Taking Emerson as his starting point, Cornel West’s basic task in this ambitious enterprise is to chart the emergence, development, decline, and recent resurgence of American pragmatism.
John Dewey is the central figure in West’s pantheon of pragmatists, but he treats as well such varied mid-century representatives of the tradition as Sidney Hook, C. Wright Mills, W. E. B. Du Bois, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Lionel Trilling.
West’s “genealogy” is, ultimately, a very personal work, for it is imbued throughout with the author’s conviction that a thorough reexamination of American pragmatism may help inspire and instruct contemporary efforts to remake and reform American society and culture.
Cornel West is the Class of 1943 University Professor of Religion at Princeton University.