Berman says modern humans “are moved at once by a will to change … and by a terror of disorientation and disintegration, of life falling apart” (Berman, 1982). Change frightens us even as we long for it. “To be modern is to live a life of paradox and contradiction. … It is to be both revolutionary and conservative: alive to new possibilities for experience and adventure, frightened by the nihilistic depths to which so many modern adventures lead” (Berman, 1982).
In capitalistic society, it is argued that the consumer is the master by reason of making the choice to purchase or not purchase. Berman says this is not really the case. Availability of options only begins the list of restrictions. “Poor people can't get lawyers in a country that is glutted with them; the HMOs have abolished the autonomy of physicians; college professors are often glorified fundraisers” (Hitchins, 1999).
The World Trade Center of New York City is an architectural example of the modern. Berman describes it as “isolated … it gave off hostility” as compared to the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings. “[The Port Authority’s] idea of safety involved repelling the people. The slab shape … grew out of an aesthetic voiced best by Le Corbusier, who said that in order to have modern planning we have to ‘kill the streets.’ For him the street epitomized disorder and chaos” (Berman, 2002).