Cornel West and the Politics of Prophetic Pragmatism by Mark Wood
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 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.
About the Author:
Mark David Wood is an assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies and African American Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.