KEEPING FAITH by Cornel West


Philosophy and Race in America
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 West is the professor of religion and director of Afro- American studies at Princeton whose short essay collection, Race Matters (p. 216), became a bestseller earlier this year. The essays in this longer collection mostly predate those in Race Matters (seven are from the early to mid-80's) and were written for a more academic audience. There's more philosophy than race in this odd assortment, which begins with a consideration of Matthew Arnold's seminal role in defining our secular culture, moves on to assess various philosophers (the American Josiah Royce, the Hungarian Gyîrgy Luk†cs), and ends with a dull overview of the ``African American Rebellion'' that began in the mid-1950's. West's own philosophical stance is clear: His generous humanist vision has been nourished by such various disciplines as Emersonian pragmatism (with its emphasis on ``the ethical significance of the future''), Marxism, and the prophetic Christian tradition that enjoins us ``to look at the world through the eyes of its victims.'' His message is clear, too: Although he feels that ``the quality of black intellectual exchange is at its worst since the Civil War'' and that the decline of American culture may be ``irreversible,'' he also sees the need to keep faith in the possibility of positive change. The challenge for intellectuals, black and white, is to move beyond ``contestation within the academy'' and to become ``critical organic catalysts'' in the wider community. Given this message, it's puzzling to find included here long essays on the American Marxist Fredric Jameson (whose works are ``confined to the academy'') and the Critical Legal Studies movement (``an isolated...affair within the ivy halls of elite law schools''). West's voice is an important one, but this collection doesn't amplify it in a helpful way.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1993
ISBN: 0-415-90486-2
Page count: 308pp
Publisher: Routledge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1993


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