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The Impact of Modernity and its Paradoxical Unity: A Comprehensive Review

Jul 24, 2023 | 0 comments

Jul 24, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments

The paper will review the first chapter of “All That is Solid Melts into Air” by Marshall Berman. This chapter explores the responses to the modernity onset and the history that has been gained by modernity. The author defines being modern as residing in a world where they exist development and pleasure simultaneously in addition to the fear for the future. This fear emanates from the threat that Can be imposed on us by modernity. That is, the world as you understand them currently will be destroyed by the future, as new traditions, cultures, and customs replace the way people live today. Modernity affects all regardless of the barriers and boundaries, and it can be impossible to stop or to halt its imminent arrival. Since it is a system that is never-ending of reconstruction and decay, “it is a paradoxical unity, a unity of disunity” (Berman, 2010). Modernity has the power and the capability of bringing people together by pulling them apart.


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According to Berman (2010), individuals who find themselves in the middle of this turmoil tend towards believing that they are the only ones and the first ones to be experiencing it. These feelings have given rise to the loss of several myths associated with pre-modernism. This has been going for the past five centuries and has been experienced by many people. Despite the fact who have experienced modernity have believed that it is a radical threat to their traditions and history, modernity itself has created a wealth of traditions and rich history by itself. Berman (2010) charted and explored these traditions to understand the ways they can enrich and nourish the modernity of today as well as the way it can impoverish or obscure people’s sense of modernity.

This chapter from treaties that are much admired of modern culture provides a threshold that is very much generous to the world of modern art. Here Berman (2010) takes time to look back over the 500 years of modernity while laying much focus on the 19th century, to show his readers the fundamental ways the modernity experience, that is the modern life by then, is the same as the 21st-century modern e.t. of today. The reader gets to learn a lot about their own lives from the individuals in this book who are the first modern. From their era to the era of today, what remains unchanged is the change itself. Like theirs, the foundations of the current world, that is cultural, economic, social, and political are still permanent. By making a comparison of the 19th century thought of the European social philosophers, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Delta illuminate the critical interactions between the modern culture and the modern experience between the constant change conditions, which were generally understood by then as progress, And the predicated at on the incessant metamorphosis and the modern life contingency.

The relationship between modernism and modernity has been presented as dialectical in the book. This term, key in this chapter reading and it’s also significant to the modern art study. In modern intellectual history, the term “dialectic” carries significant meanings. However, as Berman (2010) uses it in this chapter, id simply officer definition does the way opposing values such as change and permanence from a kind of unity Whereby the identity of each depends upon that of the other, that is a unity of disunity or a contradictory unity. The modern artist’s great achievement, good luck the rest of the others of the current world, within these contradictions that are baffling, ways to make them composed, dialectally resolved and visible, so to speak, in characteristically radical, in emblematic works of art. According to Berman (2010), the artist of the past generations of that time were courageous ironists and keenly self-aware, romantic individuals who opposed paradoxical is a very condition of modern life from which they gained their energy and purpose. It is in their failure precisely, in conforming to the status quo that Nietzsche’s, Berman Modernist, “man of tomorrow . . . standing in opposition to his today,” Accomplished his or her highest dignity of aesthetics. this posture of opposition to the manner things are is referred to as “avant-garde,” An attitude of the modernist defined in historical terms of concrete art.

In a bid to deeply explore the vast history of modernity, Berman (2010) divided it into three phases. The first phase runs from the beginning of the 16th Century to the sunset of the 18th century. At this phase, modern life has just hit people but they lack an idea of what they are grappling with. The second phase begins with the 1790s great revolutionary and runs up to the end of the 19th century. This is fueled by the reverberations of the French revolution where the public dramatically comes into life with modernism. In the final phase according to Berman (2010), the modernization process virtually expands and takes over the world and the modernism culture of the developing world realizes specular triumphs in thought and art. Then again, is modern public experiences expansion, gets shattered into millions of fragments. The modernity idea loses its organization capacity, much of its vividness and its resonance with depth and offer meaning to the lives of people. In consequence, Berman (2010) indicates that people found themselves in the middle of a modern age that has no connection to its own modernity roots.

Berman (2010) credits Jean-Jacques Rousseau as the voice before the French and American revolutions and the source of the modern traditions including participatory democracy and psychoanalytic self-scrutiny. As a deeply troubled man, much of the anguish he was experiencing emanated from his acute responsiveness to the prevailing social conditions shaping millions of people’s lives as well as his strained life. He experienced the societal life those days in Paris, “as a whirlwind, le tourbillon social” (Berman, 2010). The author also alludes to a romantic novel, The New Eloise, authored by Rousseau. The novels depict a paradox of experiences of the main character, saint Preux in his letter to his love Julie. The experiences bring out the picture of modernity on those days in Paris during the first phase of modernity (Berman, 2010).

Fast forward to a hundred years later or so in the 19th century, the author brings out the modernity landscape of a highly developed, dynamic, and differentiated arena. There exist automatic factories, steam engines, new industrial zones, railroads, telephones, newspapers, mass media, multinational aggregations, and even strong national states. The irony of this modernity in this period of time according to Berman (2010) are the great zeal applied by the great modernists passionately attacking this environment and striving to tear it down. However, they all find themselves surprisingly at home in it, affirmative and alive to its possibilities. Two distinct voices of this 19th-century modernity are Nietzsche and Marx.

Karl Marx with his powerful English uses metaphor and allegory to clearly bring out modernism and its effects on the people. He dismisses the earlier revolutions as small fissures and fractures in the dry crust of the European society. He aims to make people feel the degree of his words by using images resonating with those days of modernist art. However, the ironic part of his words is that he proclaims the modernist faith.

Taking few leaps ahead to the 1880s, the reader finds Nietzsche with very different hopes, allegations, and prejudices, yet with a surprisingly similar feeling and voice to modern life. Just like Marx, Nietzsche indicates that the modern history currents were dialectical and ironic. Therefore, the ideals of Christian on the integrity of the soul and will for the truth have exploded Christianity itself. The consequences were traumatic events that Nietzsche referred to as the “advent of nihilism” and “the death of God.” Modern mankind found themselves in the middle of great emptiness and absence of values yet in the same breath had an abundance of remarkable possibilities.

What is remarkable distinctive about the voices of both Nietzsche and Marx is not their vibrant target market. The new brand tried capturing the energy, breathless pace, and imaginative richness, but also its drastic and fast shift in inflection and tone, its readiness to question and negate all it has said and turn on to itself.


Berman, M. (2010). All that is solid melts into air: The experience of modernity. London: Verso.

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