Marshall Berman, Introduction to All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: the Experience of Modernity Essay

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"One of the distinctive virtues of modernism is that it leaves its questions echoing in the air long after the questioners themselves, and their answers, have left the scene." - Marshall Berman In the introduction to All That Is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity, Marshall Berman looks back over five centuries of modernity, focusing on the nineteenth century, and introduces that in the most basic ways the experience of modernity then is the same as our own in the twenty-first century. By comparing the ideas of nineteenth-century European social philosophers, (such as Marx, Nietzsche, and Rousseau), Berman explains the vital interaction between modern experience and modern culture. After reading and analyzing his introduction, I understand modernism as any attempt by modern men and women to become subjects as well as objects of modernization, to get a grip on the modern world, and make themselves at home in it. They are moved at once by a will to change - to transform both themselves and their world - and by a terror of disorientation and disintegration, of life falling apart. To be modern is to live a life of paradox and contradiction, a life characterized by the uninterrupted disturbances of all social relations, everlasting uncertainty and agitation which have been part of modernity for two hundred years. If we think of modernism as a struggle to make ourselves at home in a constantly changing world, we will then realize that no mode of modernism can ever be definitive. I believe that communication and dialogue have taken on a new specific weight and urgency in modern times, because subjectivity and inwardness have become at once richer and more intensely developed, and more lonely and entrapped, than they ever were before. In this context, communication and dialogue become both a desperate need and a primary source of delight.

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