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Intellectual Vocation & Political Struggle in the Trump Moment | Cornel West

This week’s addition to the reading list comes in the words of Dr. Cornel West, Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard University and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University. Titled ‘Intellectual Vocation & Political Struggle in the Trump Moment,’ the text was originally a speech delivered as part of the series “Why the Humanities Matter in the 21st Century‟ at Dartmouth College on April 27, 2017.

The text sees Dr. West touch upon some searingly important topics of our age and American politics. He touches upon the questions of White Supremacy, hypocrisy in politics, Black History and Black Music, Power and Western Hegemony and self-reflecting into creating what Gramsci called the ‘creating of a self-inventory‘. He addresses the audience’s apprehensions through three of W.E.B. Du Bois’ questions:

  1. “How shall integrity face oppression?”

  2. “What does honesty do in the face of deception?”

  3. “How shall decency respond to assault and attack?”

Do we have what it takes? We never know. It all depends on the kind of human things we choose to be, the kind of vocations we adopt, the kind of voices we raise, the kind of courage we exhibit. T.S. Eliot says, “Ours is in the trying and the rest is not our business.” None of us are in control. No group is in control. The Empire may simply have run out of gas. We don’t know, but some of us are going to go down swinging, like Ella Fitzgerald and Muhammad Ali, full of that commitment that De Bois was writing about.

The full transcript of the speech is available here as part of the first Issue of the Journal of Political Theory & Philosophy.

You can listen to the full speech below:

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