Cornel West and the Politics of Prophetic Pragmatism

ISBN 10: 0252025784 / ISBN 13: 9780252025785
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Synopsis: In this lucid and impassioned critique of the work of Harvard University professor Cornel West, Mark David Wood examines West's philosophy of prophetic pragmatism. Creatively combining elements of Christianity, pragmatism, and Marxism, West has articulated a liberationist 'theology of the streets' that seeks to expand freedom and democracy throughout society. Indeed, West has become one of the most publicly influential black intellectuals in the United States and contributed significantly to the development of the progressive pragmatist political tradition. Wood evaluates the political consequences of a shift in West's position from an earlier, revolutionary socialist stance to a later, progressive reformist one. In his early writings, West condemned capitalism as antidemocratic and contended that struggles against racism must be advanced as part of an international working-class movement against capitalism.Wood shows how West's subsequent reworking of Marxism supports his transition from a socialist to a progressivist politics. No longer arguing for public control of social production, West now identifies the major enemy of black survival as nihilism and seeks to expand democracy within the boundaries of capitalist property relations in the United States. In criticizing West's post-Marxist tendencies to downplay deep structural antagonisms, avoid class-struggle, and abandon internationalism, Wood counters that struggles for ecological integrity, human rights, and social justice should be explicitly linked to the goal of socializing production to satisfy human needs and support universal individuation. His critique constitutes an important contribution to the development of a perspective that aims to enable U.S. workers and their allies to build a global society that is genuinely democratic.

Review: "A strong critique of West from the vantage point of the Left." -- Choice ADVANCE PRAISE "Cornel West is without question the most influential progressive scholar of our time. Mark David Wood presents a richly textured interpretation of West's theoretical insights and political life, in a manner that is both sympathetic and critical. Any future scholarship on the work of Cornel West will be based on this comprehensive and well crafted study." -- Manning Marable, author of Race, Reform, and Rebellion: The Second Reconstruction in Black America, 1945-1990 "This is a powerful book. It brings both criticism and critique to Cornel West's important contributions to American intellectual history and political culture. More than an explication of West's work, Wood has provided a remarkably nuanced and prescient critique of American politics without the pitfalls of clichd reasoning that so dominate mainstream discourses of this era. The work is a 'must read' not only for scholars and laypeople interested in West's work, but also for those interested in concerns of race, politics, and democracy. An excellent work of critical thought and social criticism." -- Lewis R. Gordon, author of Bad Faith and Antiblack Racism

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