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Democracy Matters


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About the Author

Cornel West has been Professor of Religion and Director of African American Studies at Princeton University since 1988. Recently he was appointed Professor of African American Studies and the Philosophy of Religion at Harvard University. He is the author of many books, including Keeping Faith, Prophetic Fragments, and, with bell hooks, Breaking Bread.


West offers a compelling, exciting argument in this sequel to his 1992 best seller, Race Matters. With an impassioned voice he decries the dangerous drift America has taken from our original ideals of freedom and democracy. Three trends, or dogmas as he calls them, are to blame: the first is a "callous free market fundamentalism" that puts self and profit above all else; secondly, the United States has adopted an aggressive militarism that has made us reviled and feared worldwide, in essence, the same feelings engendered by the gangsters and thugs who attacked us; and finally, our reaction to the terrorist attack of 9/11 has led to escalating authoritarianism. West urges that we go back to the roots we adapted from earlier cultures-Socratic questioning from the Greeks, a prophetic commitment to justice from the Jews, and a tragicomic commitment to hope as exhibited in the black freedom struggle and in blues and jazz. He concludes with a call to action to regain the country and its ideals. Highly recommended for all libraries.-Deb West, Gannon Univ. Lib., Erie, PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"Uncompromising and unconventional . . . Cornel West is an eloquent prophet with attitude." --Newsweek"West reveals himself as a thinker of dazzling erudition, whose critiques are inevitably balanced by an infectious optimism and magnanimity of spirit" --The Village Voice

A sequel to 1993's Race Matters, West's latest aims to "look unflinchingly at the waning of democratic energies and practices in our present age of American empire." Such orotund language pervades the book, which expands philosophically on extant critiques but offers little practical or programmatic advice. American democracy, argues West, is threatened by free market fundamentalism, aggressive militarism and escalating authoritarianism. He criticizes Republicans as evangelical nihilists driven by delusions of American domination, Democrats (including John Kerry) as paternalistic nihilists accepting a corrupt system and most news organizations as sentimental nihilists sacrificing truth for distraction. With intermittent journeys through Tocqueville, Melville, King, Emerson, Twain and Morrison, among others, he lingers in the Middle East (supporting security for Israel and freedom for Palestinians), and calls fiercely for an American Christianity that evokes the Christian ideals of love and justice, and that advocates deeper engagement with youth culture-which leads to a nine-page account of how his outreach led to a clash with Harvard president Larry Summers and his departure for Princeton. Echoing his 1993 demand for improvisational "jazz freedom fighter[s]," West here invokes the blues, which "forge a mature hope that fortifies us on the slippery tightrope of Socratic questioning and prophetic witness in imperial America." Agent, Gloria Loomis for Watkins Loomis Agency. Author tour. (On sale Sept. 13) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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