In a sequel to his Race Matters, which he wrote over a decade ago, West (religion, Princeton U.) looks at the waning of democratic energies and practices in the present age of the American empire. He describes a deeply troubling deterioration of democratic powers in the US, and the rise of an ugly imperialism aided by an unholy alliance of the plutocratic elites and the Christian Right, and by a massive disaffection of voters who see too little difference between two corrupted parties. Americans must dip deep into the often-untapped wells of their democratic traditions to fight the imperialist strain and plutocratic impulse, he says. Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
The new book is richer and more compelling largely because it contains a historical component that was mostly neglected in its predecessor. In his chapter on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for example, West boils down several decades' worth of history on the movement for a Jewish state into just 30 pages. West has long been interested in Jewish culture (a chapter of Race Matters was devoted to the relationship between blacks and Jews, and he wrote a book with Tikkun magazine's Michael Lerner on the subject), so this is a natural extension. He does a yeoman's job of presenting the history clearly and succinctly for the layperson. And given the minefield this subject represents for scholars, he does an admirable job of critiquing both Israeli (and American Jewish) elites and their Palestinian counterparts, while arguing that the central problem remains the lack of a Palestinian state.