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West's work has been described as a "polemical weapon that attempts to transform linguistic, social, cultural, and political tradition to increase the scope of individual development and democratic actions." West's writing, speaking, and teaching weaves together the American traditions of the Baptist Church, transcendentalism, socialism, and pragmatism.
West's best-selling book Race Matters (1993) changed the course of America's dialogue on race, justice, and democracy. His writings, along with his frequent lecturing and preaching, has brought him widespread attention and honors. West's first book, Prophesy Deliverance! (1982), advocates a socially concerned African American Christianity that draws from Marxism. His American Evasion of Philosophy (1989) engages the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson and the tradition of American pragmatism. West has continued to produce a steady stream of authored and co-authored books for academics and for a more general audience, including Breaking Bread (with bell hooks, 1991); Race Matters (1993); Jews and Blacks (with Michael Lerner, 1995); The Future of the Race (with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., 1996); and Democracy Matters (2004). He has also co-authored important books on public policy issues, including The Future of American Progressivism (with Roberto Unger, 1998) and The War Against Parents (with Sylvia Ann Hewlett, 1998).
Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud, A Memoir with David Ritz. New York: SmileyBooks, 2009. Buy Now!
Hope on a Tightrope: Words and Wisdom. Carlsbad, Cal.: Hay House, 2008. Buy Now!
Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism. New York: Penguin, 2004. Buy Now!
The Cornel West Reader. New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999. Buy Now!
The Future of American Progressivism, with Roberto Unger. Boston: Beacon, 1998. Buy Now!
Keeping Faith: Philosophy and Race in America. New York: Routledge, 1993. Buy Now!
Race Matters. Boston: Beacon Press, 1993. Reissued in hardcover with new introduction, 2001. Buy Now!
The Ethical Dimensions of Marxist Thought. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1991. Buy Now!
Prophetic Fragments: Illuminations of the Crisis in American Religion and Culture. Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1988. Buy Now!
Prophesy Deliverance!: An African American Revolutionary Christianity. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster Press, 1982. 20th anniversary reissue, 2002. Buy Now!
West was an undergraduate at Harvard, where among his teachers was political philosopher John Rawls, receiving the AB Magna Cum Laude in 1973. He earned MA (1975) and PhD (1980) degrees from Princeton. From 1977 to 1984 and 1987-88 West taught at Union Theological Seminary, with an appointment at Yale Divinty School from 1984-87 intervening. West's own account of his intellectual debts and formative years is in "Introduction: The Making of an American Democratic Socialist of African Descent" in The Ethical Dimensions of Marxist Thought (1991), pp. xv-xxxiv; reprinted in The Cornel West Reader (1999), pp. 3-18. From 1988 to 1993 West was Professor of religion and director of the Program in African-American Studies at Princeton. In 1993 West joined the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research at Harvard Univerity, and became Alphonse Fletcher Jr. University Professor in 1998. In 2002 West returned to Princeton University as the Class of 1943 University Professor of Religion and African American Studies (read thecrimson.com and hear West's own account).
Cornel West: The Politics of Redemption by Rosemary Cowan (Polity, 2003).
Cornel West and Philosophy by Clarence Sholé Johnson (Routledge 2002)
Cornel West: A Critical Reader edited by George Yancy (Blackwell 2001)
Cornel West and the Politics of Prophetic Pragmatism by Mark David Wood (University of Illinois Press 2000).