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, 1946) is an American economic and social theorist, writer, public speaker, political advisor, and activist. Rifkin is the author of 20 books about the impact of scientific and technological changes on the economy, the workforce, society, and the environment. 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).

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 is also the President of the TIR Consulting Group LLC.[1]


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 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[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.[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.

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.[21]

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.[22]

Rifkin received the America Award of the Italy-USA Foundation in 2012.[23] He currently works out of an office in Bethesda, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C.


In April 2014, Mr. Rifkin published The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism


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.[24] The Union of Concerned Scientists has cited some of Rifkin's publications as useful references for consumers[25] 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".[citation needed]


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".[26]

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.[27]



See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Vivette R. Rifkin: 1911 - 2007". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. August 15, 2007. 
  3. ^ "The University of Pennsylvania Student Award of Merit". Retrieved November 13, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Trillin, Calvin (January 21, 1974). "U.S. Journal: Boston Parallels". The New Yorker. Retrieved April 3, 2013. 
  5. ^ Rifkin, Jeremy (1977). Who Should Play God? The Artificial Creation of Life and What it Means for the Future of the Human Race (with Ted Howard). New York, NY: Delacorte Press. ISBN 0-440-19504-7. 
  6. ^ "Jeremy Rifkin | The Foundation on Economic Trends | Books". Retrieved February 10, 2012. 
  7. ^ "The Global Greenhouse Network - C-SPAN Video Library". October 10, 1988. Retrieved February 10, 2012. 
  8. ^ Brownstein, Ronald (January–February 1991). "Hollywood Hardball". Mother Jones. Retrieved April 4, 2013. 
  9. ^ Takahashi, Young, Takahashi, Bruce, A. (2002). Greenhouse Gases and Animal Agriculture. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 372. ISBN 0-444-51012-5. 
  10. ^ Burros, Marian (August 12, 1993). "Agriculture Dept. Unveils Cooking Labels for Meat". New York Times. Retrieved April 3, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Jeremy Rifkin | The Foundation on Economic Trends: The Third Industrial Revolution". May 31, 1998. Retrieved February 10, 2010. 
  12. ^ V, N (November 4, 2011). "Difference Engine: Luddite legacy". The Economist. Retrieved April 2, 2013. 
  13. ^ Krimsky, Sheldon (May 7, 1998). "All Aboard The Biotech Express". Nature 393: 31–32. doi:10.1038/29911. Retrieved April 2, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Public Citizen Climate and Energy". December 3, 2010. Retrieved February 10, 2012. 
  15. ^ "Books: European Dream". Retrieved April 5, 2013. 
  16. ^ "The Winners". Corine Internationaler Buchpreis. Retrieved April 5, 2013. 
  17. ^ a b Belin, Hughes (July–August 2008). "The Rifkin vision" (PDF). European Energy Review: 40–46. Retrieved April 5, 2013. 
  18. ^ Gurmai, Zita; et al. (May 14, 2007). "Written declaration on establishing a green hydrogen economy and a third industrial revolution in Europe through a partnership with committed regions and cities, SMEs and civil society organisations". European Parliament. Retrieved April 4, 2013. 
  19. ^ "Highlights 2012". Retrieved April 4, 2013. 
  20. ^ Schuessler, Jennifer. "Best Sellers - October 23, 2011". The New York Times. Retrieved April 5, 2013. 
  21. ^ Hyun-kyung, Kang (May 10, 2012). "Lee Pledges Green Growth Cluster". The Korea Times. Retrieved April 5, 2013. 
  22. ^ Bloomberg News (December 24, 2012). "China’s New Leaders Burnish Image by Revealing Personal Details". Bloomberg News. Retrieved April 5, 2013. 
  23. ^ "America Prize - 2012 Edition". Fondazione Italia USA. Retrieved April 5, 2013. 
  24. ^ Naik, Paul (Spring 2000). "Biotechnology Through the Eyes of an Opponent". Virginia Journal of Law and Technology Association. Retrieved March 30, 2011. 
  25. ^ "The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices" (PDF). Union of Concerned Scientists. 1999. Retrieved March 30, 2011. 
  26. ^ S.J. 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
  27. ^ Thompson, Dick (December 4, 1989). "The Most Hated Man In Science: To some 'The Abominable No Man,' Gadfly Jeremy Rifkin Warns of the Dangers of Uncontrolled Experiments with New Technologies". Retrieved July 8, 2014. 

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