Cover image for The Cornel West reader
The Cornel West reader
West, Cornel.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Basic Civitas Books , [1999]

Physical Description:
604 pages ; 25 cm
Reading Level:
1440 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E185.86 .W4384 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
E185.86 .W4384 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
E185.86 .W4384 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ

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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 togetherÑBaptist preaching, American transcendentalism, jazz, radical politics. This anthology reveals the dazzling range of West's work, from his explorations of "Prophetic Pragmatism" to his philosophizing on hip-hop. The Cornel West Reader traces the development of West's extraordinary career as academic, public intellectual, and activist. In his essays, articles, books, and interviews, West emerges as America's social conscience, urging attention to complicated issues of racial and economic justice, sexuality and gender, history and politics. This collection represents the best work of an always compelling, often controversial, and absolutely essential philosopher of the modern American experience.

Author Notes

Professor, writer, and civil rights activist Cornel West was born on June 2, 1953 in Tulsa, Oklahoma and raised in Sacramento. He graduated from Harvard University in 1973 with an M.A. and later taught African-American studies there. He has also taught at Union Theological Seminary, Haverford College, and Princeton University, the latter as professor of religion and director of African-American studies. West earned his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1980. He has written more than twenty books, including Race Matters and Restoring Hope: Conversations on the Future of Black America.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Harvard University professor West has always been hard to categorize. With academic training in Near Eastern languages and world religion, philosophy and literature, and publications on a wide range of subjects, West directs his probing intelligence at most aspects of the question that structures his introduction to this collection: What does it mean "To Be Human, Modern and American" ? West's subjects here include his own background, modernity and its discontents, American pragmatism, progressive Marxist theory, radical democratic politics, prophetic Christian thought, the arts, and race, but this brief list does not capture the range of the collection. His postscript--"Chekhov, Coltrane, and Democracy" --may more effectively represent the scope of West's concerns, and his gift for juxtaposing apparently unrelated topics and surprisingly illuminating all. Some of these pieces are demandingly academic; others are intended for a general audience; all express the author's passionate commitment to our common search "for a meaningful life . . . in dialogue with history, connected to community." Appropriate where West's other work, including the best-selling Race Matters (1993), circulates. --Mary Carroll

Publisher's Weekly Review

The grandson of a Baptist minister, West is a professor at Harvard University who has adeptly combined the introspective strengths of the academic philosopher-theologian with the activist and humanist elements of the African-American religious tradition and black nationalist thought. This mammoth collection of social commentary, interviews, essays and memoir details his evolution as a social analyst and public figure, gathering some of his finest work from his previous books (Keeping Faith; Prophetic Fragments; Race Matters, etc.) as well as from a wide range of academic sources. Calling himself "a Chekhovian Christian," West is deeply concerned with the corruption of the dignity of the everyday citizen and the betrayal of the ideals of American democracy through its embrace of racist and sexist beliefs. While the range of his philosophical sermons can occasionally be overwhelming, his eclectic interests and original observations are quite rewarding. Whether he is discussing Marxist theory, slavery, architecture, black sexuality, black-Jewish relations or bebop and rap, his often complex statements yield a continual flood of surprising insights. West is at his most accessible in his interviews with philosopher George Yancy, TV host Bill Moyers and African-American feminist writer bell hooks. This collection amply attests that West's reputation as a brilliant, humane voice in American intellectual discourse is richly deserved. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This reader, edited by West himself (Alphonse Fletcher, Jr. University Professor, Harvard Univ.), presents essays covering his impressive career and development as an intellectual, philosopher, cultural critic, and "Chekhovian Christian." Arranged in eight thematic sectionsÄautobiography, modernity, pragmatism, Marxism, political praxes, Christian thought, the arts, and controversial racial issuesÄthis work reveals that West's profound commitment to and quest for social justice, across differences, is unrelentingly compassionate and sometimes decorously and ostensibly innocent. Yet West does not feel obligated to write for the everyday folks, especially black folks, he champions. The selected essays, unlike those in his best-selling Race Matters (LJ 3/15/93), are highly theoretical and academic, accessible only to the highly educated. Furthermore, West himself declares that he has given up journalism (a forum in which he could create and maintain a broader audience base) because journalistic writing "can become too simplistic, flat, or clever." For most, these scholarly writings will be too obtuse, convoluted, and pretentious. Recommended for academic libraries.ÄSherri Barnes, Univ. of California Lib., Santa Barbara (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xiii
Introduction: To Be Human, Modern and Americanp. xv
I Autobiographical Prelude
1 The Making of an American Radical Democrat of African Descentp. 3
2 On My Intellectual Vocationp. 19
3 Sing a Songp. 34
II Modernity and Its Discontents
4 The Ignoble Paradox of Modernityp. 51
5 Race and Modernityp. 55
6 Black Strivings in a Twilight Civilizationp. 87
7 The New Cultural Politics of Differencep. 119
III American Pragmatism
8 Why Pragmatism?p. 143
9 On Prophetic Pragmatismp. 149
10 Pragmatism and the Sense of the Tragicp. 174
11 The Limits of Neopragmatismp. 183
12 Nietzsche's Prefiguration of Postmodern American Philosophyp. 188
IV Progressive Marxist Theory
13 The Indispensability Yet Insufficiency of Marxist Theoryp. 213
14 Fredric Jameson's American Marxismp. 231
15 Race and Social Theoryp. 251
V Radical Democratic Politics
16 The Role of Law in Progressive Politicsp. 269
17 The Political Intellectualp. 278
18 A World of Ideasp. 294
19 The Dilemma of the Black Intellectualp. 302
20 American Progressivism Reorientedp. 316
21 Parents and National Survivalp. 333
22 On the 1980sp. 344
23 Michael Harrington, Democratic Socialistp. 348
VI Prophetic Christian Thought
24 The Crisis in Contemporary American Religionp. 357
25 The Historicist Turn in Philosophy of Religionp. 360
26 Religion and the Leftp. 372
27 On Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza's In Memory of Herp. 380
28 On Leszek Kolakowskip. 387
29 On Liberation Theology: Segundo and Hinkelammertp. 393
30 Christian Love and Heterosexismp. 401
31 A Philosophical View of Easterp. 415
32 On Gibson Winter's Ecological Ecumenismp. 421
33 Prophetic Christian as Organic Intellectual: Martin Luther King, Jr.p. 425
34 Subversive Joy and Revolutionary Patience in Black Christianityp. 435
VII The Arts
35 Critical Reflections on Artp. 443
36 Horace Pippin's Challenge to Art Criticismp. 447
37 Race and Architecturep. 456
38 The Spirituals as Lyrical Poetryp. 463
39 In Memory of Marvin Gayep. 471
40 On Afro-American Music: From Bebop to Rapp. 474
41 On Anna Deavere Smith's Fires in the Mirrorp. 485
42 On Walt Whitmanp. 489
VIII Race and Difference
43 On Affirmative Actionp. 495
44 On Black-Brown Relationsp. 499
45 On Black Sexualityp. 514
46 On Black Nationalismp. 521
47 Tensions with Jewish Friends and Foesp. 530
48 On Jackie Robinsonp. 536
49 On Julianne Malveauxp. 539
50 Conversation with bell hooksp. 541
IX Postscript
51 Chekhov, Coltrane and Democracyp. 551
Notesp. 565
Indexp. 593