Praised by The New York Times for his "ferocious moral vision", West, in this vital sequel to his major best seller and contemporary classic Race Matters, returns to the analysis of what he calls the arrested development of democracy, both in America and in the Middle East, with a hard-hitting diagnosis. A callous free-market fundamentalism, an aggressive militarism, and an insidious authoritarianism are driving a bullying imperialism.
But there is a rich and empowering tradition in America to fervent commitment to the fight against imperialist corruptions, and West brings forth the trenchant voices of that great democratizing tradition, from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Toni Morrison, in a brilliant and deeply moving call for the revival of our better democratic.
This impassioned and empowering call for the revitalization of America's democracy, by one of America's most distinctive and compelling social critics, will reshape the raging national debate about America¿s role in today's troubled world.
©2004 Cornel West; (P)2004 Penguin Audio and Books on Tape, Inc.
This book is a joy to read. The key to understanding it however is to learn to read it as more of a sermon on social issues than an intellectual lecture full of well-supported postulating. The reason for this is that he basically glides from point to point without pausing to indulge us in much "evidence." This sounds more dubious from an outsider's perspective than it actually is in fact. You have to maintain the understanding that we are in an age where statistics seem to rule all in the world of policy, specifically on the left. While the right has only just begun to dabble in research and statistics (what with the emergence of pseudo-scientific institutions such as the Family Research Council), the left has seemingly abandoned the trumpet-call of values based purely on a belief structure, for cold, hard, facts.
While I don't necessarily prefer one over the other, I learned to love West's evangelistic approach as one sorely missing from the Progressive side of debate in this country. We've stopped claiming that we should fight poverty simply because it's the right and just thing to do, and instead started quoting figures about how much crime it creates or how much of a city's worth it destroys. West prefers the former approach, and if you're looking for more inspiration in your struggles than perspiration, this is the perfect choice for today's world.
If you don't mind a lot of rambling and "big sophisticated words" that take a while to get to the point, then you'll enjoy listening to Dr. West and his views on the world.
I have about 700 audiobooks in my librairy this one of the books I enjoyed listening too 4 times so far...
As I listened to West read this, I kept wondering, "What rhetorical form is this book aiming to take?" Nothing is ever presented as argument, in the sense of a claim, backed by evidence, supported by reasons. Instead, the rather shapeless text ranges over a wide list of topics, and West simply invokes generalizations in a tone earned only by the oracles in the Matrix movies. If you don't already agree with his notions, there's no way that this book could persuade you to adopt his formulas. His accent gives some words unusual pronunciations (keel (for kill), nekked (for naked), bohemoth, po-ig-nant). I skipped over the Christianity chapter, and finally landed on a great story in the last hour: West gives his version of his collision with Larry Summers. His formulation of Summers' infamous memo to the World Bank -- recommending that third world countries specialize in storing toxic wastes -- is twisted. He claims that the rationale had something to do with African countries being overpopulated; this comes close to the slanderous attribution that Summers aspired to genocide. Since Cornel West is outraged that Summers hadn't read his 16 books, perhaps he could have troubled to read the one page memo, which includes the line "I've always though that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly UNDER-polluted..."
The title of West's book is typically euphemistic for what is really a Marxist diatribe. Like the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the old Soviet Union's "democratic centralism," and other supposedly democratic phenomena of the totalitarian left, this book is a wolf in sheep's clothing. The truth is this: While West is correct that Democracy Matters, his vision of democracy is one in which the government not only runs your life, but tells you what to think as well. For him, the only threats to a Marxist utopia are hate-mongering Christians and people who believe in doing honest work for a living and being justly rewarded. Still, the book is worth reading if only to learn how insidious and conniving the elite academic establishment is. But don't help West collect his wages of sin (royalties). Check the book out from your local library.
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