Marshall Berman – USA

Marshall Berman (pronounced “beer-mun”) (born 1940) is an American Marxist Humanist writer and  philosopher. He is currently Distinguished Professor of Political Science at The City College of New York and at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, teaching Political Philosophy and Urbanism. Berman completed his Ph.D. at Harvard University in 1968. He is on the editorial board of Dissent and a regular contributor to The Nation, The New York Times Book Review, Bennington Review, New Left Review, New Politics and the Village Voice Literary Supplement. His main works are The Politics of Authenticity, All That Is Solid Melts Into Air, One Hundred Years of Spectacle and Adventures in Marxism and On the Town: One Hundred Years of Spectacle in Times Square. His most recent publication is the anthology, New York Calling: From  blackout To Bloomberg, for which he was co-editor, with Brian Berger, and also wrote the introductory essay. In Adventures in Marxism, Berman tells of how while a student at Columbia University in 1959, the chance discovery of Karl Marx’s Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 proved a revelation and inspiration, and became the foundation for all his future work. This personal tone pervades his work, linking historical trends with individual observations and inflections from the situation … (full text).

… Marshall Berman found the works of the young Marx – including the Communist Manifesto – spoke to him in a way that the dry tracts of orthodox Marxism he had been exposed to before did not. (full text).

… In sociology, in the writings of Marshall Berman, Faustian refers to the short-time perspective of society in modernity. It also refers to Faust’s desire in the second part of Goethe’s Faust, especially act V, to defeat the forces of nature and create a mechanical heaven on earth by draining the seabed and using it for farming … (Faustian on wikipedia).


Marshall Berman – USA

He says: “Every book is a building and every building is a book.”

… Early in the 1960s, a little over forty years ago, I discovered the work of Sylvia Plath.  Alas, I discovered it (as most people did) at exactly the moment it stopped.   The London Observer, along with its story on her suicide, printed a whole page of her poems.  In the midst of “Daddy”, one of the  most riveting of those poems, Plath pulls herself up short and says, I began to talk like a Jew … (full longest text).

He says also: (What books are you currently reading?): Interpretation of Dreams, for a course I’m currently teaching: Political Theory – Plato to Marx. In class we discuss Freud’s dreams, his patient’s dreams and our own dreams. I also read a Colin Dexter detective story set in Oxford, a landscape I recently returned to after 40 years. I returned to Oxford last year to teach some workshops, and it was wild walking through these 18th century rooms, the same rooms I had walked through as an 18 year-old-kid … (full interview text, December 10, 2007).

Twilight of the Machines, by thomaspainescorner on March 4, 2009.

Marshall Berman reviews Peter Gay’s latest book, Modernism: The Lure of Heresy, in the fall issue of Dissent. He begins his review with a pair of dislcosures, the second of which leads to an interesting riff on Columbia at midcentury. This is perhaps in part because a shorter version of the review first appeared in Columbia Magazine last spring … (full text, December 26, 2008).

marshall berman vs. wallace berman, March 15, 2009.

… But this – along with a recent re-reading of Marshall Berman and this Mike Davis interview (ta to Savonarola) where he talks about Constructivism as one of the most valuable intellectual engagements with the city, albeit one that ended in (literal) anti-urbanism -  has made me think more than I am inclined to do about one of the central New Town tenets: the Modernist campaign against the street … (full interview text, 03/20/2007).

Find him and his publications on City College of New York;
on wikipedia /Bibliography; on Google Group-search; on inauthor Google-search; on Google Book-search; on Google Scholar-search; on Google Blog-search.

… Marshall Berman opted not to speak about the perils of modernity and asked if anyone in the audience had seen Don’t Mess with the Zohan. I might have been the only person to raise a hand. (Damn those NYPL elitists.) Berman said, “I don’t know much about the Atlantic Yards project, but see Zohan… It’s good for your morale to see that it’s possible to blow these [real estate developer] creeps away.” He’s right, the movie has a strong anti-gentrification message … (full text, June 19, 2008).

… Marshall Berman (right), Professor of Political Science, City College and the Graduate Center, was the closest thing to a defender of the government, citing “the very larger and strong libertarian opposition to eminent domain” and warning that the backlash to eminent domain might make it “impossible to create public facilities” … (full text, June 20, 2008).

… Throughout his life, Berman observed the way different generations come to the square and learn from each other about the possibilities of the world. Despite the corporate control prevalent in Times Square today Berman is hopeful that new generations will find ways to take ownership of the Square and return it to its role as a crucible for modern identity. (full text, 05.02.06).

… No es casual que el documental comience con una cita de Todo lo sólido se desvanece en el aire, el libro del crítico marxista estadounidense Marshall Berman que analiza el fenómeno del modernismo y su impacto en la vida contemporánea: “Ser moderno es encontrarnos en un entorno que nos promete aventuras, poder, diversión, crecimiento, transformación de nosotros mismos y del mundo – y que, al mismo tiempo, amenaza con destruir todo lo que tenemos, todo lo que conocemos, todo lo que somos.” Gee comenta: “La cita de Marshall Berman es sobre el hecho de que, para nosotros, la condición moderna implica tratar de vivir en medio de la destrucción continua de todo lo que nos rodea. Ya sea el tejido físico de las ciudades en las que vivimos o la destrucción forzosa de nuestros modos de vida tradicionales. En el film Joy Division hay una conexión entre la decadencia y la destrucción del viejo Manchester y su eventual reconstrucción, y la vida y la trayectoria de los miembros de la banda … (full text, ‎Mar 5, 2009‎).

… Viele haben die Desinfektion des Times Square beklagt, die meisten sahen jedoch bislang nicht so schwarz wie Koolhaas. Der Urbanist Marshall Berman, bekennender Marxist und Koolhaas-Anhänger, schreibt in seinem Times-Square-Buch, dass “der Kreuzzug, die Straße zu töten”, gescheitert sei, und beobachtet noch immer “modernes Leben” … (full text, 22. März 2009).

Todo lo sólido se desvanece en el aire: la experiencia de la modernidad, 18.12.2008.

… What is the American Dream? Does it mean having a “better life” by creating a home and a community, living together for generations, building and tending relationships to one another and to a place? Or do we create a “better life” by moving up, moving out, removing the old, replacing with the new?
Between 1949 and 1973 urban renewal, a program of the U.S. government, bulldozed 2,500 neighborhoods in 993 American cities and dispossessed one million people. Roots got cut, neighbors and families became separated, languages and cultures were destroyed, and social bonds were broken … (announcing a debate, at the New York Public Library, for June 18, 2008).

… ¿Qué pasó con la izquierda legal? ¿Prefirió el debate parlamentario de las ideas? ¿Si supuestamente creía en la toma del poder por las armas, por qué no lo hizo? Quizá no lo consideró conveniente. O no tuvo coraje. Ser marxista, recordémoslo, no es sinónimo de tomar necesariamente las armas. En el hipotético caso de haberlas tomado, quizá lo hubiese hecho con una metodología diferente a la senderista. No lo sabemos. Estamos especulando. Un marxista, además, puede ser un académico como Marshall Berman o José Aricó … (full text, 11 de marzo de 2009).

Marshall Berman is a difficult writer to pigeonhole: a Marxist working in a post-ideological world, a living remnant of the old and splintered New York left, a passionate lover of all good art—high and low—and an incurable urban romantic. A glance at the titles of his previous books—The Politics of Authenticity: Radical Individualism and the Emergence of Modern Society; Adventures in Marxism; and his seminal work, All That Is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity—might lead the uninitiated to the wrong conclusions. Though Berman is a professor of political science at City College of New York, his prose is anything but academic. And despite his Marxist credentials, his latest release, On the Town: One Hundred Years of Spectacle in Times Square, is a compulsively readable tribute to the hurly-burly of popular art and commerce. Recently, Metropolis executive editor Martin C. Pedersen spoke to Berman about the history of Times Square, its revitalization, and why he continues to be drawn to it … :

  • One of the interesting themes in the book is the role women played in shaping Times Square. Tell us about how their roles changed over time.Historically in the West (as well as in China and Japan) the theater was a gathering place for women. In the nineteenth century there were much more rigid sexual bounds than there are now and not that many places where women could go on their own in public. Times Square immediately became one of the places where they could go. Many of the buildings were boardinghouses for young women who came here—whether from the end of the world or the wilds of Queens or Brooklyn—hoping to make it in the Big City. There was probably a larger concentration of women there than anyplace else in New York.
  • Eventually Times Square became a hostile place to women. What happened? During the 1930s, three of the big theatres became burlesque houses and the street became masculinized. By the end of the decade 42nd Street in particular, the Deuce—the block between Broadway and Eighth Avenue—became a place where women were scared to go. It wasn’t only hostile to women but also hostile to a particular kind of homosexual, called “fairies,” and the form of homosexuality that took over the Deuce was rough trade, which pushed the fairies out.
  • Times Square becomes even more hostile to women in the 60s and 70s. What prompts that? After the war all the theatres become cheap cinemas, showing westerns, combat films, basically all male cinema. So it’s cheap movies, which is good news, but the bad news is they’re not places where boys and girls would go on a date together. They’re places where somebody would take the subway with the guys and watch a triple-feature of World War II movies, plus war newsreels. And it’s fascinating and depressing how this place that was very open to women becomes very exclusive and pushes them away. In the ’70s this becomes particularly gross, as the movies become pornographic and scary … (full interview text, April 17, 2006).


Marxists Internet Archive;

The City College of New York;

The Power Elite, by C. Wright Mills, 1956;

New Left Review;

Nowoczesność i jej wrogowie, czyli o pogardzie dla życia;

New Humanist, the magazine for free thinkers;

Michel Foucault: … his Works: … , … Further reading: … ;

A bit of Marxism on wikipedia:

Faust, or Faustus;

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