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All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  2,435 ratings  ·  157 reviews
All That Is Solid Melts into Air is a dazzling exploration of modern consciousness. In this unparalleled book, Marshall Berman takes account of the social changes that swept millions of people into the capitalist world and the impact of modernism on art, literature and architecture. This new edition contains an updated preface addressing the critical role the onset of mode ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published June 7th 1988 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published 1982)
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Ahmad Sharabiani
All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity, Marshall Berman

All That Is Solid Melts into Air is an academic text written by Marshall Berman between 1971 and 1981, and published in New York City in 1982. The book examines social and economic modernization and its conflicting relationship with modernism.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه مارس سال 1999 میلادی

عنوان: تجربه مدرنیته؛ نویسنده: مارشال برمن؛ مترجم: مراد فرهاد پور؛ تهران، طرح نو، 1379؛ در 443ص؛ فروست فلسفه و فرهنگ؛ شابک 9645625890؛
Sep 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing book. Most works that try to explicate modernity seem to take the French revolution as their starting point, but Berman's intense, wide-ranging examination is rooted much more in Germanic and Russian thought. He uses Goethe, Marx, Baudilare (ok, so some french), Dostoyevsky, Bely etc. to try and show how the sensibility of modernity itself has developed largely out of literature, and how we can see that sensibility at work in our own age with issues of geography and city plann ...more
First off, subject matter aside, Marshall Berman is a beautiful damn writer. He can take four weighty, academic ideas-- the relationship between Faust and modern technology, Baudelaire's conception of Paris, the role of St. Petersburg in Russian modernization, and the effects of modernist planning on New York-- and make them sing and dance. Especially the New York essay. He's on home turf, and he is as rapturous as Woody Allen in the opening scenes of Manhattan.

In the introduction, he denounces
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
In the Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx writes the following passage, from which the title of this book is taken:

All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

What Marx was referring to was the nature of modern capitalist economies to mercilessly remake society again and again, taking human beings along for the ride and forcing them to adapt their own external and i
Maru Kun
Modernism: that dull old Boomer dad who's always telling his Postmodern teenage son they should be reading some decent books occasionally instead of endlessly watching Tik Tok videos because Tik Tok videos aren’t clever or ironic or self-referential or anything much because in fact they're crap.

I doubt there are many books being written about Modernism these days, which is a shame as all the best literature and art work of the past century or two could be called Modernist. This book is a rare ex
I found Berman's analysis to be lacking in the rigor necessary for this type of project to really turn out well. The culling of literary texts and historical moments for archetypes of the experience of modernity is already, in my mind, a dubious enterprise; to then use these archetypes to form normative judgments which mask themselves as historical description - St. Petersburg as a model of "the modernism of underdevelopment" - only strengthens my skepticism of Berman's conclusions.
I heard someo
I loved this book, loved its provocations on how capitalism and literature and our strivings in the world are intertwined, loved how a new dialectic is brought into Marxist thought and this is tied into our dreams for the future and our visions for a full life, loved that its is grounded in the pain, and yet excitement and vision too, of capitalist destruction. Entirely dialectical, restless, searching, wary of solutions and 'end stages' and static utopias. It is also entirely based on the voice ...more
I love the Marx quote that this book is titled after and centred around:

All that is solid melts into air, all that is sacred is profaned, and men at last are forced to face… the real conditions of their lives and their relations with their fellow men.

As well as having a beautiful ring to it, this statement proves fruitful as a means of discussing what modernism and modernisation are in different historical, geographical, and disciplinary contexts, as well as the dialectic between them. Berman wr
Sep 10, 2010 added it
Let me tell you this much, it gets even better the second time around. I read this years ago as I was still trying to figure out where my thesis was going, it provided some valuable paths for research. Now that all that is past and then some, it provided me a lot of insight that becomes even more meaningful with life experience and in our current times.
Jun 02, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: modernism
Berman's point is clear and casts an important light -- his notion of modernity and, far more importantly to me, the claim that modernity has deep roots that should be nourishing and renewing (wonderful!).

But his method of getting the reader there is not sound. I'm glad to have spent some hours reading in it - but it's enough.
The title comes from one of the more poetic moments in the Communist Manifesto (the full sentence is – 17 paragraphs into part 1: "All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life and his relations with his kind", although the word translated here as solid could also be 'privileged and established' – less poetic) which describes the step beyond delusion to see the truth behind ideology as a moment o ...more
Jonathan Norton
May 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
First published at the end of the 70s, this is Berman's superb study of the topics of "modernity", "modernism" and "modernisation", illuminating the subtle differences between them. We start with the Faust story, taken as a parable about the notion of "development", and then on the Marx's diagnosis of capitalism as the blinding white heat that melts away all traditional forms (the quote that gives the book its title). After a visit to Baudelaire's Paris there is a long study of St Petersburg, a ...more
Cole Stratton
Mar 14, 2012 rated it liked it
This is a difficult book to review because of how broad and complex Berman's subject matter is. His exploration of the feeling of modernity is poetic, academic, boring and enthralling. He is exceptional at textually analyzing nearly anything – architecture, literature, painting, film, dance, theater. He begins with Goethe's Faust and very elegantly describes the experience of creative destruction as modernity ripped across the world with the industrial revolution. The old has continued to be swe ...more
Mar 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theory, lit-crit
I love this book. it's sloppy, unsystematic and repetitive. it also got me to read Goethe, Pushkin, Biely, Gogol, Jane Jacobs and Robert Caro and in that sense it does what criticism should do, it transmits passion. ...more
Ken Muldrew
Dec 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
“All that is Solid Melts Into Air” is a phrase from The Communist Manifesto that refers to the constant barrage of changes that come with industrialization. Marshall Berman has titled his book about the experience of Modernity using this phrase because it captures perfectly Berman’s sense of what it means to be “modern”.

To be modern
“…is to experience personal and social life as a maelstrom, to find one’s world in perpetual disintegration and renewal, trouble and anguish, ambiguity and contrad
Jul 07, 2019 added it
The Tragedy of Modernist Development

“Accept destructiveness as part of your share of divine creativity, and you can throw off your guilt and act freely. No longer need you be inhibited by the moral question Should I do it? Out on the open road to self-development, the only vital question is How to do it?”

“All That Is Solid Melt Into Air” by Marshall Berman unfolds the phenomenon of modernism from its conception in the late XVIII century by a new type of people like Goethe’s Faust until its deca
George Millership
May 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is outstanding, with a few qualifiers.

1. The prose is fantastic. Rythmic, evocative, and incredibly understandable - it's so brilliant to find a writer covering stuff from Dostoyevsky to Richard Serra who doesn't lapse into jargonistic territory (especially a philosopher), without sacrificing ideas.

2. His textual analysis is deft and masterful. Berman frequently extracts the core of a text within a sentence, indeed, even sometimes within two words. It's beyond clear that he grasps the
Feb 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2021-to-read
reading this book was like making love. enough said bence
Gavin P
May 14, 2018 rated it liked it
All that is Solid Melts Into Air
Marshall Berman

“Violent electric moons”
“… comm 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.”
N: “We are in the midst of our bliss only when we are most in danger. The only stimulus that tickles us is the infinite, the immeasurable.”
“….a sort of tropical tempo in rivalry of deve
Sara Vidal
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this in 2000 - it was a required reading for a 'Critical Theory' essay. I loved it but must read it again - soon.
Paul O'Leary
Aug 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Marshall Berman passed away a few years ago. Rumor has it, a heart attack had the temerity and bad taste to interrupt the Bronx native turned Marxist scholar's nosh at his favorite New York diner. Many might claim, that's the way to go. I'd personally prefer it after dinner. I assume Marshall would've agreed with me.

This book, All That Is Solid Melts Into Air, is the one he's justly remembered by, though his output throughout the years remained steady. The title is taken from a line in The Comm
Alex Csicsek
Jan 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This extraordinary introduction to modernism, conceived of at its most general, highlights the common thread of the greatest in literature and arts over the past three centuries to paint the picture of a modern people simultaneously desperate to tear off their shackles and horrified of what that true freedom might mean. From the liberation offered by Marxism to the ultimate prison imagined by Foucault, Berman nimbly navigates among modernism in all its incarnations and picks out the common threa ...more
Jan 27, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A monument to the end of modernity.

"To be modern, I said, is to experience personal and social life as a maelstrom, to find one's world and oneself in perpetual disintegration and renewal, trouble and anguish, ambiguity and contradiction: to be part of a universe in which all that is solid melts into air. To be a modernist is to make oneself somehow at home in the maelstrom, to make its rhythms one's own, to move within its currents in search of the forms of reality, of beauty, of freedom, of j
Chelsea Szendi
May 05, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: current-events
This is a really hard book to classify. Its premise is to take a particularly haunting phrase from the Communist Manifesto and discuss the dislocating effects of modernity in an impressionistic way. I found it really hard to get into because it seemed a bit sentimental and earnest, and then I felt bad about myself for being such a cynical shrew. I do, after all, feel like the world is a better place with Marshall Berman in it.

I'd actually really like to read this with undergraduates someday.
Cheryl Hudson
Feb 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing

A dazzling account of the impact and meaning of modernity. Berman's depth of understanding, his erudition and his ability to convey the range of emotional and intellectual responses to modernity is breathtaking. He sweeps across history, philosophy, literature, art and architecture with enormous knowledge and insight. His writing both humbles and elevates the reader. This is a book I had been meaning to read for a long time and I am glad I stopped procrastinating.
Scott Laughlin
Aug 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A Marxist cultural study that really illuminates who and what we are as moderns. There are chapters on Goethe, Marx, Baudelaire, and Russian Literature--all amazingly insightful. In many ways, I will keep this book by my side, as I will delve into it often. Not the most easy reading, of course, but extremely enlightening.
May 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Harder to read in the beginning unless you are familiar with modernism work and writing. Still essential. Get's pretty vivid when talking about modernism in the streets, the Netsky Prospect, Petersberg, and New York. Push through, it's rewarding. ...more
Apr 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
Berman's unorthodox approach to Marx really summed up my own political philosophy. This is digestible theory. A must read for those that remain optimistic. ...more
Mar 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Berman for president!
Sep 06, 2010 rated it did not like it
As reading the introduction left me with little more than embarrassment for Berman's atrociously sloppy writing and slipshod anything-goes methodology, I say: nuts to this. ...more
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Marshall Berman (born 1940, The Bronx, New York City) is an American philosopher and Marxist Humanist writer. He is currently Distinguished Professor of Political Science at The City College of New York and at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, teaching Political Philosophy and Urbanism.

An alumnus of Columbia University, Berman completed his Ph.D. at Harvard University in 1968

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Kazuo Ishiguro insists he’s an optimist about technology.  “I'm not one of these people who thinks it's going to come and destroy us,” he...
221 likes · 24 comments
“The sort of individualism that scorns and fears connections with other people as threats to the self's integrity, and the sort of collectivism that seeks to submerge the self in a social role, may be more appealing than the Marxian synthesis, because they are intellectually and emotionally so much easier.” 8 likes
“To be modern is to find ourselves in an environment that promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world -- and, at the same time, that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are. Modern environments and experiences cut across all boundaries of geography and ethnicity, of class and nationality, of religion and ideology: in this sense, modernity can be said to unite all mankind. But it is a paradoxical unity, a unity of disunity: it pours us all into a maelstrom of perpetual disintegration and renewal, of struggle and contradiction, of ambiguity and anguish. To be modern is to be part of a universe in which, as Marx said, "all that is solid melts into air.” 4 likes
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