Cornel West
Democracy Matters:
Winning the Fight against Imperialism.
Penguin, 229, $24.95

Cornel West is known as a fiery professor-intellectual who brings bookish learning and argumentative rigor to political and social issues. Few academics slide so smoothly from the classroom to the rally or from the library to the talk show. While teaching at Harvard and Princeton, West worked for the 2000 campaign of Bill Bradley, traveled with Al Sharpton to Africa, appeared in The Matrix 2 and on TV with Bill Maher. The profile seems a perfect mix of inquiry and activism. Set him on a panel on racism and he’ll jump from welfare to the Republic to rap to Protestantism.

To sustain a public “professor” persona, though, one must not only play the media and mingle with political figures, but also compose works of intellectual heft. Ever since West...


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