Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism

Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism

by Cornel West


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Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism by Cornel West

In his major bestseller, Race Matters, philosopher Cornel West burst onto the national scene with his searing analysis of the scars of racism in American democracy. Race Matters has become a contemporary classic, still in print after ten years, having sold more than four hundred thousand copies. A mesmerizing speaker with a host of fervidly devoted fans, West gives as many as one hundred public lectures a year and appears regularly on radio and television. Praised by The New York Times for his "ferocious moral vision" and hailed by Newsweek as "an elegant prophet with attitude," he bridges the gap between black and white opinion about the country's problems.

In Democracy Matters, West returns to the analysis of the arrested development of democracy-both in America and in the crisis-ridden Middle East. In a strikingly original diagnosis, he argues that if America is to become a better steward of democratization around the world, we must first wake up to the long history of imperialist corruption that has plagued our own democracy. Both our failure to foster peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the crisis of Islamist anti-Americanism stem largely from hypocrisies in our dealings with the world. Racism and imperial expansionism have gone hand in hand in our country's inexorable drive toward hegemony, and our current militarism is only the latest expression of that drive. Even as we are shocked by Islamic fundamentalism, our own brand of fundamentalism, which West dubs Constantinian Christianity, has joined forces with imperialist corporate and political elites in an unholy alliance, and four decades after the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., insidious racism still inflicts debilitating psychic pain on so many of our citizens.

But there is a deep democratic tradition in America of impassioned commitment to the fight against imperialist corruptions-the last great expression of which was the civil rights movement led by Dr. King-and West brings forth the powerful voices of that great democratizing tradition in a brilliant and deeply moving call for the revival of our better democratic nature. His impassioned and provocative argument for the revitalization of America's democracy will reshape the terms of the raging national debate about America's role in today's troubled world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143035831
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/16/2005
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 626,135
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 18 - 17 Years

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.

Read an Excerpt

The great dramatic battle of the twenty-first century is the dismantling of empire and the deepening of democracy. This is more a colossal fight over visions and ideas than a catastrophic struggle over profits and missiles. We live at a moment in which it has become fashionable to celebrate the benefits of imperial rule and to accentuate the deficiencies of democratic governance. The prevailing climate of opinion and culture of consumption makes it difficult to even conceive of new democratic possibilities and practices.

This slow yet frightening imperial devouring of American democracy flows from a lethal combination of free market fundamentalism, aggressive militarism, and escalating authoritarianism. Free market fundamentalism—just as significant as religious fundamentalisms—not only posits the unregulated market as idol and fetish; it also devalues and demeans nonmarket activities like critical thought, compassionate temperament, and laughter at self and society. No democracy can survive without these precious commitments. No vital sense of public interest and common good can be sustained without these humanistic convictions.

Plutocratic economic arrangements—in which elite greed runs amok—create an unhealthy hemorrhage of wealth at the very top of society. This top-heavy inequality puts a premium on instant success and short-term gain by any means and at any cost. It also erodes the fragile democratic trust between classes and groups. Needless to say, it sends an explosive message to the most vulnerable that they neither count nor matter. Democracies reap social chaos when such plutocratic seeds are sowed.

Aggressive militarism—whether abroad, as in armed invasion in Iraq, or at home, as in police violations—heralds force as the desirable means of resolving problems. It demotes diplomacy and degrades dialogue—two crucial pillars of any democratic regime. And, as with Sophocles’ Creon in Antigone, the preoccupation with might easily leads to myopic arrogance and hideous hubris of nations and persons. As the mechanisms of deliberation and modes of cooperation weaken, unchecked power reigns supreme. No democracy can thrive without legitimate forms of accountability containing such power.

Escalating authoritarianism feeds public paranoia and cuts off the democratic lifeblood of any society. The curtailment of liberties and the repression of rights make the hard-won rule of law suspect. The subtle censorship of media and narrowing of political discourse disempowers citizens and discourages novel approaches to pressing problems. The ideological monitoring of schools and universities dampens the imagination and ingenuity of talented and creative young people. Freedom of expression is the indispensable precondition for any democratic experiment.

The perennial battle between empire and democracy—that reaches from Athens to America—sits at the center of human efforts to preserve decency and dignity, excellence and elegance, freedom and equality. We not only ignore it at our own peril; we also must acknowledge that the very moral grounds of our prosperity are at stake.


Excerpted from "Democracy Matters"
by .
Copyright © 2005 Cornel West.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

1. Democracy Matters Are Frightening in Our Time
2. Nihilism In America
3. The Deep Democratic Traditioni in America
4. Forging New Jewish and Islamic Democratic Identities
5. The Crisis of Christian Identity in America
6. The Necessary Engagement with Youth Culture
7. Putting On Our Democratic Armor


What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"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

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Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although I agree with many of the points expressed in West's book, I see this book as a simple rant, making unfounded claims with reckless abandon. I am a junior in high school, and I feel that I could easily write a book as good as this one.
AMson on LibraryThing 3 days ago
This was probably one of the toughest yet most rewarding books I've ever read. I feel like I've almost spoken with Socrates and listened to the notes coming live from Coltrane's sax- and even though this hyperbole is far from reality, I do feel like a better, more educated person for reading this book. Socratic questioning, prophetic tradition, and the democratic experiment are now not only something I believe in but are something palpable and that I can base life experiences upon. West writes with a fervor that I've experienced so few times prior. Like I mentioned previously, it's a tough read at times, but oh so necessary and rewarding. Dr. West covers a lot of ground, but it all comes full circle to tell a meaningful and important story/ lesson about the fundamental ideals that our society is (or should be) based on.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very well written Professor Cornel West discusses modern day politics with vigor and honesty. His books create important dialogue and highlights the effects of authoritative politicking that is silencing the voices of American people.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
West's arguments are illogical and not well expressed. This is a good book if you agree with him, but not for diversifying the knowledge and basis of your own beliefs. West's arguments are ill-founded and lacking in statistical research and support.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although reading this book was difficult at times (there's no doubt in my mind, if there ever was that West is a very educated man) this book was very enlightening. I have recommended this book to a friend as well as West himself as a man to watch and an articulate voice for Black America. I look forward to reading more of his writing, when I can find the time of course, and manage to buy a more comprehensive dictionary!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
As you read this book, it is obvious that West is educated. It sometimes lags, but still does a great job of educating you about the world as of now. Good factual information and not one sided at all.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think people need to listen to what the man has to say and know that is definitely an intellectual that deserves his propers....I definitely respect the author and am enchanted to know that someone of the African American race has taken AmeriKKKa by storm and actually makes sense doing it. Noone can speak as intelligently and can be as well articulated as Mr. West. He deserves a hell of a lot of respect. -Kenyatta S., Boston MA Mother, writer, human services worker
Guest More than 1 year ago
Takes a couple of reads to fully comprehend and dares to go where no writer has gone. If you can't handle the truth, don't read this book. Dr. West defines 'intellectual.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
West cuts through the cacophany of simplistic slogans and challenges us with the lessons learned from history about those things which strengthen and those things which diminish our democracy. Some ideas are so great and complex that they cannot be expressed in fourth grade English and his book may prove difficult for those with limited reading and cognitive skills.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be well researched, well written and extremely persuasive. Anyone who wants to read a book filled with cold, hard facts about what will happen should we lose our very freedom to corporations and right-wing paranoia should read this.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Intellectualism at its finest with a touch of Down home religion.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The wordy, humorless rantings of a pseudo-intellectual, an aging liberal trying to prove his own relevance. 'Look at me! I use big words and have an on-purpose unkempt head of hair to prove how smart I am!' Nothing here that hasn't been said before.