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All That Is Solid Melts into Air [Paperback]

Berman Marshall
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Sep 1988
Marshall Bermans All That Is Solid Melts Into Air is widely acclaimed as one of the greatest books on modernity. A kaleidoscopic journey into the experiences of modernization, the dizzying social changes that swept millions of people into the capitalist world, it dexterously interweaves an exploration of modernism in art, literature, and architecture.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Open Market Ed edition (1 Sep 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140109625
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140109627
  • Product Dimensions: 19.5 x 13 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 862,311 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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The imaginative range, intellectual force and infectious generosity of this book are what place it incontestably in the gallery of canonical texts. --Mica Nava, Times Higher Education Supplement

A bubbling cauldron of ideas. --New Statesman

A wonderful book ... generous, exuberant and dazzling. --John Leonard, New York Times --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Marshall Berman is Distinguished Professor of Political Science at City College of New York and the CUNY Graduate Center. He writes frequently for The Nation and The Village Voice, and serves on the editorial board of Dissent. His books include Adventures in Marxism, The Politics of Authenticity and, most recently, On the Town, all from Verso. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
FOR AS long as there has been a modern culture, the figure of Faust has been one of its culture heroes. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book, first published around 1980, is now regarded as a classic text on the subject of the modern world, or more specifically, the whole notion of 'modernity'. What do we mean by 'modern'?
Berman starts with the earliest development of the modern industrial process, during the latter years of the 18th century, examining in particular the concept of 'development' itself. Throughout the book, he explores how development is portrayed in literature and other art forms, starting with Goethe's Faust, and moving on through Marx (the source of the title), Baudelaire, Dostoevsky and other Russians, and ending with a look at New York during the last century, as the city is torn apart and rebuilt around the modern notion of the car and the highway.
The story of development and the concept of 'creative destruction'; the constant renewal that the capitalist system demands, is all very interesting in itself, but what makes this book really special is the way the author looks at the subject through the writings of contemporary authors, giving us an insight into some of the great works of literature, from the viewpoint of the world in which the writers lived and how they experienced the changes that were taking place all around them.
For anyone interested in the whole idea of modernism and development, this book is well worth reading.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Taking its title from the quote by Karl Marx, Berman's authoritative study into the modernist experience, originally written in 1981, still has major significance in the midst of the information revolution and the death of the Soviet Union.

He takes the reader back to analyze literature from Goethe, Baudelaire and Marx himself to Russian masters such as Gogol and Mandelstam, observing how their writing helped to frame our understanding of Modernism set against the developing social and economic framework of the Western world.

At the heart of the book is Nevsky Prospekt, the ultra-modern street in the heart of the first true modern city in Petersburg that gave birth to the most important moment of 20th century history.
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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece on Modernity 12 May 1999
By A Customer
This book develops the idea that Modernity's defining characteristic is that of the continual reassertion of ambivalence. In light of this argument the author revisits writers such as Goete, Marx and Dostoevsky adding new dimensions to them all as well as to our understanding of Modernity. A book of tremendous wisdom and intelligence. Well written and highly recommended.
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19 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thrilling 19 April 2003
By A Customer
One of the greatest books about the relevance of Marxism to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries ever written. A thrilling roller coaster ride about love in cafes, city planning, architecture, romance, how we work and how we live. Incomparable.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
100 of 107 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars whither the modern? 13 Jan 2000
By karl b. - Published on Amazon.com
Goethe and Marx, these are cardinal figures in the history of modernity. Goethe, the spiritual father of its grand visions and inexhaustible hope. Marx, the outsider, the witness to the sorcery of its soul and that of its organizing principle, Capital. His charge-- it is an artifice of progressively concentrating energy that will not be bound by any responsibility or shared purpose. The practical result is a constant breakdown of community and institutions as they are offered to the flame of re-invention. This is the core of the book's message. Nothing is permanent in the modernist domain. Art, city, ideals, country-- all are subsumed into new solids that immediately fracture and evaporate under pressure of another oncoming order, crashing in with waves of reorganization. The technologies of its own genius are its tools. The post-structural epoch is merely another phase of modernism's relentless push to incinerate the old and recreate society in its own frenzied image. Iconoclasm becomes the coordinating edict. The erasure of all cultural memory is implicit; moral purpose is desanctified; Capital's own ethos is elevated to the realm of faith.
Berman moves from the literary and intellectual movements of France and Russia into the streets. The building of St. Petersburg, with its imposed occidental face on Russia's traditionally oriental sensibilities, the boulevards of Paris's reconstruction of the 1870's, and the highways of the irrepressible Robert Moses-- the urban landscape has chronicled modernism's advance. The breadth of this thesis in choosing such disparate symbols to exemplify the progression is impressive, as is Berman's ability to synthesize them. When the book was written twenty years ago Communism had not yet collapsed, but its moral failure was evident, its material demise imminent. Berman's more romantic notions of a merging of modernism and Marxism, harnessing the creative impulse to popularly reasoned objectives, might have passed from any realistic possibility. His relationship with both is clearly one of fascination and alienation. All that seems to have gone down in flames, in annihilating contradictions, and, in the infinite actualization of modernism's belief in itself. It will tolerate no governance. A persistent anti- modernist insurgency, fragmented and cleaved onto disparate political structures, provides a cowed conscience at best. But with its illimitable dominion seemingly secure, Berman's proposal is thought provoking indeed-- that all of Marx's characterizations of its nature are true, and that no sustainable alternative has yet been conceived.
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic, enjoyable read on modernity 23 Sep 2006
By S. Lichtman - Published on Amazon.com
I first bought this book on a whim during my political science college days, but found great enjoyment and lasting insights. It's been a regular re-read on my shelf for the last 15 years. Most of all, the book unveils the themes of innovation, turmoil and renewal that are the hallmark of the last few hundred years. I came to realize, reading Berman's reviews of Marx', Goethe's and others writing that we have become so embedded in constantly changing times that we have accepted all its characteristics without question. I now think much more carefully about what precepts of being 'busy', acquiring luxury items, altering my personality for business/social situations, etc are worthwhile. ...OK, this sounds too deep for many but the book is written with inspiration, is enjoyable and gives people something important to think about.
29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best I've read 10 Sep 2004
By Edward Tsai - Published on Amazon.com
I read this book a long time ago in college for a lit crit class. While admittedly I don't recall much detail of it, I do remember that it was one of few books I read in that class and many other lit crit classes that was lucid, cogent and clear in its argument and analysis. As a testament to its merit, it has remained on my bookshelf after all the others have been sold off to used bookstores. Moreover, it gave me one of the key insights about modernity that have remained with me to this day, and which has been useful in understanding why certain anti-modern societies resist modernization and why our contemporary society is so schizophrenic. That insight is that no tradition, which inherently protects realms of privilege, can be maintained in the face of the onslaught of the profit-driven motive underlying capitalism, which will always seek out new markets to exploit, such as the unexploited market as protected by tradition.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonished 15 Mar 2006
By Ari Ylönen - Published on Amazon.com
I have known the book by reputation in several texts of urban sociology. The book, however, is much more than most writers have implied. The profound knowledge of Berman about European cultural history is admirable and helpful for getting a deeper understanding of the development of ideas of modern.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read after Background Reading or Familiarity 17 Feb 2011
By David C. Scheltema - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Read the book if you want a broad approach to modernism. One should enter the first pages of this book with some understanding of a dialectical approach, though they need not be read in Hegel. Most importantly one should have read Marx --Tucker has a good companion that will suffice as a primer. Some familiarity of the Faust stories --preferably with main understanding regarding the Johann Wolfgang von Goethe work, though Berman is not exclusive however he does work the reader through alternative instantiations. Baudelaire may prove the most inaccessible chapter for most --be aware that the focus here is not on Flowers of Evil, but on some of the essay works.

This is a short book that may be difficult for some who are not well read. It is worth the time to do some pre-reading to fill in the book and enable the reader to engage Berman's claims, rather than read and nod at his assertions.
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