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Entropy: A New World View Hardcover – Sep 1980

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Viking Pr (Sept. 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670297178
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670297177
  • Product Dimensions: 50.8 x 50.8 x 50.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,545,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Stephens on 5 Sept. 2010
Format: Paperback
Sorry, but this is a terrible book. Rifkin, a guy who seems to delight in writing books on subjects he evidently has no real comprehension of, identifies "hot" topics that will appeal to a certain disaffected type of person and writes for that market. It is, in my opinion, actually simple capitalism in its most cynical form - pandering.

The example of the review below by 'Macgregor' is illuminating in this respect. All wishy-washy vague idealisations about 'ecological economics' (on the website of a multi-national corporation, natch). There is no rigorous and coherent thought expressed, but instead merely a generalised and harmlessly anodyne distaste for the system that he is evidently very much a part of.

This is a microcosm of the problem with the book in general. It is a bland revolution, a safe revolt, a rebellion for the middle-aged hippy and for those who don't want to accept things as they are, but can't really be bothered to work towards change. Rifkin fires off volley after volley claiming that collapse is immanent and imminent, in which case, one wonders why he is bothering to write at all. As stated at the beginning of this review, the reason is simple: to satisfy the market. QED.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Smith on 4 Jun. 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Reviewers of this book differ wildly. Some focus on philosophical deficits, some on Rifkin's lack of understanding of entropy/themordynamics and some are plainly mesmorised by the environmentalist and holistic argument. I mainly belong to the latter category, because it offers a comprehensive introduction and intuitive framework to understand some of the ecological challenges facing mankind. Written long time before global warming became an acknowledged issue, it has the explanative power to change peoples' perception of progress and positivism. As in all scientific and philosophical debates, one should thrive for perfection, but in that case nothing would be written at all. Rifkin might have made some research shortcuts, but it is not reason enough to dismiss the message.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By MacGregor on 7 Mar. 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Still the best introduction to relating economics and the progress of man in time and it relates to the real world and its physical laws. It is even more relevant than when published in 1980 and to my experience the only one written for the layman. I gave it to my son at age 18, in two weeks he observed "I don't see what is difficult to understand" I observed that his conclusion was valid, he then gave up neo-classic economics to study ecological economics.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 17 reviews
25 of 32 people found the following review helpful
important and enlightening 20 Dec. 2004
By mpower - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It is hard to think of anything more important or interesting than applying the truth of physics to everyday life. In this book, Rifkin efficiently dismantles the predominant/global capitalist economic paradigm with the simple, undeniable pillars of physics and thermodynamics. For the blind mice of the developed world - happily living in debt and consuming beyond their means and needs - physics is a forgotten high school annoyance. Rifkin's thesis quickly turns this annoyance into fear, and ultimately understanding, by reminding us that the modern developed world is indeed living on borrowed time and limited resources. Yes, the book becomes repetitive, but then again, Rifkin's point deserves repeating.

Read the first 4-5 chapters of this book and change your perspective on capitalism and your own footprint on this planet...
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Great food for thought 4 Nov. 2008
By Kevin F - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I've really enjoyed reading this book 30 years after it was written, especially curious to see where the author hit and missed the marks on his projections. I was pleasantly surprised to see a small warning on global warming, obviously very relavent these days. The historical placement of the writing of the book has interesting parallels, he wrote it during the energy crisis of the seventies, during the cold war, pre-Chernobyl, pre-IBM PC, etc., and here we are with gasoline recently nearing $5/gallon, fighting two wars not directly related to homeland defense, collapsing corporations being swallowed up by larger ones with government bailouts and talks of further government control, ie, all kinds of cracks in the energy flow line. The real test of the book's projections will be in the next five years, when all of those former third world countries, that have now become highly consumptive of raw materials, have had a chance to consume at a high rate for a length of time.

As for those physicists who question Rifkin's application of the second law to the various macromodels, I think even the author himself was not confident in making a serious scientific statement, he was more interested in getting out the overall message that we must preserve our non-renewable resources and allow nature time to catch up to our acquisitions of renewable resources. This is very relevant to today's fisheries for example. All of the mineral resources he cited, particulary copper, are now very expensive, so much so that thieves are now regularly stripping the metals from our highways, cemeteries, and public works.

Even though our health care, transportation and education systems are in shambles, not all is bad, many urban areas have revived, people are adjusting and changing lifestyles, conserving and recycling more, consuming less, driving smaller cars, there is greater investment and interest in clean, renewable energy, etc.

I do concur with Rifkin's overall goal of sustainable growth.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
His doomsday is here and we did not listen 6 Oct. 2007
By Pamela Rice - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Rifkin's ideas about physics may or may not be on solid ground, but he's predicted many apocalyptic realities with regard to the environment. And for this we must give him much credit. We have to remember. This book was written going on thirty years ago, before our era of manifest global warming. He predicted a warming of the planet. He doesn't call it "peek oil," as it's called today, but this is what he warns us about way back when.

His theory that the so-called Middle Ages ended with the advent of coal as a fuel source is intriguing. It sounds plausible to me. The way we get energy must have a lot to do with the way society is structured. We can certainly say this about agriculture. Once man began cultivating land, the concept of wealth was created, no less...

But back to the many predictions Rifkin made in this book: He warned these many years ago about the dangers of synthetic petrochemical nitrogen fertilizers choking our waters. Imagine that! No one was talking about that then and not even now. The Clean Water Act of 1972 does not address toxic runoff from farms and until that legislation is amended, our waters will be polluted. All over the world, runoff is truly one of the greatest environmental threats; we know this now for certain.

Rifkin, back then, long before the rest of us, was writing about the junk thrown in the oceans. Today we have a whirlpool of the size of Greenland over Midway Island densely clogged with plastic refuse, suffocating and starving out wildlife there.

Some environmentalists today (too, too few) are lamenting the advent of the flushing toilet. Rifkin does not point this out specifically, but he does note how our coasts were, even back then, poisoned by sewage.

The discord among nations today is all about oil, water, land, and natural resources of all sorts. Do we dare admit? This is one of Rifkin's main themes and rightly so. G. W. Bush can say we went into Iraq to bring that country democracy, but we all know, it was about oil.

They say today that if everyone on Earth lived as we do in the USA, the world would require the natural resources of five planet Earths. Rifkin alluded to this fact in this book and so long ago. Amazing.

It's taken me years of reading the environmental literature to discover the above information. And I could have found it all in this book decades ago.

There's lots more; I can't note it all. How 'bout, just read the book.
17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Oh, dear . . . 25 July 2012
By JCV - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Have we missed something here? Like maybe an actual course on thermodynamics. If we were to accept Rifkin's theory, then there would be no life on this planet. Life is an ordered system, how could it possibly evolve? What Rifkin overlooks is that the requirement of entropy always increasing applies only to CLOSED systems. The world is not a closed system, it operates in conjunction with the sun. The sun produces more than enough entropy so as to permit the entropy decline that defines the history of life on Earth.
38 of 55 people found the following review helpful
This dead horse was very, very naughty. 11 Dec. 2004
By Pf. Pfister - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It is almost unfair to review this book, because it has been roundly and rightly ignored for so many years. Mr. Rifkin, for the sake of his more recent work, likely wishes to keep things that way. To anyone interested in thermodynamics, simply look elsewhere; this book is not about entropy in any sense common to science (or English). To those interested in ecology, do not pollute your arguments with this babble. This book is a study in how not to do background research, and how not to construct an argument. The cliché is totally apt: this is the worst book I have ever read.

Rifkin and Howard want to show that energy consumption has accelerated over history, and that we should curb the trend. It's a reasonable sentiment. Unfortunately, they try to make their case for the impending destruction of Earth by borrowing the concept of entropy, or disorder. We all know that energy consumption has been rising ever faster; the authors point out that the laws of thermodynamics dictate that entropy on Earth must also be rising ever faster. Consequently, if these trends continue, disorder will rule and the planet will crumble into dead chaos. The authors prescribe a return to "low-entropy" lifestyles, as in the Classical Age.

Fortunately for us, the laws of thermodynamics do not agree. The authors also do not seem to realize that planet with life is more ordered (has lower entropy) than pre-biotic Earth. Similarly, entropy is mighty low where billions of complicated humans (not to mention other species) interact in countless ways in a miraculous, self-perpetuating system of systems within systems. With each building erected, manatee born, or stock market founded, Earth's entropy falls.

Let's leave aside the cartoonish five page summary of Western history (from an "entropic" view point), and the fact that this volume is cited more by creation scientists (Google it yourself) than by anyone else. The authors have no idea what they're talking about. When you see Entropy at a garage sale, thrift store, or dump, feel free to leaf through it and laugh, but be sure to leave it there.

P.S. One reviewer of Rifkin's Algeny (I think) noted that Rifkin has actually (maybe accidentally) written some useful volumes (Algeny was not one, however--see S.J. Gould in Discovery magazine). Based on Rifkin's new faith in the "hydrogen economy," I can't believe it.
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