Jeremy Rifkin (born January 26, 1945) is an American economic and social theorist, writer, public speaker, political advisor, and activist. Rifkin is the author of 21 books about the impact of scientific and technological changes on the economy, the workforce, society, and the environment. His most recent books include, The Green New Deal (2019), The Zero Marginal Cost Society (2014), The Third Industrial Revolution (2011), The Empathic Civilization (2010), and The European Dream (2004).
|Alma mater||University of Pennsylvania|
|Economics, social theory, political theory|
|The empathic civilization, the Third Industrial Revolution, the end of work|
Rifkin is the principal architect of the Third Industrial Revolution long-term economic sustainability plan to address the triple challenge of the global economic crisis, energy security, and climate change. The Third Industrial Revolution (TIR) was formally endorsed by the European Parliament in 2007 and now is being implemented by various agencies within the European Commission.
The Huffington Post reported from Beijing in October 2015 that "Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has not only read Jeremy Rifkin's book, The Third Industrial Revolution, but taken it to heart", he and his colleagues having incorporated ideas from this book into the core of the country's thirteenth Five-Year Plan. According to EurActiv, "Jeremy Rifkin is an American economist and author whose best-selling Third Industrial Revolution arguably provided the blueprint for Germany's transition to a low-carbon economy, and China's strategic acceptance of climate policy."
Rifkin has taught at the Wharton School executive education program at the University of Pennsylvania since 1995, where he instructs CEOs and senior management on making a transition of their business operations into sustainable economies. Rifkin is ranked number 123 in the WorldPost / The Huffington Post 2015 global survey of "The World's Most Influential Voices". He also is listed among the top ten most influential economic thinkers in the survey. Rifkin has lectured before many Fortune 500 companies, and hundreds of governments, civil society organizations, and universities over the past thirty five years.
Rifkin is also the president of the TIR Consulting Group, LLC, in connection with a wide range of industries including renewable energy, power transmission, architecture, construction, information technology (IT), electronics, transport, and logistics. TIR's global economic development team is working with cities, regions, and national governments to develop the Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructure for a collaborative commons and a third industrial revolution. Currently, TIR is working with the regions of Hauts-de-France in France, the Metropolitan Region of Rotterdam and The Hague, and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in the conceptualization, build-out, and scale-up of a smart third industrial revolution infrastructure to transform their economies.
Youth and education
Rifkin was born in Denver, Colorado, to Vivette Ravel Rifkin, daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants to Texas, and Milton Rifkin, a plastic-bag manufacturer. He grew up on the southwest side of Chicago. He was president of the graduating class of 1967 at the University of Pennsylvania, where he received a bachelor of science degree in economics at the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce. Rifkin was also the recipient of the University of Pennsylvania's General Alumni Association's Award of Merit 1967.
He had an epiphany when one day in 1967 he walked past a group of students protesting the Vietnam War and picketing the administration building and was amazed to see, as he recalls, that "my frat friends were beating the living daylights out of them. I got very upset." He organized a freedom-of-speech rally the next day. From then on, Rifkin quickly became an active member of the peace movement. He attended the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University (MA, International Affairs, 1968) where he continued anti-war activities. Later he joined Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA).
In 1970, Rifkin founded the People's Bicentennial Commission to provide "revolutionary alternatives for the Bicentennial years.". The Bicentennial was the official U.S. celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the events leading up to it.
In 1973, Rifkin organized a mass protest against oil companies at the commemoration of the 200th Anniversary of the Boston Tea Party at Boston Harbor. Thousands joined the protest, as activists dumped empty oil barrels into Boston Harbor. The protest came in the wake of the increase in gasoline prices in the fall of 1973, following the OPEC oil embargo. Later, this was called a "Boston Oil Party" by the press.
In 1978, with Ted Howard, he founded the Foundation on Economic Trends (FOET), which is active in both national and international public policy issues related to the environment, the economy, and climate change. FOET examines new trends and their effects on the environment, the economy, culture, and society, and it engages in litigation, public education, coalition building, and grassroots organizing activities to advance their goals. Rifkin became one of the first major critics of the nascent biotechnology industry with the 1978 publication of his book, Who Should Play God?
Rifkin's 1980 book, Entropy: A New World View, discusses how the physical concept of entropy applies to nuclear and solar energy, urban decay, military activity, education, agriculture, health, economics, and politics. It was called "A comprehensive worldview" and "an appropriate successor to... Silent Spring, The Closing Circle, The Limits to Growth, and Small Is Beautiful" by the Minneapolis Tribune. Rifkin's work was heavily influenced by the ideas expressed by Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen in his 1971 book The Entropy Law and the Economic Process. In Rifkin's 1989 revised edition of Entropy:..., entitled Entropy: Into the Greenhouse World, its "afterword" was written by Georgescu-Roegen.
In 1989, Rifkin brought together climate scientists and environmental activists from 35 nations in Washington, D.C. for the first meeting of the Global Greenhouse Network. In the same year, Rifkin did a series of Hollywood lectures on global warming and related environmental issues for a diverse assortment of film, television, and music industry leaders,[clarification needed] with the goal of organizing the Hollywood community for a campaign. Shortly thereafter, two Hollywood environmental organizations, Earth Communications Office (ECO) and Environmental Media Association, were formed.
Also in 1989 Rifkin with a group of environmentalists attempted to prevent launch of NASA rocket that was expected to lift Galileo space probe, claiming it carried a "very high risk" of explosion and "spraying deadly plutonium" over the territory of USA. The lawsuit was eventually rejected and the Galileo mission succeeded.
In 1993, Rifkin launched the Beyond Beef Campaign, a coalition of six environmental groups including Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, and Public Citizen, with the goal of encouraging a 50% reduction in the consumption of beef, arguing that methane emissions from cattle has a warming effect 23 times greater than carbon dioxide.
His 1995 book, The End of Work, is credited by some with helping shape the current global debate on automation, technology displacement, corporate downsizing, and the future of jobs. Reporting on the growing controversy over automation and technology displacement in 2011, The Economist pointed out that Rifkin drew attention to the trend back in 1996 with the publication of his book, The End of Work. Then The Economist asked "what happens... when machines are smart enough to become workers? In other words, when capital becomes labor." The Economist noted that "this is what Jeremy Rifkin, a social critic, was driving at in his book, "The End of Work," published in 1996... Mr. Rifkin argued prophetically that society was entering a new phase, one in which fewer and fewer workers would be needed to produce all the goods and services consumed. 'In the years ahead,' he wrote, 'more sophisticated software technologies are going to bring civilisation ever closer to a near-workerless world. The process has already begun."
His 1998 book, The Biotech Century, addresses issues accompanying the new era of genetic commerce. In its review of the book, the journal Nature observed that "Rifkin does his best work in drawing attention to the growing inventory of real and potential dangers and the ethical conundrums raised by genetic technologies... At a time when scientific institutions are struggling with the public understanding of science, there is much they can learn from Rifkin's success as a public communicator of scientific and technological trends."
In The Biotech Century, Rifkin argues that 'Genetic engineering represents the ultimate tool.' 'With genetic technology we assume control over the hereditary blueprints of life itself. Can any reasonable person believe for a moment that such unprecedented power is without substantial risk?' Some of the changes he highlights are: replication partially replacing reproduction; and 'Genetically customized and mass-produced animal clones could be used as chemical factories to secrete—in their blood and milk—large volumes of inexpensive chemicals and drugs for human use.'
Rifkin's work in the biological sciences includes advocacy of animal rights and animal protection around the world.
Rifkin's book, The Age of Access, published in the year 2000, was the first to introduce the concept that society is beginning to move from ownership of property in markets, to access to services in networks, giving rise to the Sharing Economy. According to the Journal of Consumer Research, "the phenomenon of access was first documented in the popular business press by Rifkin (2000), who primarily examines the business-to-business sector and argues that we are living in an age of access in which property regimes have changed to access regimes characterized by short-term limited use of assets controlled by networks of suppliers."
After the publication of The Hydrogen Economy (2002), Rifkin worked both in the U.S. and Europe to advance the political cause of renewably generated hydrogen. In the U.S., Rifkin was instrumental in founding the Green Hydrogen Coalition, consisting of thirteen environmental and political organizations (including Greenpeace and MoveOn.org) that are committed to building a renewable hydrogen-based economy. His 2004 book, The European Dream, was an international bestseller and winner of the 2005 Corine International Book Prize in Germany for the best economics book of the year.
In 2011, Rifkin published The Third Industrial Revolution; How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World. The book was a New York Times best-seller, and has been translated into 19 languages. By 2014, approximately 500,000 copies were in print in China alone.
Rifkin delivered a keynote address at the Global Green Summit 2012 on May 10, 2012. The conference was hosted by the Government of the Republic of Korea and the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), in association with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea also gave a speech at the conference and embraced the Third Industrial Revolution to advance a green economy.
In December 2012, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that the newly-elected premier of China, Li Keqiang is a fan of Rifkin and had "told his state scholars to pay close attention" to Rifkin's book, The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World.
Rifkin was awarded an honorary doctorate from Hasselt University in Belgium in the spring of 2015. Rifkin also received an honorary doctorate from the University of Liege in Belgium in the Fall of 2015.
In November 2015, the Huffington Post reported from Beijing that "Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has not only read Jeremy Rifkin's book, The Third Industrial Revolution, and taken it to heart. He and his colleagues have also made it the core of the country's thirteenth Five-Year Plan announced in Beijing on October 29th." The Huffington Post went on to say that "this blueprint for China's future signals the most momentous shift in direction since the death of Mao and the advent of Deng Xiaoping's reform and opening up in 1978."
On January 31, 2017, the European Central Bank hosted a conference on the theme “Into the Future: Europe’s Digital Integrated Market”. Rifkin delivered a keynote address on transforming the European Union into a smart third industrial revolution paradigm. On February 7, 2017, the European Commission and the Committee of the European Regions hosted a conference in Brussels on the theme “Investing in Europe: building a coalition of smart cities and regions toward a Third Industrial Revolution”. Jeremy Rifkin joined Maros Sefcovic, vice president of the European Commission, and Markku Markkula, president of the European Committee of the Regions, in a presentation of the smart city and smart region agenda across the European Union.
Jeremy Rifkin is the Executive Co-Producer and star of a feature-length documentary film produced by VICE Media, entitled The Third Industrial Revolution: A Radical New Sharing Economy. The film, subtitled in nineteen languages, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2017, and has been live on YouTube since 2018. As of June 2021, the film had been viewed by 5.5 million people.
According to The European Energy Review, "Perhaps no other author or thinker has had more influence on the EU's ambitious climate and energy policy than the famous American 'visionary' Jeremy Rifkin. In the United States, he has testified before numerous congressional committees and has had success in litigation to ensure responsible government policies on a variety of environmental, scientific and technology related issues. The Union of Concerned Scientists has cited some of Rifkin's publications as useful references for consumers and The New York Times once stated that "others in the scholarly, religious, and political fields praise Jeremy Rifkin for a willingness to think big, raise controversial questions, and serve as a social and ethical prophet"
Rifkin's work is controversial due to a lack of scientific rigor in his claims as well as some of the tactics he has used to promote his views. These include claims that the theory of evolution is a product of "19th century industrial capitalism" and frequent use of the strawman fallacy.
I regard Algeny as a cleverly constructed tract of anti-intellectual propaganda masquerading as scholarship. Among books promoted as serious intellectual statements by important thinkers, I don't think I have ever read a shoddier work. Damned shame, too, because the deep issue is troubling and I do not disagree with Rifkin's basic pleas for respecting the integrity of evolutionary lineages. But devious means compromise good ends, and we shall have to save Rifkin's humane conclusion from his own lamentable tactics.— Stephen Jay Gould, "Integrity and Mr. Rifkin", Discover Magazine, January 1985; reprinted in Gould's essay collection An Urchin in the Storm, 1987, Penguin Books, p. 230
A 1989 Time article about Rifkin's activist methods (entitled "The Most Hated Man in Science") details reactions by scientists, especially geneticists, of that decade.
- 1973, How to Commit Revolution American Style: Bicentennial Declaration, with John Rossen, Lyle Stuart Inc., ISBN 0-8184-0041-2
- 1975, Common Sense II: The Case Against Corporate Tyranny, Bantam Books, OCLC 123151709
- 1977, Own Your Own Job: Economic Democracy for Working Americans, ISBN 978-0-553-10487-5
- 1977, Who Should Play God? The Artificial Creation of Life and What it Means for the Future of the Human Race, with Ted Howard, Dell Publishing Co., ISBN 0-440-19504-7
- 1978, The North Will Rise Again: Pensions, Politics and Power in the 1980s, with Randy Barber, Beacon Press, ISBN 0-8070-4787-2
- 1979, The Emerging Order: God in the Age of Scarcity, with Ted Howard, Putnam, ISBN 978-0-399-12319-1
- 1980, Entropy: A New World View, with Ted Howard (afterword by Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen), Viking Press, ISBN 0-670-29717-8
- 1983, Algeny: A New Word—A New World, in collaboration with Nicanor Perlas, Viking Press, ISBN 0-670-10885-5
- 1985, Declaration of a Heretic, Routledge and Kegan Paul, ISBN 978-0710207104
- 1987, Time Wars: The Primary Conflict In Human History, Henry Holt & Co, ISBN 0-8050-0377-0
- 1990, The Green Lifestyle Handbook: 1001 Ways to Heal the Earth (edited by Rifkin), Henry Holt & Co, ISBN 0-8050-1369-5
- 1991, Biosphere Politics: A New Consciousness for a New Century, Crown, ISBN 0-517-57746-1
- 1992, Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture, E. P. Dutton, ISBN 0-525-93420-0
- 1992, Voting Green: Your Complete Environmental Guide to Making Political Choices In The 90s, with Carol Grunewald Rifkin, Main Street Books, ISBN 0-385-41917-1
- 1995, The End of Work: The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the Post-Market Era, Putnam Publishing Group, ISBN 0-87477-779-8
- 1998, The Biotech Century: Harnessing the Gene and Remaking the World, J P Tarcher, ISBN 0-87477-909-X
- 2000, The Age Of Access: The New Culture of Hypercapitalism, Where All of Life is a Paid-For Experience, Putnam Publishing Group, ISBN 1-58542-018-2
- 2002, The Hydrogen Economy: The Creation of the Worldwide Energy Web and the Redistribution of Power on Earth, Jeremy P. Tarcher, ISBN 1-58542-193-6
- 2004, The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream, Jeremy P. Tarcher, ISBN 1-58542-345-9
- 2010, The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness In a World In Crisis, Jeremy P. Tarcher, ISBN 1-58542-765-9
- 2011, The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World, Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 978-0-230-11521-7
- 2014, The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The internet of things, the collaborative commons, and the eclipse of capitalism, Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 978-1-137-27846-3
- 2019, The Green New Deal: Why the Fossil Fuel Civilization Will Collapse by 2028, and the Bold Economic Plan to Save Life on Earth, St. Martin's Press, ISBN 978-1-250-25320-0
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