The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism

The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism

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By (author) Jeremy Rifkin

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  • Publisher: Palgrave MacMillan
  • Format: Hardback | 368 pages
  • Dimensions: 160mm x 241mm x 33mm | 499g
  • Publication date: 1 April 2014
  • Publication City/Country: Basingstoke
  • ISBN 10: 1137278463
  • ISBN 13: 9781137278463
  • Sales rank: 22,487

Product description

The capitalist era is passing - not quickly, but inevitably. Rising in its wake is a new global collaborative Commons that will fundamentally transform our way of life. Ironically, capitalism's demise is not coming at the hands of hostile external forces. Rather, The Zero Marginal Cost Society argues, capitalism is a victim of its own success. Intense competition across sectors of the economy is forcing the introduction of ever newer technologies. Bestselling author Jeremy Rifkin explains that this competition is boosting productivity to its optimal point where the marginal cost of producing additional units is nearly zero, which makes the product essentially free. In turn, profits are drying up, property ownership is becoming meaningless, and an economy based on scarcity is giving way to an economy of abundance, changing the very nature of society. Rifkin describes how hundreds of millions of people are already transferring parts of their economic lives from capitalist markets to global networked Commons. "Prosumers" are producing their own information, entertainment, green energy, and 3-D printed products at nearly zero marginal cost, and sharing them via social media sites, rentals, redistribution clubs, bartering networks, and cooperatives. Meanwhile, students are enrolling in massive open online courses (MOOCs) that also operate at near-zero marginal cost. And young social entrepreneurs are establishing ecologically sensitive businesses, crowdsourcing capital, and even creating alternative currencies in the new sharable economy. As a result, "exchange value" in the marketplace - long the bedrock of our economy - is increasingly being replaced by "use value" on the collaborative Commons. In this new era, identity is less bound to what one owns and more to what one shares. Cooperation replaces self-interest, access trumps ownership, and networking drubs autonomy. Rifkin concludes that while capitalism will be with us for at least the next half century, albeit in an increasingly diminished role, it will no longer be the dominant paradigm. We are, Rifkin says, entering a world beyond markets where we are learning how to live together collaboratively and sustainably in an increasingly interdependent global Commons.

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Author information

Jeremy Rifkin, one of the most popular social thinkers of our time, is the bestselling author of 19 books including The Third Industrial Revolution, The Empathic Civilization, The European Dream, The Age of Access, The Hydrogen Economy, The Biotech Century, and The End of Work. His books have been translated into more than 35 languages. Rifkin is an advisor to the European Union and heads of state around the world. He is a senior lecturer at the Wharton School's Executive Education Program at the University of Pennsylvania and the president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington, DC.

Review quote

"Admirable in its scope...what makes "The Zero Marginal Cost Society" worth reading is its audacity, its willingness to weave a vast string of developments into a heartening narrative of what our economic future may hold for the generations to come. You can call it naive, but it's much more than that. It's hopeful."--"Fortune" "A thought-provoking read that pushes some of the most important new technologies to their logical-and sometimes scary-conclusions...The value of this book... doesn't lie in the accuracy of its specific forecasts, but rather in the extrapolations of current trends that enable Rifkin to reach them. If Rifkin's predictions have value... it is in bringing home the extent of the technologically induced upheaval that may lie ahead. How we deal with the consequences is up to us. A grand unifying theory of [Rifkin's] thinking over four decades." --"The Financial Times""" "[An] illuminating new book...Rifkin is very good on the historical origins of the giant, vertically integrated organizations that dominated the 20 Century economy. [He] makes a powerful case that from a longer-term perspective, it is these giant hierarchies that are the anomalies of economic history. The shredding of vertical value chains, the creation of vast new horizontal value chains, and the social change of people preferring access to ownership...bring massive economic and social changes to business and society, the implications of which [are] only beginning to be glimpsed. For Rifkin, the shifts are positive and huge."--"Forbes""Jeremy Rifkin offers an ambitious and optimistic image of how a commons-based, collaborative model of the economy could displace industrial capitalism when the economic and social practices of the Internet are extended to energy, logistics, and material fabrication. Even skeptical readers, concerned with the ubiquitous surveillance and exquisite social control that these same technologies enable, should find the vision exhilarating and its exposition thought provoking."--Yochai Benkler, Harvard Law School "This breathtaking book connects some of today's most compelling technology-driven trends into a five-hundred-year spiral from commons to capitalism and back. Rifkin has produced an intellectual joyride that takes us to the threshold of a new economic order."--Kevin Werbach, the Wharton School"The Zero Marginal Cost Society confirms Jeremy Rifkin as the peerless visionary of technological trends. The future arrives only to fill in the sketches that Rifkin so ably draws. I highly recommend this book as a cure for those who are perplexed about the future of technology."--Calestous Juma, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University "In his latest work, Jeremy Rifkin turns his gaze on the world in which almost everything has a marginal cost approaching zero, asking what the implications are for our economy and the environment. Rifkin's radical conclusions--foretelling the eclipse of our current economic system and the rise of the "collaboratists"--will make this one of the most discussed books of the year."--James Boyle, the Center for the Study of the Public Domain, Duke Law School"Jeremy Rifkin takes us on a whirlwind tour of our past and future, making the undeniable case for our growing, global collaborative destiny. I dare you to read this book and not rethink your future!"--Lisa Gansky, author of "The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing""A comprehensive exploration of the implications of anyone being able to make anything"--Neil Gershenfeld, Director, MIT Center for Bits and Atoms"An amazing work...This insightful, surprising, and practical book helps us understand how the emerging Internet of Things is driving extreme productivity, the rush to a near zero marginal cost society, and the rise of a new economic paradigm. Rifkin solves the puzzle of what companies, nonprofit organizations, and governments need to do to reposition themselves on the new Collaborative Commons. The book is a must read for every citizen and decision maker."--Jerry Wind, the Wharton School"Free-market traditionalists have trouble recognizing that the future of governance and economics lies with the Commons--a world of collaboration, sharing, ecological concern and human connection. Jeremy Rifkin deftly describes the powerful forces that are driving this new paradigm and transforming our personal lives and the economy. A highly readable account of the next big turn of the wheel."--David Bollier, author of "Think Like a Commoner: A Short Introduction to the Life of the Commons""Brilliantly tackled...Rifkin describes how the dramatic lowering of transaction, communication, and coordination costs allow the global scaling of small group dynamics, fundamentally changing the choices that humanity can make for its social organization. Read it, rejoice, and take action to build the new world in which the market and the state are not destroying the commons, but aligned with it."--Michel Bauwens, Founder, P2P Foundation"Jeremy Rifkin has always been ahead of the curve. In The Zero Marginal Cost Society, Rifkin takes us on a journey to the future, beyond consumerism to "prosumers" who produce what they consume and share what they have on a Collaborative Commons, a contemporary expression of Gandhi's "Swadeshi." His down to earth vision of democratizing innovation and creativity on a global scale, for the wellbeing of all, is inspiring and, equally important, doable."--Vandana Shiva, Environmental Activist and recipient of the Right Livelihood Award

Table of contents

1. The Great Paradigm Shift from Capitalism to Collaboratism PART I: THE UNTOLD HISTORY OF CAPITALISM 2. The European Enclosures and the Birth of the Market Economy 3. The Courtship of Capitalism and Economies of Scale 4. Human Nature Through a Capitalist Lens PART II: THE NEAR ZERO MARGINAL COST SOCIETY 5. The Exponential Race to a Free Economy 6. 3D Printing: From Mass Production to Production by the Masses 7. MOOCs and a Zero Marginal Cost Education 8. The Birth of the Prosumer PART III: THE RISE OF THE COLLABORATIVE COMMONS 9. The Comedy of the Commons 10. The Collabortists Prepare for Battle 11. The Struggle to Define and Control the Intelligent Infrastructure PART IV: SOCIAL CAPITAL AND THE SHARING ECONOMY 12. The Transformation from Ownership to Access 13. Crowdsourcing Capital, Democratizing Currency, and Humanizing Entrepreneurship PART V: THE ECONOMY OF ABUNDANCE 14. Sustaining Abundance 15. The Three Wilds Cards of the Apocalypse 16. A Biosphere Lifestyle Afterward: A Personal Note