CORNEL WEST PROPHETIC PRAGMATISM PDF

Keywords: Foucault, West, prophetic pragmatism, polemics, liberation. Even during the golden age of Royce, James, Santayana, and Dewey it remained relatively unaffected by the then rampant lynchings and widespread mistreatment of Afro-Americans. West states this succinctly in an interview with bell hooks: To be intellectual, no matter what the color, means that one is going to be deeply influenced by other intellectuals of a variety of different colors. When it comes to Black intellectuals, we have to, on the one hand, be very open to insights from wherever they come. On the other hand, we must filter it in such a way that we never lose sight of what some of the si- lences are in the work of White theorists, especially as those silences relate to issues of class, gender, race, and empire. Because class, gender, race, and empire are fundamental categories which Black intellectuals must use in order to understand the predicament of Black people.

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Keywords: Foucault, West, prophetic pragmatism, polemics, liberation. Even during the golden age of Royce, James, Santayana, and Dewey it remained relatively unaffected by the then rampant lynchings and widespread mistreatment of Afro-Americans.

West states this succinctly in an interview with bell hooks: To be intellectual, no matter what the color, means that one is going to be deeply influenced by other intellectuals of a variety of different colors.

When it comes to Black intellectuals, we have to, on the one hand, be very open to insights from wherever they come. On the other hand, we must filter it in such a way that we never lose sight of what some of the si- lences are in the work of White theorists, especially as those silences relate to issues of class, gender, race, and empire. Because class, gender, race, and empire are fundamental categories which Black intellectuals must use in order to understand the predicament of Black people.

Although West would not consider himself a theologian or philosopher of liberation, there is ample evidence that he is. I want to claim that it might be permissible for 3 Cf. This essay has four sections. Insofar as it is a historical ontology of discourse and knowledge, the analysis of metaphors and concepts used in discourse is more properly a feature of archaeology.

Genea- logy indeed characterizes the second dimension of the project, for genealogy explicates the apparatuses of power and maps out power relations. Of course, one cannot do genealogy without archaeology, and archaeology requires genealogy to connect knowledge to power and subjectivity. I simply point out here that West uses both archaeological and genealogical methods, both of which show strong Foucauldian influence.

In Prophesy Deliverance! West gives us an archaeological account of white supremacist ideology. Despite the indispensable role these factors would play in a full-blown explanatory model to account for the emergence and sustenance of modern racism in the West, I try to hold these factors constant and focus solely on a neglected variable in past explanatory models—namely, the way in which the very structure of modern discourse at its inception produced forms of rationality, scientificity, and objectivity as well as aesthetic and cultural ideals which require the constitution of the idea of white supremacy.

First, in the spirit of this section, West is going beyond the macrostructural reduction of white supremacy to economic production. By bracketing these items, West will focus on simply the statements made, the enunciative functioning of those statements, the strategies created by those statements, and the concepts that govern those strategies.

In short, West will look at the level of discourse itself and show that what was said was only possible due to a given epistemic arrangement, not the motives of people, who are merely placeholders lieu-tenants in the discursive game. The use of Foucauldian method here is unique for its time. This, of course, does not let white people off the hook in the fight for racial equality, but it does remove the guilt by association.

At the end of the chapter, West raises a standard archaeological point: there is a mix- ture of necessity and contingency in any archaeological analysis. Once a discursive configura- tion takes hold, its consequences are necessary. However, the configuration itself is con- tingent. Therefore, we have a necessity that is itself not necessarily so. This contingent necessity is the historical a priori of all knowledge.

And some continue to view their own sexuality with disgust. Victorian morality and racist perceptions die hard. West alludes to this when he writes that the paradox of the sexual politics of race in America is that, behind closed doors, the dirty, disgusting, and funky sex associated with black people is often perceived to be more intri- guing and interesting, while in public spaces talk about black sexuality is virtually taboo.

Everyone knows it is virtually impossible to talk candidly about race without talking about sex. Yet most social scientists who examine race relations do so with little or no reference to how sexual perceptions influence racial matters. Similarly, racism is bred by an incitement for discourse and a need to confess sexual desires and fears. The relations of power at play in sexuality brings about race, making black people classifiable in either sexually aggressive or asexual terms for exam- ple, Aunt Jemima is asexual, but Bigger Thomas is a rapist.

The racism of sex, a theme that is not as present in Foucault but genealogically possible, is the other direction of the race-sex power cycle. Blacks have to respond to racism by means 13 Ibid. For some, that means the nihilistic embracing of stereotypical black sexuality as often glorified in pornography and music videos.

For others, this means the silencing and hatred of black sexuality identity. This happens in two ways. One way is for black people, especially black Christians, to find sexuality, especially their own sexuality, as sinful and dis- gusting.

This disgust is usually white disgust under the guise of religiosity. I will discuss each of these objections in turn. It 17 Ibid. A future essay of mine addresses the Down Low phenomenon in terms of the racism of sex. Second, West claims that Foucault limits the discussion of power to the realm of sub- jectivization. At the end of the day, Foucault is thinking of the post-Nietz- schean, immanent possibilities of the transcendental project. Not the agent of change understood in an Emersonian fashion.

In short, Foucault does not claim a moral mandate; he does not do analyses in or- der to show one side or the other as the side with which God or history would side. No longer should intellectuals deceive themselves by believing Insofar as West thinks that that does not happen, this lack of engagement serves as a criticism.

They hope that training people to think critically about the law in new ways that are mindful of oppressive practices and cultural bias will result in a changed world, but it is at most only a hopeful action, not concrete praxis. West wants a theory that will help lead particular people African-Americans to perform particular actions vote for Barack Obama in order to gain particular goals black liberation.

Foucault is skeptical of these kinds of theory. From a Wes- tian point of view, Foucault is aloof concerning the true power of his own theory. It seems that there should be nothing stopping Foucault from offering solutions to problems. Perhaps what West finds unnerving about Foucault is that Foucault will take up an actual problem that actually affects society, analyze it in great detail, and then walk away, theoretically satisfied.

Foucault, West would allege, downplays resistance, which in turn might suggest that those practices are not theoretically significant. Insofar as West seeks to theoretically support such practices, Fou- cault is a powerful yet insufficient resource for prophetic pragmatism. West sees himself as taking the Foucauldian method to its fullest potential by coupling it to the quotidian battles for decency and dignity: in short, the plight of people of African descent in the United States.

Foucault and Practices of Freedom In the spirit of fairness, Foucault is not suggesting that one cannot strive to be agents for change or be politically active: his own life would contradict such a claim. Essential Works of Foucault , vol. Foucault wants to avoid polemics, because political interests contaminate the pursuit of knowledge.

Once his analysis is done, anyone may take his findings and make better-informed moves. So Foucault is not against the political use of his work if all involved understand that he is not endorsing any given position. He is interested in problematization, the analysis of the elements that form a given situation.

From that situation, a whole myriad of solutions can be proffered. Foucault ends the interview with a great definition of archaeology as the history of systems of thought that bolsters his claim that his task was not to pick sides but to show the conditions of the possibility of the sides themselves: To one single set of difficulties, several responses can be made. And most of the time different responses actually are proposed.

But what must be understood is what makes them simultaneously possible: it is the point in which their simultaneity is rooted; it is the soil that can nourish them all in their diversity and sometimes in spite of their con- tradictions Others can rank them; in doing so, they simply show which side of the battle they are on. West would rank solutions based on how effective they were for bringing about black liberation since that is what he is trying to do. Foucault is very clear that he is not against overcoming oppression.

When Foucault claims that power is every- where, he is not saying that everyone is in a state of domination. In light of this, Foucault differentiates between practices of freedom and processes of liberation.

These are the practices undertaken by individuals and groups to form themselves into per- sons. The later works and lectures of Foucault focus on these practices.

That noted, Foucault wants us to only use the language of liberation in the context of domination. When Foucault says that resistance is part of the power relation, he is therefore not absorbing oppression into domination, but rather proving the freedom possible in resistance. Foucault clarifies this point in the interview: [I]n order for power relations to come into play, there must be at least a certain degree of freedom on both sides A true state of domination does not allow for any resistance or practice of freedom.

Wood goes on to argue that West compromises his earlier Marxist sentiments by strongly enter- taining Foucauldian motifs. A Foucauldian must be skeptical of claims of oppression if it seems clear that what those who claim to be oppressed mean is that there are obstacles in the way of their will to power. That is the case for everyone; power cannot operate without resistance. Therefore everyone has a law, another person, or historical circumstances that get in the way of their will to power.

That is not oppression. Therefore it would be a mistake to claim that Foucault is blind to oppression and a fortiori to liberation. What Foucault is more interested in is resistance, and the creative prac- tices of freedom that provide such resistance.

One could say that Foucault empowers resistance; he assures us that resistance is a natural part of power relations and that power relations are key in the formation of selves as persons. Foucault believes that one must work at becoming a person; therefore, practices of freedom are more appealing than processes of mere liberation. I have always been somewhat suspicious of the notion of liberation, because if it is not treated with precautions and within certain limits, one runs the risk of falling back on the idea that there exists a human nature or base that, as a consequence of certain historical, economic, and social processes, has been concealed, alienated, or imprisoned in and by mechanisms of repression.

According to this hypothesis, all that is required is to break these repressive deadlocks and man will be reconciled with himself, rediscover his nature or regain contact with his origin, and reestablish a full and positive relationship with himself.

I think this idea should not be accepted without scrutiny. Foucault indeed wants people to be free from oppression, but the real task remains thereafter. Liberation cannot be an end in itself.

Such a goal is wrong-headed, for it excludes not only the truth about dis- cursive formations and power relations but also the task for everyone to take care of themselves and form themselves into persons. A Foucauldian Response to West West is so committed to liberation theology whether he wants to acknowledge it or not that he underplays practices of freedom. Or does he? One of the things I like most in West is his account of black prophetic practices: preaching, powerful praying, dancing, and music.

Afri- can-Americans had to create themselves virtually out of nothing. In slavery, blacks were in a state of domination, yet there was just enough freedom for slaves to create songs about emancipation and final retribution on the day of judgment.

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Pragmatism Cybrary

Includes bibliographical references and index. Contents The Christian-Marxist dialogue and the end of liberation theology Race, class, power Racism and the struggle for working class democracy The pragmatic concept of truth, reality, and politics The past, present, and future of American pragmatism Saving the nation in the era of transnational capitalism Prophetic pragmatism and the American evasion of class struggle The future of revolutionary democratic politics. Indeed, West has become one of the most publicly influential black intellectuals in the United States and contributed significantly to the development of the progressive pragmatist political tradition. In his early writings, West condemned capitalism as antidemocratic and contended that struggles against racism must be advanced as part of an international working-class movement against capitalism. No longer arguing for public control of social production, West now identifies the major enemy of black survival as nihilism and seeks to expand democracy within the boundaries of capitalist property relations in the United States. His critique constitutes an important contribution to the development of a perspective that aims to enable U.

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CORNEL WEST PROPHETIC PRAGMATISM PDF

Vudocage Sign in Create an account. They can use naturalist explanations of events, for example, evolutionary accounts of the development of species or material-determinists accounts of motivation, to help explain social events. Humanist must believe, whatever else they believe, that humans are natural beings and thereby due goods associated with their species, for example, dignity, the use of reason, sex, nourishing food, etc. An optimistic outlook, namely, that there is hope human life will improve, is characteristic of both classical humanists and West. Johnson misses this distinction. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.

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West has won numerous awards, including the American Book Award, and has received more than 20 honorary degrees. Visit the Cornel West website. Professor West may be contacted through his assistant: MaryAnn Rodriguez Requests for speaking engagements should be made here.

CORNEL WEST PROPHETIC PRAGMATISM PDF

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Doubei They can use naturalist explanations of events, for example, evolutionary accounts of the development of species or material-determinists accounts of motivation, to help explain social events. His views are anti-establishment in the sense that he warns us against the loss of pragmatisk freedom in the face of corporate greed. They thereby too often treated black folk-culture as primitive or the black poor as lacking virtues while promoting images of the middle class as salutary. The antiracism of the Renaissance authors was directed at the nearly absolute presentation of blacks as non-humans; their goal was wsst establish a classification of blacks as humans.

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