Anne Kane - Bay City, MI - September 21, 2021

It is hard to believe that Richard has passed. He and I worked together for the Political Sociology Section. He helped me quite a bit while I was chair and he was chair elect. Based on one of his sessions at ASA in Philadelphia on Donald Trump, we and others organized an ASA mini-conference on populism in the US, Europe, South America and elsewhere. It was a big endeavor with 50 panels so his help was essential. I also asked him to write a chapter for the New Handbook of Political Sociology and he produced a state of the art work. Richard was always helpful and a joy to work with.


Posted by: Thomas Janoski - Lexington, KY - September 22, 2021

What a beautiful humble soul & spirit. We were in the same elementary school class from 2nd thru 6th grade. We affectionately called ourselves “Zimlers 90 Kids”. He was a foodie and running into him and his lovely wife Arlyn last summer on the LES we promised to have a dinner that was never to be. Salute to his brilliance and an invite to a 5th grade birthday party that I will never forget


Posted by: Michael - , - September 22, 2021

Richard was my professor a few years ago. I cannot express the sadness of hearing the news of his passing. Although it has been years, and kilometers keep us apart, his very life had and still have a very profound impact on me as scholar and human being. I have nothing but admiration for him. I teach now "introduction to marxism" to sociology students in Mexico, and his techings and his work have undoubtely been very useful. But what I relish the more, it is the memory of his generosity and humanity. He surely will be missed and remembered. Hasta pronto, Richard.


Posted by: Susana Muniz - Mexico, NY - September 22, 2021

I am deeply sadden by the news of Richard's passing. He was my professor in Grad School and the Chair of my dissertation, situations in which I benefitted greatly from his deep and sharp intelect. He also supported me when I was going through some difficulties. Moreover, he was always willing to provide advicing and guidance even until now, long after I left Grad School. His kindness and witty humor were instrumental in his teaching and advicing. We have lost a great professor and a wonderful human being. You will be sorely missed Richard...


Posted by: Aníbal Gauna - Lima, Peru, - September 22, 2021

I am deeply sadden by the news of Richard's passing. He was my professor in Grad School and the Chair of my dissertation, situations in which I benefitted greatly from his deep and sharp intelect. He also supported me when I was going through some difficulties. Moreover, he was always willing to provide advicing and guidance even until now, long after I left Grad School. His kindness and witty humor were instrumental in his teaching and advicing. We have lost a great professor and a wonderful human being. You will be sorely missed Richard...


Posted by: Anibal Gauna - Lima, Peru, - September 22, 2021

I was so much saddened to learn of Professor Richard Lachmann's passing. He was my dissertation chair and my mentor throughout the many years of my PhD program in sociology at the University at Albany, SUNY. He was such a brilliant and nice man. I owe him a lot, intellectually and emotionally. . . It was my honor to be your student. Rest in peace, my professor.


Posted by: Rakkoo Chung - Rensselaer, NY - September 23, 2021

Richard was one of my professors in graduate school and I am grateful for all that I learned from him during that time. He had such sharp analyses of the social world, but more than that he was a warm and open person who never made his students feel small. He had a quick wit and his big grin was infectious; that's how I'll remember him always. Sending warmth and light to all who knew him, loved him, and will miss him.


Posted by: Carolyn Corrado - LAKEVILLE, CT - September 23, 2021

I was so shocked and heartbroken when I heard about this unbelievable news. I was very lucky to have the historical sociology course with him in the 2021 spring semester, which had reshaped my entire world on what historical knowledge can do in sociology perspective. I still remembered the day we met on zoom: he wore a plaid shirt with the humble and warm smile he always had on his face. This course is one of my favourite in my entire student life and prof. Lachmann was one of the most generous, brilliant and thoughtful teachers I have ever known. I also remembered the last time we talked about my term paper in June, when he sent me a very inspired paper to read. I just could not believe that I had to say goodbye to him forever. However, I think the legacy he left me will last for the rest of my life. Professor, I want to say thank you for being kind, generous and inspiring to me and I will miss you forever.


Posted by: Fan Wang - Albany, NY - September 23, 2021

I was very shocked and saddened by the departure of Professor Richard Lachmann. I was not a close student of Prof. Lachmann's, but he was still incredibly generous in helping me through me on several occasions during my doctoral studies. One of them was when he agreed to be one of the committee members for my comprehensive exam, and the other was when he was my teaching mentor.

I think my example shows that Professor Lachmann was sincere, attentive, and a true academic with great wisdom. I was fortunate to meet him in Albany, and continue to learn from his numerous writing after I moved abroad. He will be missed, not only as a scholar but also as a great mentor, always!


Posted by: Kenneth Han Chen - , - September 23, 2021

It was like yesterday when I was in my first year with little sociology background but still enjoyed your theory class so much. You were just so kind and nice and I even took your Political Sociology course later which was obviously out of my league. But I still received detailed feedback from you. Though our research interests are different, I want to say your class and you work do help me a lot in my daily thinking and my understanding of the world and it's history. It is an incredible loss for us and for the world to lose you. But please enjoy your rest and your life there on the other side, Richard. We will miss you so much.


Posted by: Feinuo Sun - Halifax, - September 23, 2021

My deepest sympathy is with the loving family of Richard. I was so surprised and deeply saddened when I heard the sad news. As a scholar, Richard is erudite, brilliant, and dedicated to advancing the knowledge on historical and political sociology; as a mentor, he is warm, supportive, and generous with his time; as an intellectual, he actively engages public debates and promotes social justice until the last day of his life. He is the role model in my and many people's lives. I will always cherish the time spent with him.


Posted by: Muyang Li - Toronto, - September 24, 2021

Professor Lachmann shaped my major intellectual interests during the years I studied in SUNY Albany. His works have greatly informed my understanding of what sociology is, and how it can be connected, and possibly, contributes to the great transformation of our time. He taught me what is a scholar's responsibility to his students, his discipline and his time. I was so indebted to him intellectually and professionally. It's an irremediable lost that an outstanding historical sociologist, and a public intellectual who writes tirelessly against injustice, has left us.


Posted by: Jing Li - Hangzhou, - September 24, 2021

What a loss! Richard was such a wonderful human being, and he was in the middle of so many fascinating projects. We'll miss him greatly.


Posted by: Joel Andreas - Baltimore, MD - September 26, 2021

Richard and I took seminars together while graduate students at Harvard University in the 1970s. We continued to remain friends, having brief but meaningful conversations at meetings of the American Sociological Association. I will greatly miss his cheerful and reassuring presence and brilliant comments and contributions.


Posted by: Jeffrey Broadbent - Minneapolis, MN - September 20, 2021

Richard was a wonderful colleague and friend and a superb intellectual. He will be greatly missed.


Posted by: Richard Alba - New Lebanon, NY - September 20, 2021

Richard was a dear friend and colleague for four decades, since our days in grad school together at Harvard in the late 1970s and 1980s. He never changed in all those years, despite the increasing recognition of his scholarly brilliance. As all of his many many students and mentees attest, his humble kindness was only matched by his sly and subtle ironic stance toward the world. Only in the last few weeks before his death I encountered once again his boundless generosity, as he slogged through a lengthy manuscript and gave me detailed suggestions and enthusiastic support for the project. Richard, dearest, you are the menschiest of the great mensches, and it would be impossible to articulate what a bleaker place the universe is without you. Sending love to Lyn and Maddie and Derek and the twins. Your friend, Peggy.


Posted by: Margaret Somers - ANN ARBOR, MI - October 1, 2021

Immense loss for Richard's family and sociological community all over the world. He was an excellent scholar and even better human being.


Posted by: Sinia Maleevi - Dublin, Ireland, - October 2, 2021
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