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on 31 October 2000
"We are entering a new age of global markets and automated production. The road to a near-workerless economy is within sight. Whether that road leads to a safe haven or a terrible abyss will depend on how well civilization prepares for the post-market era that will follow on the heels of the Third Industrial Revolution. The end of work could spell a death sentence for civilization as we have come to know it. The end of work could also signal the beginning of a great social transformation, a rebirth of the human spirit. The future lies in our hands."
Thus ends the book, leaving no neat little answers - negative OR positive, but urging us to open our eyes and look around us. I'd seen him on C-span and promptly ordered his book through Amazon. This was when it first came out in hardcover and my oldest son (now a resident of London, having moved from Ohio, USA), assured of a future work using skills from his newly obtained Masters in Computer Science, was concerned I was reading such a book.
"Isn't he one of those Luddites?" I think of myself as a wanna be Luddite, but I saw no signs of this in the book. Instead, Rifkin seems to be concerned with the coming affects of the Informational Revolution.
The book begins with a history of the Industrial Revolution. He gives us a nice tour of the birth of materialism as a concept created and promoted by economists and businessmen. "The term 'consumption," he tells us, "has both English and French roots. In its original form, to consume meant to destroy, to pillage, to subdue, to exhaust. It is a word steeped in violence and until the present century had only negative connotations."
The chapter, "Technology and the Afro-American Experience," addresses the effects of slavery, the supposed freedom of sharecropping, the loss of jobs as a consequence of the invention of the mechanical cotton picker, the rush to the cities and the subsequent loss of jobs as technology slowly progressed. There is a correlation to the success of whichever modern day technology we are experiencing, and the situation in the inner-cities. "Today, millions of African-Americans find themselves hopelesly trapped in a permanent underclass. Unskilled and unneeded, the commodity value of their labor has been rendered virtually useless by the automated technologies that have come to displace them in the new high-tech global economy."
One chapter is entitled "No More Farmers" and discusses the advances of robotizing replacing tasks such as harvesting and livestock management, as well as the end of outdoor agriculture. Other chapters deal with the future for retail, service, blue collar jobs, the declining middle class and the growing chasm between the haves and the have-nots.
In the chapter titled, "A More Dangerous World," he cites the Merva and Fowles study, saying that it "showed a striking correlation between growing wage inequality and increased criminal activity." "Rising unemployment and loss of hope for a better future are among the reasons that tens of thousands of young teenagers are turning to a life of crime and violence."
He does point out that the explosion of the Third Revolution is going to make the social wounds we've tried to heal seem like paper cuts, but does not claim that we should unhook our computers and resist the revolutionary explosion. His suggestion is that we work on 'empowering' the Third Sector' - the independent sector - and turn back to community, to helping each other before it is too late.
"A new generation might transcend the narrow limits of nationalism and begin to think and act as common memebers of the human race, with shared commitments to each other, the community, and the larger biosphere."
He suggests that since hi-tech advances may mean fewer jobs in the market economy, the only way to make sure those whose jobs are lost will be compensated is to have the government supply compensation. Naturally, this gives a flash-back to the welfare/dole system, which I think has freaked out a few reviewers, paralyzing them into a sort of retro response.
But Rifkin isn't just talking about the recipients of old - those stereotypical lower-income, under-educated inner city folks. Indeed, he's talking about many more people. In my family, my second son is a hands on kind of worker who in the past might have been a farmer. No matter how much education he gets, he isn't one of those who will sit well in the new techno age, and already he's feeling the pressures. The high paying jobs for him are life-threatening, so the kind of work he's hired for is low paying, not enough to support himself, let alone the family he has decided he can't afford to start.
Rifkin isn't doing retro work - he suggests tying the subsidized income to service in the community, which he suggests migh help the "growth and development of the social economy and facilitate the long-term transition into a community-centered, service-oriented culture."
His answers are not clearly spelled out - he offers suggestions and insight into where we might be going as a race (the human race). The truth is, we all need to ask some questions and help find the answers.
For those whose minds are set firmly in any direction, you'll get from this book very little - for those with open minds, regardless of your political view of the world, you may find this to be a door to the future.
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on 3 October 1998
Jeremy Rifkin has distilled much of what is brewing below the surface in our economy and weaved it into a compelling thesis that deserves serious attention from academia and the public at large. A gifted social scientist and economist, Rifkin transcends the "Megatrends" genre, and provides us with a compelling analysis and dissection of a post-market economy that sits clearly on the horizon. Many who have read and critiqued this book have siezed upon it's liberal view for the future, however, no one has disputed the issues he has raised which clearly depict an economy where labor is in declining demand, and sophisticated computer automation will replace large sectors of our current economy. Perhaps the one flaw in Rifkin's book is that he presents a vision for the future that is polemical in its political orientation. I was deeply disturbed by Mr. Rifkin's findings, because I fear that I could easily become among the ranks of the technologically displaced. But I read this book twice, because I realized that if I am to keep ahead of the game, I need to know which way the wind is blowing, and ensure that I don't fall victim to what millions of workers are destined for in the years to come. With out a doubt, the most prescient and trenchant non-fiction book I've read in ten years.
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on 5 June 1997
If you are on the dole, this book is for you. You will discover you are part of an epochal turning point,and you'll feel more or less like a T-Rex seconds before the meteor collided with Earth causing his extinction. If you are not on the dole, the future will look slightly less bright.If you are more or less illiterate in economics, you will enjoy the historical part that's entertaining like no other book about this kind of subject can be. The solutions proposed at the end of the book can be appealing and are worth all our simpathy. Probably, if you are jobless or somewhat at risk, they are also a bit discouraging. But, as the book teaches us, the whole world is at risk. Happy new century to us all.
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on 8 June 1997
In this riviting, well documented dissertation, Rifkin underscores the imbalances of society created by the assult of the super-technocrats against humanity's workers. He weaves his magic through the annals of history even to the present, combining opinions and scenarios that support his view. His arguments are compelling and terrifying.
Most interesting are Rifkin's solutions to the problems of this technological invasion. One solution is that everyone work less hours for more pay. This would free everyone to pursue more noble causes without pay. (Yea, Right!)

As societies becomes more hedonistic, it is also unreasonable to believe, as Rifkin asserts, that volunteerism will increase to become the great social contract that will give meaning to the dislocted and disfranchised and ultimately save us all. The real solution? Buy a small acerage somewhere and learn to grow vegetables!

For a good contrasting view, read Bill Gate's book, THE ROAD AHEAD.
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on 31 July 2015
I have just finished reading ‘The End of Work’ by Jeremy Rifkin, an American economist. His analysis of the progress and aims of Cybernation in the control of an ‘inner elite’ (my terminology) is comprehensive and complete. The book was first published in 1996 and the events of the last two decades are therefore not recorded.

It is in the final chapters that Mr Rifkin skirts around what motivates the ‘inner elite’ and tries to provide the outline of a hopeful possible solution to rehabilitate the millions who are being permanently displaced by ‘technological unemployment’, in what he calls the ‘Third/Volunteer Sector ’. He correctly reads the reaction of able-bodied men and women (including middle-class ex-managers) consigned to the scrapheap of civilisation – there will probably be global armed social unrest, involving millions of desperate people, beyond containment by the standing armed-forces and police (who are the sons and daughters of the dispossessed and will not shoot their kith and kin).

His ‘Third/Volunteer Sector’ will need funds. The ‘inner elite’ will be required by government to contribute some of their profits from productivity improvement to the pot. This would be reasonable where industry and commerce owes allegiance to a nation. But we now know that the final automated step – the machine replaces the human mind – has changed the rules. The market place in the digital age is global and production (in the near workerless factory) in the future can be controlled from a pre-programmed control-room next to a boardroom located in Switzerland or some idyllic paradise island.

Cybernation is a deliberate process to replace man by machine in the cause of secure profit for the few. I foresee that the ‘inner elite’, with control of the majority of what passes for wealth, will purchase an entire country somewhere and locate all of their manufacturing facilities for the global market-place outside the control of governments. This will provide the economy of size and will be populated exclusively by carefully screened and indoctrinated workers. And so life will continue and profit taken for a few decades until global-demand dries-up. What will happen after that is anybody’s guess.
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on 4 June 2010
The author has done a good compilation of the reasons of lack of work in modern world. Paradoxically, work was traditionally a Biblical Damn that has become a desirable but scarce product because I think actual western society lacks an essential maker of work: war.
War is a big stimulus for inventive and effort. Sure, a bitter stimulus, nobody denies that.
But Rifkin, I think hasn't the solution although he purposes some not very credible, because the problem at bottom is this: western economy is based over the incidence of a world or at less, a big war every 20-30 years. XX century saw three: I WW, Spanish Civil War and II WW, without including Corea and Vietnam.
I wish that should not be the truth, but I'm afraid that's the real motive of the actual economical crisis and unenployement.
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on 26 August 2013
This hard to find book explains how most forms of human work are now being replaced by machines, which begs for an urgent r[love]ution. Instead of demanding work, we have to demand a fair distribution of the infinite wealth we are now able to produce.
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on 4 December 2001
Sorry Jeremy if you read this. Rifkin's thesis is supported by tons of figures but lacks to answer many questions, besides the fact that he just focuses on jobs in the US and the transnational companies.
Questions i felt un-answered, what about Korea, Chile or other rising countries, what about the influence of the black economy, drugs, weapons, etc, what about the answers? He gives no hope.
Besides the thesis was long ago predicted and does not reveal anything new. I had expected to see a more global view of the problem and also traits of possible solutions.
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on 21 July 1997
Rifkin's work, with a foreword from perhaps one of the most socialist mainstream economists of our day, Robert Heilbroner, of the New School for Social Research, addresses squarely the problems caused by technology replacing labor in today's rapidly changing globalized economy. Since only educated Americans read these days, fully 75%-85% of the U.S. population will never be exposed to the author's insights. Therefore, the solutions presented by Rifkin will fall on deaf ears; and perhaps, they should.

Technology as the driving force for social change, as in every other epoch of modern human history, is carving out a niche for the technologically informed individuals. For the sociologists out there, is a new "class" (heaven forbid) being constituted? I think so. What will be the political, economic, and sociological result? Most likely not much different than the impacts of the past epochs: capital/wealth concentration to those individual and institutions who own and control the "means of production" (my apologies to those made nauseous by Marxist arguments) or, in this case, those who control the creation and production of information- or knowledge-based technologies (read Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, Time Warner, Disney, GE, Westinghouse).

Capitalism has survived in various forms (despite Mr. Marx's assertions) for thousands of years whether in the form of feudalism, mercantilsm, imperialism, corporatism, or today's state-sponsored global corporatism.

Therefore, a suggestion to all of those of the laboring classes: Why not give in? Accept benevolent corporate benefactors in the best case, or non-wage-based, total private corporate slavery in exchange for room and board, minimal disease care, and survival. Why struggle and compete against your neighbors, friends, and family members, when wage slaves can never "win" the battle against technological advancements and corporate-statist, social organization?

Technologically-disenfranchised wage slaves of the world unite! Instead of the public welfare state of the last half of the twentieth century, financed primarily by regressive payroll taxes levied against the working class, accept defeat; demand benevolent, corporate socialist slavery!
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on 11 January 2016
This book makes the government employment look stupid as usual as they cannot beat the forces of unemployment around the globe
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