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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Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Preface Summary

In the book’s Preface, Berman probes the complications and paradoxes of modern life. Through a personal anecdote about growing up in a “modern building” within a “modern family” in the Bronx, Berman sets the stage for his exploration into what it means to be modern. He expresses a lifelong fascination with the concept of modernity, a theme that forms the backbone of his work. Berman states that he approaches the subject by analyzing a variety of texts—from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’s The Communist Manifesto—as well as examining spatial and social environments like towns, construction sites, and iconic landmarks such as the Crystal Palace and Haussmann’s Parisian boulevards.

Berman’s method of “reading” encompasses not only literary texts but also the landscapes of urban development and the lives of both fictional and real individuals. This multifaceted approach seeks to uncover the shared modern concerns of transformation and disorientation—a will to change paired with the terror of disintegration. He articulates the duality of modern existence: an overwhelming power wielded by bureaucratic organizations versus the relentless human determination to reshape the world.