49 von 59 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
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Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
This book is outstanding. It outlines our anti-democratic conditions permeating American democracy, both domestically and in foreign policy and draws on the deep foundations of democratic traditions needed to draw on to combat what have lost. We have reached a rare fork in the road and it is crucial to draw on such democratic energies.
West outlines three antidemocratic dogmas that dominate our current political climate:
1. Free-market fundamentalism, which trivializes the concern of public interest. The overwhelming power and influence of plutocrats and oligarchs in the economy put fear and insecurity in the hearts of anxiety-ridden workers and render money-driven, poll obsessed elected officials deferential to corporate goals of profit often at the cost of the common good.
2. Aggressive militarism. This new U.S. doctrine goes beyond preventive war but puts the green lights on the elites to sacrifice soldiers, mostly of the working and poor classes, fueling a foreign campaign which does away with multilateral decisions to that of unilateral, lone ranger imperialistic colonial invasions, all for the sole benefit of the government regardless of all others and societies.
3. Escalating authoritarianism, which is tightening security in replace of liberty and freedom. The Patriot Act is only the beginning, as we will see escalated censorship and rights removed.
In this West brings out three common forms of anti-democratic nihilism:
1. Evangelical nihilism. This is the idea that might makes right, as in Thrasymachus argument in Plato's Republic. The stronger U.S. must use its military power to quiet dissenters. All must obey and submit to our correct interpretations of culture. The evangelical spirit sharply gravitates towards militancy and censorship against all views that differ, especially dissenting views and those that employ Socratic inquiry.
2. Parental nihilism. This is found in both Democrats and Republicans, that is, the ideas that the leaders will not resort to the proletariat decisions, but rather remain in charge to work within the corrupt system to make the necessary changes, the idea that it is useless to do otherwise.
3. Sentimental nihilism. This is found in the cowardly lack of willingness to engage in truth telling, even at the cost of social ills, to forfeit the comfortable life for the sake of exposing truth to help others, as in many former slave owners and today in the media where they are drawn to their corporate owned sponsors and what sells a story. Monetary interests clearly outweigh the truth, dialogue is limited, questions are reduced and thus the answers are reduced to the range limits of the questions in the vulgar partisanship corrupting our public life.
While we see such antidemocratic views permeating America and the middle east, both with the Palestinians and with Israel, with oppressive policies and imperialism, West brings out there are those that are aware and that our future depends on those who embrace our deep democratic traditions that fuel true democratic energies. However, we must recognize the schizophrenic nature of the American democratic experiment in peoples who rebelled from British imperialism in favor of American imperialism over the Native American Indians, doing so with African American slaves. So there was always this dual nature in the American democratic experiement. To acknowledge the past is needed and then to reject the imperialistic tendencies and to draw on the democratic energies of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, Melville, Gertrude Stein, James Baldwin, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Jr., Toni Morrison and others. In this, West lists three democratic energies, which are:
1. The Socratic inquiry to fully examine government domestically and foreign. To question and fight censorship and corporate profit driven media from slanting the truths. This is the polar opposite from the fundamentalist and absolutist that defines all actions according to their predetermined meanings and then attacks with full vengence.
2. The Judeo-Christian prophetic view. This is the great tradition of mercy and justice of the prophets and of Christ, that enable social programs and genuine concern for the poor, the needy and the working class, to put individuals above corporate profits, monetary interests and imperialistic conquests. Just as you find the prophetic discarded by the Christian fundamentalists control in the Bush administration, you can find this same parallel situation in Israel, where the Jewish fundamentalists, attacks the prophetic Jewish voices of equality and social justice. West believes that those voices of democratic moderation are found in Rabbi Michael Lerner and Abraham Joshua Heschel.
3. Tragicomic hope. This is the crucial ability to cease from revenge, hatred and despair, to retain strength and integrity towards democratic equality with inner strength, despite the attacking hatred and vengeance directed towards one. And this West points out, can be found in the African American's treatment as outcasts, hated as inferior, and yet ceasing to return revengeful hate and not falling into despair, expressing themselves in the music of the Blues, Jazz and original Hip Hop and some Rap. This is the way to deal with slanderous, attacks from the fundamentalists and their hate.
West goes into the concept of Muslim democracy apart from Western domination, the abuses of the Judeo-Christian religious fundamentalism and its sharp contrast with the Judeo-Christian prophetic views. West calls these two types, Constantinian Christianity, from the government of Constantine backed imperialistic injustice, and prophetic Christianity, that of social democratic justice and democratic values.
9 von 10 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Jean E. Pouliot
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It's hard to know what to make of Cornell West, but more so of his detractors. West is a paradox. On one hand, he has held important positions at America's premier teaching institutions, like Harvard. On the other, he eschews the standard forms by which academics hold such position -- by publishing well-researched, highly-referenced works, many of which have little ultimate value. But West prefers sermons to citations and righteous exhortations to references.
In "Democracy Matters," the West style is in full flourish. He does not attempt to prove any of his statements, and hardly provides enough examples for the reader to be absolutely certain what he is referring to. He is a jazz artist of academe - floating serenely above the dull world of strict chord progressions and precisely-executed scales. This is simultaneously his strength and his greatest liability. The man has something to say that the safe, serene world of the academy cannot contain. On the other hand, a little rigor wouldn't hurt his cause.
In "Democracy Matters, "West preaches a sermon to an America that has become democratically lethargic and is losing interest in the impulses on which it was founded. West pins the blame on a trio of anti-democratic dogmas that underpin how Americans think about themselves and that propel our actions. The trio, (which due to ample repetition makes itself felt throughout the book) are free market fundamentalism, aggressive militarism and escalating authoritarianism. Needless to say, West is no fan of the Bush II administration, and he has little good to say about it adventurism overseas. But West has little use for Democrats, as current constituted, who he sees as captive to the same corrupting influence of market morality as Republicans,
West believes that America has failed to confront two uncomfortable realities that permeate its history: its lust for empire and its racism. The contention that America is a racist nation is irksome to many. But West wonders about a nation which spends so much time whitewashing its founders, who (like Jefferson and Washington) epitomize the paradox of our country: that men who themselves owned and oppressed other human beings could be the architects of a political system that sought to free itself of the oppressive rule of another nation. West scolds an America that can "grow big, grow powerful but not grow up" to maturely admit its faults and seek to redress them.
West's use of the concept of "nihilism" is problematic for some who prefer precise, philosophically-grounded definitions. West sweeps away these objections as irrelevant to his work. Nihilism represents those systems of values that fail to find their grounding in moral systems, but only in convenience or market success. West feels that the growth of these nihilisms, across party lines, is suffocating democracy. He identifies several nihilistic responses that shape the attitudes of Americans. Sentimental nihilism "provides an emotionally satisfying show," but is constrained when required to "expose uncomfortable truths." It is about "partisan punditry stretching truth into fabrication in search for a good story." It is about what passes for politics on much of television today, in which news and patriotism or packaged with the sole aim of increasing its profits and market share. Paternalistic nihilism infects the political landscape, encouraging the rise of leaders who pretend to speak for the citizenry, all the while being beholden to corporate interests and lobbyists. West sees George W. Bush as a classic exemplar of the genre, but names the Clintons and John Kerry among its practitioners. It's hard to argue with either insight.
But all is not lost. West identifies three antidotes or "fortifications" that temper the anti-democratic forces threatening our republic. The first is socratic questioning, in which an environment of dialog and questioning is tolerated and encouraged. The press once filled this role, but it is the responsibility of all citizens to keep their governments accountable.The second fortification is prophetic commitment, as practiced by the biblical prophets like Amos and Hosea up to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and beyond. This prophetic commitment is often overwhelmed by "religious" appeals to nationalism and self-interest. But when it is resurgent, great things happen. And finally, the third fortification for democracy is tragicomic hope, which is the vessel within which democracy rides during times when antidemocratic tendencies reign.West sees this hope in the work of artists like Coltrane and Toni Morrison (for whose work he has particular affection) and in the prophetic work of many young hip hop stars of the present.
West then goes on to apply his insights to trouble spots around the world, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His position -- both pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian is a gentle rebuke to those who insist that one side or the other shoulder all be blame for the conflict.
West's presentation is heartfelt and right on. It has the character of a sermon or gentle jeremiad, urging Americans off the road of self-righteous imperialism. His diagnosis of the racist and imperialistic rot at the core of our country's self-image is sadly accurate. As our recent supremacist exercise in Iraq demonstrates West's point that we are doomed to follow the lead of our twisted national conscience until we re-examine our founding myths that show our impulses as wholly pure.
West falls short only in his seeming lack of interest in proving his case. He presumes certain facts, then makes conclusions about them. I don't expect this book to make many converts. But West's greatest contribution is in providing a conceptual framework for thinking about our nation's history, and in goading us toward a nation that lives up to its democratic ideals. For all of the name-calling that West has been subjected to, "Democracy Matters" is a call to greater democracy and religious practice in line with the best impulses of both. You may not always agree with West, and you may occasionally find him confusing, but you will definitely be better off for having been taught at the feet of one of America's great patriots and compassionate human beings.