Marshall Berman: A Life Steered by Our Human Possibilities

Here one sees one of the truly precious elements of the moral and political commitments by which Marshall steered his life. He thought that we were all, in a radical sense, equal. We were equal not just in terms or our political or human rights, but in our ideas and in our minds. Marshall was breathtakingly, dizzyingly smart. He possessed one of the most agile, comprehending minds I’ve ever known. But he carefully regarded every last idea that passed before him, threw up no boundaries to incorporating hip hop, graffiti art, poetry slams, and even the watery coffee of the student cafeteria, into his conceptions about human accomplishment and creativity.

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Marshall Berman, distinguished professor at City College, was drawn to a radical equality of human potential and thinking.

By Vince Boudreau, director of the Colin L. Powell Center

Marshall Berman was a distinguished professor at CCNY, a designation that, like associate and full professor, requires a formal review and recommendation process, including the review of his scholarly work, and testimonies to their significance.  A committee is selected to solicit reviews from appropriate scholars, but as a candidate, Marshall also was able to nominate reviewers, and add letters to his application file.

His application was immensely strong, and included ringing and warm endorsements from the very best and most established political theorists (a sub-field of the political science discipline) in the world.

But it also contained something peculiar, inserted into the file at Marshall’s insistence—an unsolicited “review” of Marshall’s luminous, expansive work, All that is Solid Melts into Air. The review was hand written, and crumpled—the pen having apparently been set to paper years before—and the note itself abused by years of residence in Marshall’s tumultuous apartment, or atop the crazed jumble of books and papers that always concealed his office desk.

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