We are not living in an age of unprecedented change


  1. David O'Hanlon

    And not only true with regards to marketing…

    I’ve liked this from Marshall Berman’s “All That IS Solid Melts Into Air” for a long time as an illustration that more generally, the experience of modernity, of unprecedented change, of feeling overwhelmed, has been a constant now for at least two and half centuries (and no doubt for longer still, but 250 years is enough to make the point)…

    “In Rousseau’s romantic novel The New Eloise, his young hero, Saint-Preux, makes an exploratory move – an archetypal move for millions of young people in the centuries to come – from the country to the city. He writes to his love, Julie, from the depths of le tourbillon social, and tries to convey his wonder and dread. Saint Preux experiences metropolitan life as “a perpetual clash of groups and cabals, a continual flux and reflux of prejudices and conflicting opinions… Everyone constantly places himself in contradiction with himself,” and “everything is absurd, but nothing is shocking, because everyone is accustomed to everything.” This is a world in which “the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly, truth, virtue, have only a local and limited existence.” A multitude of new experiences offer themselves; but anyone who wants to enjoy them “must be more pliable than Alcibiades, ready to change his principles with his audience, to adjust his spirit with every step.” After a few months in this environment,

    ” ‘I’m beginning to feel the drunkenness that this agitated, tumultuous life plunges you into. With such a multitude of objects passing before my eyes, I’m getting dizzy. Of all the things that strike me, there is none that holds my heart, yet all of them together disturb my feelings, so that I forget what I am and who I belong to.’ [this paragraph is a quote from Rousseau’s novel]

    “He reaffirms his commitment to his first love; yet even as he says it, he fears that “I don’t know one day what I’m going to love the next.” He longs desperately for something solid to cling to, yet “I see only phantoms that strike my eye, but disappear as soon as I try to grasp them.” This atmosphere – of agitation and turbulence, psychic dizziness and drunkenness, expansion of experiential possibilities and destruction of moral boundaries and personal bonds, self-enlargement and self-derangement, phantoms in the street and in the soul – is the atmosphere in which modern sensibility is born.”

    • Martin Weigel

      Berman’s book is one of my all time favourites.

      As is the quote from which it derives its title:

      “All freed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.”

      Good ol’ Karl Marx.