The Paradox Of Modernity

738 Words3 Pages
The promises and perils of European modernity reflect the fundamental paradoxes and contradictions that Marshall Berman defines in All That Is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity. He recognizes that with modernity comes a perpetual tension and uncertainty of social development and destruction, but believes it to be inherently characteristic of a modernist to feel comfortable in this type of environment. While Berman is ultimately optimistic about European modernity, Fyodor Dostoevsky in Notes from Underground and H. G. Wells in The Time Machine tell tales of caution regarding the risks of modern development and democracy. The paradox of modernity is the constant struggle between the desire for change and the desire for stability. To be modern is “to be both revolutionary and conservative: alive to new possibilities for experience and adventure, [yet] frightened by the nihilistic depths to which so many modern adventures lead.” This contradiction can be explained by Berman’s interpretation of Marx’s Communist Manifesto, which demonstrates the ironic cycle of modernity. The capitalist bourgeoisie drive for development and innovation to increase profits and maintain control of society is the exact virtue that will inevitably remove them from power. The innovative spirits of the economic system teach individuals the virtue of self-development, and “in order for people to survive in modern society, their personalities must take on the fluid and open form” of a
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