65 pages 2 hours read

Marshall Berman

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

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 1982

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Part 2

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 2, Introduction Summary: “All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: Marx, Modernism and Modernization”

In the Introduction to Part 2, Berman bridges the gap between economic-political modernization and the cultural-spiritual realm of modernism, positing that both are intimately connected in their expressions of the modern condition. He challenges the prevalent separation of Marx’s contributions to modernization theory from the artistic and philosophical innovations of modernism, suggesting instead that Marx’s observations and critiques illuminate the modern experience as deeply as any modernist artist or thinker.

Berman uses the iconic phrase from The Communist Manifesto, “All that is solid melts into air” to exemplify Marx’s modernist sensibility (89), arguing that this imagery encapsulates the transformative, even disorienting, effects of modern capitalist society on traditional structures and human relationships. Far from being solely an economist or a political theorist, Marx, in Berman’s view, shares the modernist preoccupation with the flux, dislocation, and fragmentation wrought by the advance of capitalism, technology, and urbanization.

Berman asserts that The Communist Manifesto itself can be seen as a modernist manifesto, laying bare the revolutionary and destabilizing forces of bourgeois society. Marx’s depiction of a world where “all that is holy is profaned” and where individuals must confront “the real conditions of their lives” resonates with the themes of alienation, loss, and existential inquiry that pervade modernist literature and art (95).