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Paperback Cornel West Reader (Revised) Book

ISBN: 0465091105

ISBN13: 9780465091102

Cornel West Reader (Revised)

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Book Overview

Cornel West is one of the nation's premier public intellectuals and one of the great prophetic voices of our era. Whether he is writing a scholarly book or an article for Newsweek, whether he is speaking of Emerson, Gramsci, or Marvin Gaye, his work radiates a passion that reflects the rich traditions he draws on and weaves together -- Baptist preaching, American transcendentalism, jazz, radical politics. This anthology reveals the dazzling range...

Customer Reviews

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To be Human, Modern, and American means...?

This book is a tour de force, a virtual Kamikazee attack, a guerilla assault on the lazy or indifferent American progressive intellect. Self-described "Chekhovian Christian," Public Philosopher, Cultural and Literary Critique, Christian Minister, Democratic Socialist, Radical Democrat, and Princeton Professor, Cornel West uses this book to extend his existential journey into better understanding (and as a partial response to), what he sees as the deep and unnecessary misery and suffering seen in the richest culture in the world. He does this by exploring the intellectual and existential resources needed to continue to feed our courage for the fight over the long-haul towards achieving real democracy. Much of his quest is directed at answering three basic questions: What does it mean in a radically contingent and fragile world to be: human, modern, and American? West answer those questions in the following way: To be human means: enduring with dignity and honesty the existential incongruities and sufferings of life, including the inevitability of death -- and still being able to maintain the courage to continue the battle for a separate identity, freedom and equality. To be modern is to: have the courage to use one's intelligence to first see and then engage in a conscious and constructive process of questioning and challenging the prevailing authorities, powers and hierarchies of the society. It means not giving in to the easy certainties of ideologies and false prophecies; and being ever conscious of the modalities of self-making and the self-creating possibilities of those who suffer. To be American means to: be consciously engaged in a fragile experiment in which democratic dialogue sits precariously at the center of all self-making and self-creating projects -- projects that with sufficient energy, self-reliance, boldness and restlessness, can open up vast possibilities for those truly committed to democratic principles. It is to have unrestrained hope for a future that can transcend any troubled past; yet it also means living side-by-side with pervasive mendacity, cruel contradictions, and stage-managed hypocrisy. To be American is to raise (but leave unanswered) the most frightening of democratic questions: What does the public interest have to do with the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our society? And this is just for starters. In explaining how he came to this mature intellectual and existential perspective, West chronicles his intellectual and spiritual development, and here there are many surprises. One cannot safely tuck West into any old box with the familiar labels: Christian, Black, Marxist, Public Intellectual, etc., for he is not only careful but has come to his development though hard work, insight and deeply felt human awareness. Calling himself a Chekhovian Christian is no accident any more than calling himself a Democratic Socialist, or a Radical Democrat, is. These things are not only what he embraces

African-American, Pragmatist, Multiculturalist and Christian

Why is Cornel West interesting to philosophically-minded as well as non-philosophical readers at a time when many distinguished theorists are not? I think because he is sincere. One senses a genuine struggle in the man to put himself down on paper, to write of his uncertainties and inner divisions as an African-American intellectual, a product of elite institutions (like Harvard, or Princeton, where he now teaches), who has risen from middle class roots and understands the struggles of ordinary people for survival and dignity. Professor West appreciates and embodies the multiplicity and variability of his age: He draws on -- because he UNDERSTANDS -- third world intellectual movements and thinkers, such as liberation theology and the writings of Gustavo Gutierrez as well as the work of the Brazilian-born Harvard Law Professor Roberto Unger, who is his collaborator; he makes use of his African-American intellectual legacy derived from figures like W.E. B. Du Bois and (for me) Baldwin, as well as great spiritual leaders like Dr. King; he is fully conversant with the high tradition of American "pragmatist" philosophical work in the writings of James, Peirce, Dewey -- and I hope that, someday, he will also write about GEORGE SANTAYANA. He explores his own autobiographical and existential challenges as a way of establishing his shared humanity with the reader. This is one human being reaching out to others. Checkov and Christianity, William James and Malcolm, Kolakowski and many others drift through these pages -- including, in my judgment, some unexplored influences: Spinoza and maybe also Kierkegaard. This is a fine collection by an important American philosopher. Get it.

monument to a towering American intellectual

Those interested in the leading black intellectual in America should pick up either "Race Matters," or for a few extra clams, this tome, which collects West's musings on all kinds of topics from politics to religion to the arts. If you're not used to West's style, his verbosity and habitual name-dropping may irritate you. But if you can endure some of his excesses, this book will give you the definitive look at a rare breed of thinker -- one that I only describe as a "jazz intellectual," or an intellectual with "soul." And for you "colorblind" advocates, NO, that's not necessarily a "black" thing, but sure, "black" can have something to do with it.I especially enjoyed West's riffs on Christianity. While I ultimately don't share his views ("Chekhovian Christian" is how he describes it), I must say that West gives me as much insight on how to live as a Christian in this world as any "true-believer" out there.Finally, a note re the negative reviews: Humans are self-contradicting folk, and West is the quintessential example: a Christian that espouses Marx, Chekhov, and Beckett; an intellectual that digs soul music; let's be straight -- a black in "the academy." But those that don't see the contradictions in their own existences need to smell some coffee, or move out of Kansas. So, unlike the unhappy campers below, I don't see West's philosophy as meaningless and frustrating, but authentic and empowering. In short, West "keeps it real." That's the only kind of "intellectual" that matters to me; the rest can stay on the bookshelf, gathering dust.

What is Cornel West all about?

I've read a lot about Cornel West--both positive and negative. I bought this book so that I could understand what he was about, and I wasn't disappointed. I really liked his introductions to the essays and the way the book was divided up. I recommend it highly.

Absolutely Essential

I bought this collection of Cornel West's writings without knowing what to expect. In fact, it is an amazing compending of his best writings over the years. The best parts of the collection are the introductions that West writes to each of the pieces. He tells us the intellectual influences behind each piece, as well as how they represent his reaction to a particular time and a particular intellectual climate. It's a pity more public intellectuals don't take the time to do a work like this. I can't recommend it enough.
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