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
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.
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