I have friends on both sides of the aisle who, given Mr. West's even-handed criticism -- though you certainly get the sense he's more solidly behind his 'Liberal Structuralists' than his 'Conservative Behaviorists' -- could enjoy with minimized feelings of affront, his honest and trenchant analysis of problems we still deal with every day, particularly what he calls the 'nihilistic threat to black America,' a thread which wends through all of his essays.
Nihilism, for Cornell West: "the lived experience of coping with a life of horrifying meaninglessness, hopelessness, and most important, lovelessness. The frightening result is a numbing detachment from others and a destructive disposition toward the world. Life without meaning, hope and love breeds a cold-hearted, mean-spirited outlook that destroys both the individual and others." In line with the Structuralists, pathological behavior, he says, didn't create, but results from the response of people "bereft of resources in confronting the workings of US capitalist society."
Though long references to Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, for instance, (I read this 2012) are at worst a historical footnote not evoking the same passion they might have when this was originally published, they are also, at best, indicative of types of psychological entanglements we deal with over and over in America, and West does a fantastic job of - after, understandably, a few remarks regarding the people themselves - laying bare the psychological underpinnings of such absurd and important American hijinks.
If, for instance, you are already a fan of the thought of W.E.B. DuBois and Ralph Ellison, then I dare say you'll love Cornell West -- who, by the way, reads his own work here in a pleasantly cadent baritone that only adds to the enjoyment (my one fine-tuning - and I'm glad Audible makes it available -- was to up the 'narrator speed' to 1.25x).
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