Jeremy Rifkin

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Jeremy Rifkin
Jeremy Rifkin 2009 by Stephan Röhl.jpg
Born (1946-01-26) January 26, 1946 (age 69)
Denver, Colorado
Alma mater University of Pennsylvania; Tufts University
Era Contemporary
Region Western philosophy
Main interests
Economy, political science, scientific and technological change
Notable ideas
The Empathic Civilization, The Third Industrial Revolution, End of the working society

Jeremy Rifkin (born January 26, 1945) is an American economic and social theorist, writer, public speaker, political advisor, and activist. Rifkin is president of the Foundation on Economic Trends and the bestselling author of 20 books about the impact of scientific and technological changes on the economy, the workforce, society, and the environment. His books have been translated into more than 35 languages and are used in hundreds of universities, corporations and government agencies around the world. His most recent books include The Zero Marginal Cost Society (2014), The Third Industrial Revolution (2011), The Empathic Civilization (2010), The European Dream (2004), The Hydrogen Economy (2002), The Age of Access (2000), The Biotech Century (1998), and The End of Work (1995).

Rifkin is the President of the TIR Consulting Group LLC which advises national governments, regions, and municipalities on developing Third Industrial Revolution Master Plans. He is also the founder and chairperson of the Third Industrial Revolution Global CEO Business Round Table, composed of the world's leading renewable energy companies, construction companies, architectural firms, real estate companies, IT companies, power and utility companies, and transport and logistics companies. Rifkin's global economic development team is the largest of its kind in the world and is working with cities, regions, and national governments to develop master plans to transition their economies into post-carbon Third Industrial Revolution infrastructures.[1]

Since 1994, Rifkin has been a senior lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business Executive Education Program, where he instructs CEOs and senior management on transitioning their business operations into sustainable economies.

Rifkin's monthly column on global issues has appeared over the years in many of the world's leading newspapers and magazines, including the Los Angeles Times in the United States, The Guardian in the U.K., Süddeutsche Zeitung and Handelsblatt in Germany, Le Soir and Knack in Belgium, L'Espresso in Italy, El Mundo and El País in Spain, Kathimerini in Greece, Dagbladet Informatíon in Denmark, De Volkskrant in the Netherlands, Hospodárské Noviny in the Czech Republic, Wort in Luxembourg, Eesti Päevaleht in Estonia, Trud in Bulgaria, Clarín in Argentina, and Al-Ittihad in the U.A.E.


Youth and education[edit]

Rifkin was born in Denver, Colorado, to Vivette Ravel Rifkin, daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants to Texas,[2] and Milton Rifkin, a plastic-bag manufacturer. He grew up on the southwest side of Chicago. He was president of his graduating class at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (BS, Economics, 1968) and recipient of the school's General Alumni Association's Award of Merit.[3] 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 1974, Rifkin organized a mass-protest against oil companies at the commemoration of the 200th Anniversary of the Boston Tea Party at Boston's Harbor. Thousands joined the protest, as activists dumped empty oil barrels into Boston's Harbor. The protest came in the wake of the increase in gasoline prices in the fall of 1974, following the OPEC oil embargo.[4] This was later called "Boston Oil Party" by the press.[4]

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 impacts on the environment, the economy, culture and society, and 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?[5]


Rifkin's 1981 work "Entropy" discusses how 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[6]

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.[7] 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.[8]


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 to 50 times greater than carbon dioxide.[9][10]

Beginning in 1995, Rifkin was a senior lecturer at The Wharton School's executive education program at the University of Pennsylvania, where he instructs CEOs and senior corporate management from around the world on new trends in science and technology.[11]

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. 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."[12]

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."[13]


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 that are committed to building a renewable hydrogen based economy.[14] 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.[15][16]

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.[17] The Third Industrial Revolution was formally endorsed by the European Parliament in 2007 and is now being implemented by various agencies within the European Commission.[18] Rifkin has lectured before many Fortune 500 companies, and hundreds of governments, civil society organizations, and universities over the past thirty five years.[19]

2011 and 2012[edit]

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,[20] and has been translated into 19 languages. By 2014, approximately 500,000 copies were in print in China alone.

In 2011, Rifkin's Third Industrial Revolution vision and economic development plan was embraced by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). Quoting Dr. Kandeh K. Yumkella, Director-General of (UNIDO)and chairman of UN Energy,"[The Third Industrial Revolution is] A provocative strategy for transforming the global energy system. This book may help frame the social and economic solutions for the 1.5 billion poorest people who lack access to clean, reliable, and efficient energy services.”[21] Speaking alongside Rifkin at a joint press briefing at the UNIDO biennual conference in 2012, Director-General Yumkella said "We believe we are at the beginning of a Third Industrial Revolution and I want all member countries of UNIDO to hear the message and ask the key question, how does this apply to our economies, how can we be part of this revolution, and of course how do we share knowledge, share capital, and investments around the world to make this revolution really happen."[22]

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.[23]

On May 29, 2012, Rifkin delivered the keynote address at the European Commission Conference: Mission Growth; Europe at the Lead of the New Industrial Revolution. At the conference, hosted by José Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, and Antonio Tajani, the Vice President of the European Commission and the Minister of Industry and Entrepreneurship, Rifkin presented the European Union's long term economic development plan to transition the European economy into the Third Industrial Revolution era.[24][25]

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.[26]

Rifkin received the America Award of the Italy-USA Foundation in 2012.[27] He currently works out of an office in Bethesda, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C.


In 2013, the French northern region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais contracted Rifkin and his team to develop a master plan to help transition the region in a prosperous and sustainable economic paradigm.[28][29][30] Kazakhstan also contracted Rifkin to develop a green economy strategy and help with the planning of Expo 2017 currently titled, "Energy Expo 2017."[30]


Rifkin has been an advisor to the European Union for the past decade. Rifkin also served as an advisor to President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Jose Socrates of Portugal, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain, and Prime Minister Janez Janša of Slovenia, during their respective European Council Presidencies, on issues related to the economy, climate change, and energy security. He currently advises the European Commission, the European Parliament, and several EU heads of state.

As summarized on Rifkin's Third Industrial Revolution website, he has advised the following countries:

European Union[edit]

On March 2nd, 2015, Mr. Rifkin delivered the opening keynote address at the European Investment Bank conference on “Momentum for Europe—Innovation and Competitiveness." Mr. Rifkin presented a bold new plan for the next stage of the European journey: The build-out and scale-up of an Internet of Things infrastructure for a Digital Europe and the transition to a Third Industrial Revolution. Mr. Rifkin argued that the Digital Europe transition will revolutionize every commercial sector, disrupt the workings of virtually every industry, bring with it unprecedented new economic opportunities, put millions of people back to work, and create a more sustainable post-carbon society to mitigate climate change.

On May 29, 2013, the European Commission held a conference in Brussels with the theme, "Mission Growth: Europe At The Lead Of The New Industrial Revolution."[31] Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, and Antonio Tajani, Vice President and Minister of Industry and Entrepreneurship, co-hosted the summit. Vice President Tajani called for a comprehensive Third Industrial Revolution economic agenda to regrow the European economy and create an integrated European single market. In his speech, Vice President Tajani said, "Today is a good day for all of us, because today is the beginning of the Third Industrial Revolution. Now the European conversation will go beyond austerity, straight to creating growth and jobs in Europe. My slogan is: 'Without a new industrial policy, no growth, no jobs.'"[31] He continued by saying that "the first industrial revolution was the revolution of coal and steam, the second was the oil one. This Third Industrial Revolution is the internet of energy and is not only about energy. It involves many key sectors, from raw materials, to manufacturing, services, construction, transport, Information Technologies and even chemistry."[31] Finally he went on to say, "Because its energy sources are distributed and not centralized, and therefore scale laterally and not centrally, [The Third Industrial Revolution] is the ideal playground for SMEs.... our 2020 strategy puts us on the right path but we must now accelerate and put more resources on growth, and this must be based on sustainability, testing the edge of our technological frontiers."[31]

Rifkin followed Vice President Tajani's address with a keynote speech on the Third Industrial Revolution vision and game plan for Europe.[32][33]

In January 2008 the European Commission proposed binding legislation to implement the 20-20-20 targets. This ‘climate and energy package’ was agreed by the European Parliament (EP) and Council in December 2008 and became law in June 2009.[34] Europe is leading the way to the Third Industrial Revolution through mandating a cut of 20% of emissions of greenhouse gases, compared with 1990 levels, moving toward a 20% increase in the share of renewables in the energy mix, and cutting energy consumption by 20%, all by 2020. The 27 EU member states are making every effort to ensure that the remaining stock of fossil fuels is used more efficiently and are experimenting with clean energy technologies to limit carbon dioxide emissions in the burning of conventional fuels.[35]

In Brussels, February 1, 2011, the Environment Committee of the European Parliament, chaired by Jo Leinen MEP, and representatives of the five major political groups in the EP joined today with Europe’s main associations representing small and medium-sized companies (UEAPME), consumers’ interests (BEUC), cooperatives(Cooperatives Europe) and the Foundation on Economic Trends in a call for a “Third Industrial Revolution” ahead of the European Council’s summit devoted to energy. The European Parliament will forward a declaration to Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, and José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, requesting a comprehensive legislative plan with adequate means to implement the “Third Industrial Revolution” energy strategy across Member States.[36][37][38] The plan also focuses on the shift to a new economic paradigm for the next stage of European integration.[39]


China is currently engaged in transitioning its economy into the Third Industrial Revolution. Premier Li Keqiang, who was elected by the 12th National People's Congress in 2014, is a fan of Rifkin and read The Third Industrial Revolution book.[40][41] Premier Li told his state scholars to pay close attention to The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World.[40] Vice Premier Wang Yang has also endorsed the Third Industrial Revolution vision and economic development plan.

Rifkin spent two weeks in Beijing and other regions of China as the guest of the Chinese government in September, at which time he met with government leaders, including Vice Premier Wang Yang and Science and Technology Minister Wan Gang.[42][43] Meetings were also held with the National Development and Reform Commission and the Development Research Center of the State Council. During Vice Premier Wang Yang’s meeting with Rifkin, he expressed his government’s determination to ensure that China be among the leaders in instituting the five pillars of the emerging Third Industrial Revolution.[44]

On December 5, 2013, the Chairman of the China State Grid Corporation, Liu Zhenya, published an article titled “Smart Grid Hosting and Promoting the Third Industrial Revolution.”[45] In the essay, Liu Zhenya lays out China’s ambitious plan to lead the world into the Third Industrial Revolution and a new sustainable post carbon energy era. The government is dedicating an initial $82 billion to establish a Third Industrial Revolution distributed “energy Internet” that will serve as a technology platform and infrastructure for ushering in a new economic paradigm. Under the plan, millions of people in neighborhoods and communities across the country as well as hundreds of thousands of businesses will be able to produce their own green electricity locally and share it on a national energy Internet, just like they now create and share information online. The distributed, collaborative, peer-to-peer, and laterally scaled energy infrastructure will fundamentally alter the economic life of China, while establishing its commanding leadership in the next great economic revolution.[45]

The announcement made on December 5, 2013 by Chairman of the State Grid Corporation, Liu Zhenya, of the decision to introduce the energy Internet as the “intercontinental backbone network” for a new economic era marks a game changing moment in the history of China. According to Chairman Lui Zhenya, if we “can firmly grasp the historical opportunity for the Third Industrial Revolution [it] will largely determine our position in future global competition.” Reminding his fellow countrymen that China was largely left behind in both the First and Second Industrial Revolutions, he cautioned that “history should not repeat itself” and observed that “opportunities are fleeting.” With this in mind, Mr. Lui Zhenya called for the “acceleration of the development of the smart grid to promote the development of China’s energy security, clean development, and environmental development, and play an important role in building a moderately prosperous society and achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese dream in the process.”[45]

On March 9th, 2015, In his new book, China’s New Energy Revolution, Li Hejun, China’s richest man, says he was “deeply moved [by the] powerful set of coordinates” that Jeremy Rifkin lays out in his book, The Third Industrial Revolution, regarding the conceptualization and deployment of a digitalized Third Industrial Revolution infrastructure. In the preface to his book, Li Hejun writes “I was deeply moved by the author’s insights. Reflecting upon my experience working in the new energy sector in the past 20 years, and especially in the PV industry in recent years, I found Rifkin’s thesis very convincing.” Li Hejun’s company, Hanergy, is a leading thin-film solar power company in the world. Hejun envisions the installation of solar and other renewable energies in every community, allowing millions of people and thousands of businesses to produce their own energy and share surpluses with others on a digitalized Energy Internet stretching across China. Hejun’s mission is to transform China into a sustainable post-carbon Third Industrial Revolution economy powered by renewable energies. In his book, Li Hejun observes that “China missed the First Industrial Revolution and was only able to catch the last train in the Second Industrial Revolution. If it seizes the opportunities presented by the Third Industrial Revolution the realization of the Chinese dream will no longer be far off.”

Rifkin’s New York Times bestselling book, The Third Industrial Revolution, was published in China in June 2012 and was the number one bestselling business book, currently with over 500,000 copies in print.

Sino-German Collaboration[edit]

On March 17th, 2015 Jeremy Rifkin delivered a keynote address at the Sino-German CeBIT Conference in Hannover, Germany. Mr. Rifkin proposed a long-term Sino-German grand initiative to advance an Internet of Things infrastructure for a Third Industrial Revolution across Eurasia—a Digital Eurasia Silk Road Economic Belt—to usher-in a smart, green, low-carbon society along the world’s largest land mass. In recent months, Chairman Xi and Premier Li of China have called for a new Eurasia Silk Road Economic Belt to connect the Eurasian land mass in a seamless integrated market from Shanghai to the Irish Sea. At the same time, both the European Union and China are preparing for the erection and scale-up of an Internet of Things infrastructure to establish a fully digitalized economy in their respective regions. Mr. Rifkin suggests that “A Sino-German partnership to promote a digitalized Internet of Things infrastructure across Eurasia could bring much of the human family together for the first time in history, with far-reaching benefits for humankind.”


On March 26th, 2015 Jeremy Rifkin delivered a keynote address at Germany’s “Energy Transition Dialogue” summit hosted by German Vice Chancellor and Economic Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and attended by government ministers and officials from sixty-one nations. Mr. Rifkin argues that Germany’s historic transition to zero marginal cost renewable energy signals the dawn of the Third Industrial Revolution and a sustainable post-carbon economy. Rifkin will urge government officials from the sixty-one nations attending Germany’s Energy Transition Summit to erect a world-wide Internet of Things infrastructure that will allow families, communities, and businesses to generate their own renewable energy and share their green electricity with others across a digital global Energy Internet.

United Kingdom[edit]

Former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Chris Huhne publicly endorsed the need for a Third Industrial Revolution. He constructed a framework for the UK in the "The White Paper for Energy Market Reform."[46][47] The White Paper components includes a Carbon Price Floor (announced in Budget 2011) in an effort to reduce investor uncertainty, putting a fair price on carbon and providing a stronger incentive to invest in low-carbon generation now.[47] It also includes the introduction of new long-term contracts (Feed-in Tariff with Contracts for Difference) to provide stable financial incentives to invest in all forms of low-carbon electricity generation.[47] Also in the White Paper is an Emissions Performance Standard (EPS) set at 450g CO2/kWh to reinforce the requirement that no new coal-fired power stations are built without carbon capture and storage systems, but also to ensure necessary short-term investment in gas can take place.[47] Chris Huhne also includes a Capacity Mechanism, including demand response as well as generation, which is needed to ensure future security of electricity supply.[47]


In 2010, Rifkin and the Third Industrial Revolution Global CEO Business Round Table, along with government of Utrecht, developed a Third Industrial Revolution Master Plan to transition the region into the new economic paradigm.[48]

On June 6, 2010, the "Utrecht2040: Entrepreneurship with New Energy" conference was held, bringing together decision makers from business, including the national energy companies, construction companies and engineering firms, the Utrecht knowledge institutions and government. The Utrecht Energy Master Plan was implemented to incorporate the pillars of the Third Industrial Revolution into action steps.[49] Utrecht is one of the fastest growing areas in the Netherlands, as well as all of Europe, and is spearheading the European Union's transition toward biosphere politics, and the shift away from geopolitics. The goal is to implement the pillars of the Third Industrial Revolution to replenish and rejuvenate the earth for generations to come.[50][51]


In 2009, Rifkin and the Third Industrial Revolution Global CEO Business Round Table contracted with the city of Rome and Mayor Alemanno in order to develop a Third Industrial Revolution Road Map for the region.[52]

On January 24, 2011, the CGIL conference was held in Rome, Italy. The event was organized by TIRES, which is the Third Industrial Revolution European Society. For the first time ever, all the forces of business, those representing the capital and those that represent the work, are united in the same battle for a new energy model that will create jobs and new business opportunities for companies in the area, innovative training for workers, and applied research opportunities for original research organizations. Topics included the discussion about new labor opportunities that will develop and become essential in the new post-carbon society.[53]


In 2009, Rifkin and the Third Industrial Revolution Global CEO Business Round Table contracted with the City of San Antonio to create a Third Industrial Revolution Master Plan for the city to transition into the Third Industrial Revolution economic vision and game plan.[54]

In 2009, San Antonio had already taken significant first steps toward a new era of sustainability. The City of San Antonio’s “Mission Verde” and the CPS Energy’s “Vision 2020” both emphasize specific actions that the community has taken to transition into the Third Industrial Revolution.[55][56] Green jobs and adequate financing mechanisms are among the challenges being addressed by the City’s Mission Verde plan. And CPS Energy has already embraced the need for a more energy-efficient economy that is increasingly powered by renewable energy and other clean energy technologies. These actions, coupled with the insights and ideas that emerged from the April 2009 workshop on sustainability (convened by the City of San Antonio and CPS Energy) provide the groundwork for specifying how the vision of a Third Industrial Revolution might be applied to the specific conditions and constraints faced by the city of San Antonio.[55]


In 2013, the French region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais contracted with Rifkin and the TIR Consulting Group LLC to develop a Third Industrial Revolution Master Plan to transition the region into a new sustainable economic paradigm.[28][29][30]


On September 6, 2012, President Nursultan Nazarbayev delivered a speech at the Nazarbayev University indicating the need for a Third Industrial Revolution and an energy internet.[57] In 2013, Kazakhstan contracted Rifkin and his team to help steward the emerging Central Asian country into a Third Industrial revolution infrastructure as well as helping with the planning of Expo 2017 currently titled, "Energy Expo 2017."[30]


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.[17] 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.[58] The Union of Concerned Scientists has cited some of Rifkin's publications as useful references for consumers[59] and The New York Times once stated that "many 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 has also been controversial. Opponents have attacked the lack of scientific rigor in his claims as well as some of the tactics he has used to promote his views. The Harvard scientist Stephen Jay Gould characterized Rifkin's 1983 book "Algeny" as "a cleverly constructed tract of anti-intellectual propaganda masquerading as scholarship".[60]

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.[61]



See also[edit]


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