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 an American philosopher, political activist, social critic, author, and public intellectual and is author of over 20 books, including the classic bestseller Race Matters, The American Evasion of Philosophy: A Genealogy of Pragmatism, Democracy Matters, Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud, Black Prophetic Fire, and editor of more than a dozen others. He is Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard University He has also taught at Union Theological Seminary, Princeton, Yale, and the University of Paris. West frequently makes headlines for his political action, including his participation in protests against police violence following the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson at which West was twice arrested. He is well known for his staunch critique of Barack Obama’s economic and foreign policy in public media during Obama’s administration from 2009 to 2017, and last year was a prominent endorser of Sen. Bernie Sanders, and later Green Party candidate Jill Stein, during the presidential election. He is also a familiar figure in popular culture, with cameo appearances in The Matrix films, Examined Life documentary by Astra Taylor and as a frequent guest on The Bill Maher Show, The Tavis Smiley Show, CNN, and C-Span.