Emphatic Civilization: nurturing habit of working with full and complex thoughts.

January 13, 2011

Social scientist, social historian, philosopher, economic and political advisor, and activist, Jeremy Rifkin has written over a dozen best-selling books on the ontology, as well as the global ecological and ethical implications and exigencies of socio-economic trends (with a focus on the 1975 onwards in the United States and Europe). His explorations of social reality transcend reporting. He abandoned hard-core activism using his in-depth knowledge from experience in Europe and the United States to call for change from the inner sanctum of the offices of CEO’s. His invitation to investigate social reality extends to everyone he can reach as he observes with increasing concern the impact of the epidemic of unfettered consumption on a fragile physical and moral ecosystem.

I do not adopt everything he suggests but I hope to be reading his past and present publications and their critical reviews over the next months. I hope to produce a timeline of significant events with their references so that high school students and concerned adults can follow through on their own. If we wish to engage in more robust and elevated conversations devoid of false dichotomies about complex societies we need to spend less time talking about what we purchased or hope to purchase and the myriad of ways we procrastinate and escape from reality, and spend more time nurturing habits of working with full and complex thoughts.

Keywords and potent phrases

conversation with people of varied backgrounds and interests, exploration of reality, shared understanding of the exigencies of this period in human history, means for addressing them

homo empathicus, paradoxical relationship between empathy and entropy, avert destruction of ecosystems, collapse of global economy, extinction of human race, change human consciousness itself, social thinker, interconnected world, mutual understanding among diverse peoples, new social tapestry, new communication revolutions,  complex societies, heightened empathic sensitivity, expanded human consciousness, evolution: human consciousness,

Selected Timeline of Events Referred to or Relating to Rifkin’s oeuvre (in progress)

1900 The term “consumption” referred to tuberculosis (Rifkin ED 2004:379).

1957 Owen Barfield described his his theory of the evolution of consciousness in his publication entitled Saving the Appearances, A Study in Idolatry. Rifkin referred to Barfield’s third state of consciousness. More

1975 onwards In America consumer choice acheived a hallowed status replacing representative democracy as the ultimate expression of human freedom (Rifkin ED 2004:379).

1989 “Everything is efficient. We’re so skewed toward efficiency that we’ve lost our sense of humanity. What we need to do is to bring back a sense of the sacred (Jeremy Rifkin in Thompson, Dick. 1989-12-04. “The Most Hated Man In Science: Jeremy Rifkin.” Time).

2002 The 2002 Pew Global Attitudes Project was chaired by Madeleine K. Albright. Summer 2002 Survey Data Download44-Nation Survey Conducted July 2 – October 31, 2002 Reports based on this data include (12.19.02 “Among Wealthy Nations … U.S. Stands Alone In Its Embrace of Religion”), (12.04.02 What the World Thinks in 2002) (How Global Publics View: Their Lives, Their Countries, The World, America)

“In 44 national surveys, based on interviews with more than 38,000 people, weexplore public views about the rapid pace of change in modern life; global interconnectedness through trade, foreign investment and immigration; and people’s attitudes toward democracy and governance. The surveys’ themes range from economic globalization and the reach of multinational corporations to terrorism and the U.S.response. The results illuminate international attitudes toward the United States and showwhere U.S. and foreign opinions align and collide.”

2002 Solid majorities in every European country say they “believe it is more important for government to ensure that no one is in need, than it is for individuals to be free to pursue goals without government interference (PEW. 2002-09-29. “View of a Changing World.” The Pew Global Attitudes Project. The Pew Research center for the People and the Press. p. 105) (Rifkin ED 2004:379)</a> .”

2002 Of all the world’s wealthy nations it was only in the United States that the majority (58%) claimed that cared more about personal freedom to pursue goals without government interference than play an active role in society so as to guarantee that nobody is in need? (Rifkin ED 2004:379) .”  The 2002 Pew Global Attitudes Project was chaired by Madeleine K. Albright and the exact PEW question was:

Q34 Turning to another subject, what’s more important in (survey country) society – that everyone be free to pursue their life’s goals without interference from the (state/government) or

that the(state/government) play an active role in society so as to guarantee that nobody is in need?


Books Written by Rifkin

1973,  How to Commit Revolution American Style, 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, 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 Read FOET summary

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 & Kegan Paul Books, Ltd, ISBN 0-7102-0709-3

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

Articles, books about Rifkin

Thompson, Dick. 1989-12-04. “The Most Hated Man In Science: Jeremy Rifkin.” Time.


Office of Jeremy Rifkin

Foundation of Economic Trends



Fragments to be integrated

Rifkin, Jeremy. 2009. “The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis.” Polity Press.
“The evening of December 24, 1914, Flanders. The first world war in history was entering into its fifth month. Millions of soldiers were bedded down in makeshift trenches latticed across the European countryside. In many places the opposing armies were dug in within thirty to fifty yards of each other and within shouting distance. The conditions were hellish. The bitter-cold winter air chilled to the bone. The trenches were water logged. Soldiers shared their quarters with rats and vermin. Lacking adequate latrines, the stench of human excrement was everywhere. The men slept upright to avoid the muck and sludge of their makeshift arrangements. Dead soldiers littered the no-man’s-land between opposing forces, the bodies left to rot and decompose within yards of their still-living comrades who were unable to collect them for burial. As dusk fell over the battlefields, something extraordinary happened. The Germans began lighting candles on the thousands of small Christmas trees that had been sent to the front to lend some comfort to the men. The German soldiers then began to sing Christmas carols-first “Silent Night,” then a stream of other songs followed. The English soldiers were stunned. One soldier, gazing in disbelief at the enemylines, said the blazed trenches looked “like the footlights of a theater.”‘The English soldiers responded with applause, at first tentatively, then with exuberance. They began to sing Christmas carols back to their German foes to equally robust applause. A few men from both sides crawled out of their trenches and beganto walk across the no-man’s-land toward each other. Soon hundreds followed. As word spread across the front, thousands of men poured outof their trenches. They shook hands, exchanged cigarettes and cakes and showed photos of their families. They talked about where they hailed from, reminisced about Christmases past, and joked about the absurdity of war.The next morning, as the Christmas sun rose over the battlefield of Europe, tens of thousands of men some estimates put the number as high as 100,000 soldiers talked quietly with one another? Enemies just twenty-four hours earlier, they found themselves helping each other bury their dead comrades. More than a few pickup soccer matches were reported. Even officers at the front participated, although when the news filtered back to the high command in the rear, the generals took a less enthusiastic view of the affair. Worried that the truce might undermine military morale, the generals quickly took measures to rein in their troops. The surreal “Christmas truce” ended as abruptly as it began- all in all, a small blip in a war that would end in November 1918 with 8.5 million military deaths in the greatest episode of human carnage in the annals of history until that time.” For a few short hours, no more than a day, tens of thousands of human beings broke ranks, not only from their commands but from their allegiances to country, to show their common humanity (Rifkin 2009).”


“If . . . human beings are . . . social animals who seek companionship and use empathetic extension to transcend themselves and find meaning in relationship with others, how do we account for the incredible violence our species has inflicted on each other, our fellow creatures, and the earth we inhabit? No other creature has left a destructive footprint on the Earth. Cultural historian Elias Canetti once remarked that “[e]ach of us is a king in a field of corpses.” 19 Canetti said that if we reflected on the vast number of creatures and Earth’s resources each of us has expropriated and consumed in the course of our lifetime to perpetuate our own existence, we would likely be appalled by the carnage. Yet there may be a an explanation for this perplexing duality. There is, I believe, a grand paradox to human history. At the heart of the human saga is a catch-22 – a contradiction of extraordinary significance – that has accompanied our species, if not from the very beginning, then at least from the time our ancestors began their slow metamorphosis from archaic to civilized beings thousands of years before Christ (Rifkin 2009:21).”


“underlying dialectic of human history is the continuous feedback loop between expanding empathy and increasing entropy. . (Rifkin 2009 26) . . energy is called “entropy,” a term coined by the German physicist Rudpolf Clausius in 1868. Clausius observed that in order for energy to be converted into work, there must be a difference in energy concentration (namely a difference in temperature) in different parts of the system. Work occurs when energy moves from a high level of concentration to a lower level (or a higher temperature to a lower temperature)(Rifkin 2009:28).”

key concepts, tags, rich phrases,
paradoxical relationship between empathy and entropyavert destruction of ecosystems, collapse of global economy, extinction of human race, change human consciousness itselfsocial thinkerinterconnected worldmutual understanding among diverse peoplesnew social tapestrynew communication revolutions complex societiesheightened empathic sensitivityexpanded human consciousness


“In his examination of the relationship between paranoia, megalomania and power, Elias Canetti (1984) conceives a figure representative of all three of these conditions: the survivor. For him, the survivor emerges at just about every point in the history of military, political and social power, and epitomizes the need to survive by destroying one’s enemies:

“The moment of survival is the moment of power. Horror at the sight of death turns to satisfaction that it is someone else dead.  The dead man lies on the ground while the survivor stands.  . . . In survival each man is the enemy of every other, and grief is insignificant measured against this elemental triumph. Whether the survivor is confronted by one dead man or by many, the essence of the situation is that he feels unique. He sees himself standing there alone and exults in it (Canetti 1984:227)”

“The characteristic trait of the survivor, then, is to assure his own threatened existence by killing others, or, in many cases, standing triumphantly before a comforting field of corpses. Moreover, the survivor, Canetti maintains, cannot exist without enemies. He is determined to save his people by defeating his enemies and, if need be, to sacrifice himself; he is the source of salvation and of survival for the masses. Schreber makes precisely this sort of claim when discussing his true mission: “I had to solve one of the most intricate problems ever set for man and. . . I had to fight a sacred battle for the greatest good of mankind.” (Schreber, p. 139)  But, in the end, this is just a ruse: “The deception is complete. It is the deception of all leaders. They pretend that they will be the first to die, but, in reality, they send their people to death, so that they themselves may stay alive longer(Canetti 1984:241).”

His own fear and fear mongering are the driving forces behind both the power and the strategy of the survivor. He spreads fear and a sense of danger, and, if he is in a position of command, fear spreads proportionately as his commands are carried out. His own fears are mitigated only by making an example of someone: “He will order an execution for its own sake, the guilt of the victim being almost irrelevant. He needs execution from time to time and, the more his fears increase, the more he needs them. His most dependable, one might say his truest, subjects are those he has sent to their deaths.” (Canetti 1984:232). The survivor’s personal fear also extends to the despot. The despot is his enemy, in that the despot is the projection of his own weaknesses and shortcomings. But, conversely, the survivor is the living example of the despot’s weaknesses: he survives, while despots consider survival their prerogative. In short, both are inimical to one another because both are the reflections of each other’s weakness, of their unfulfilled wishes, of their megalomaniacal pursuit of absolute power.

Although the survivor comes in virtually all forms and character types and exists in all historical eras, one of the prime examples of this sort given by Canetti is President Schreber. Schreber, of course, was neither a powerful military leader nor a murderous warrior-king, killing others so that he may survive. But he was, in Canetti’s view, a classic paranoid, and paranoid delusions sometimes reflect fantasies characteristic of the survivor. The foremost paranoid fantasy consists of the, so to speak, spontaneous generation of enemies, packs of them: “The paranoiac feels surrounded by a pack of enemies who are all after him. . . .his terror becomes overwhelming.” (Canetti 1984:456). The enemies are purely transformable, assuming any shape the delusional mechanisms might engender.


“and that each of us has grown strong on the bodies of innumerable animals. Here each of us is a king in a field of corpses. A conscientious investigation of power must ignore success. We must look for its attributes and their perversions wherever they appear . . . A madman, helpless, outcast, and despised . . . may, through the insights he procures us, prove more important than Hitler or Napoleon, illuminating for mankind its curse and its masters (Canetti 1984:448).”

References cited in footnotes, etc

Canetti, Elias. 1984. Crowds and Power. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. about Canetti ,

Roberts, Mark S. 2008. “Mere and Divine Madness: Bush, Schreber and the Contexts of Insanity.” Radical Psychology. Vol. 7.  see also

References cited in Rifkin Timeline

Annotation of European Dream

need to adopt a personal ethics of accountability (Rifkin ED 2004:379)

Barfield’s third state of consciousness

On Renaissance perspective

In his chapter entitled “Colonizing Nature” Jeremy Rifkins argued that Donatello, Uccello and Piero della Francesca with their radical new invention called perspective, contributed to a reconfiguration of the European relationship to the natural world and by extension to space and time. He described how the relational aspect of objects ruled by linear perspective, vanishing points and horizon lines produced a shift away from the a concept of space as a ladder stretching from earth to heaven. Modern science with its army of engineers measuring space and time and all that lay between and in so doing displaced the ladder with a secular science that birthed the modern world.

“Just imagine the change in consciousness that perspective brought. For early Christians, the world was thought of as just a temporary stage, a place to prepare for one’s eternal and everlasting salvation in the world to come. What counted was the community of believers, huddled together – as they are depicted in most medieval paintings – and awaiting the triumphant return of Christ the Lord. Perspective reconfigured human consciousness toward the horizontal world of the here and now and repositioned each human being to eventually become lord over his or her own earthly domain (Rifkin ED 2004:98).”

“Perspective migrated from the canvasses of the Renaissance artists to the writing tables of pre-Enlightenment philosphers, where it became the main conceptual tool for remaking the natural world in “man’s image.” Francis Bacon, the father of modern science, wrote his two most important works, The Novum Organum and The New Atlantis, in the early seventeenth century. The idea of perspective figured prominently in his rethinking of spatial relations and man’s role on earth (Rifkin ED 2004:98).”

ON Barfield’s third state of consciousness

1957 Owen Barfield described his his theory of the evolution of consciousness in his publication entitled Saving the Appearances, A Study in Idolatry. Rifkin referred to Barfield’s third state of consciousness.

“First, “original participation,” like human perception now, was largely unselfconscious, although the experience of it would necessarily be different from our present experience of perception (we live now, not then, in the wake of the “Cartesian experience”). Second, participation through poetic utterance corresponds to Barfield’s second stage, for it involves the individual’s self-conscious attempt to “reattach” to nature and to phenomena those extra-sensory qualities no longer intrinsically experienced; and it should not surprise anyone to discover that the growth of modern science in the 17th century would be the twin, or more properly the alter ego, to this second stage in the evolution of consciousness eventually brought to fruition and epitomized by the early 19th-century Romantic Movement in literature, a movement that produced Coleridge, among others. Lastly, final participation has not yet been achieved, although it may be foreshadowed in certain exceptional individuals. If the reader can think of these three levels of participation and the three stages of the evolution of consciousness as homologous, one might try momentarily borrowing from 19th-century biology the terms “ontogenetic” and “phylogenetic” development: hence the three levels of participation in an individual (the ontogenetic) could be said to “recapitulate” the three major stages in the evolution of human consciousness (the phylogenetic). At which point the same reader might well retort: “Wait a minute! That ontogenetic/phylogenetic recapitulating thesis is old, quasi-outmoded evolutionary jargon; this Barfield is supposed to be anti-Darwinian?” Indeed, he is. But he is not anti-evolution.” Read more of this review of Polyani and Barfield

One Response to “Emphatic Civilization: nurturing habit of working with full and complex thoughts.”

  1. […] my blog speechless I am now working on a series on Jeremy Rifkin regarding his call for a global consciousness as one way of bringing social change to the world. I found this citation useful in my own thinking […]

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