The Empathic Civilization

The Empathic Civilization☁ [PDF / Epub] ☀ The Empathic Civilization By Jeremy Rifkin ✎ – In this sweeping new interpretation of the history of civilization bestselling author Jeremy Rifkin looks at the evolution of empathy and the profound ways that it has shaped our development–and is In this sweeping new interpretation of the history of civilization bestselling author Jeremy Rifkin looks at the evolution of empathy and the The Empathic MOBI :¼ profound ways that it has shaped our development–and is likely to determine our fate as a species Today we face unparalleled challenges in an energy–intensive and interconnected world that will demand an unprecedented level of mutual understanding among diverse peoples and nations Do we have the capacity and collective will to come together in a way that will enable us to cope with the great challenges of our time In this remarkable book Jeremy Rifkin tells the dramatic story of the extension of human empathy from the rise of the first great theological civilizations to the ideological age that dominated the th and th centuries the psychological era that characterized much of the th century and the emerging dramaturgical period of the st century The result is a new social tapestry–The Empathic Civilization–woven from a wide range of fields Rifkin argues that at the very core of the human story is the paradoxical relationship between empathy and entropy At various times in history new energy regimes have converged with new communication revolutions creating ever complex societies that heightened empathic sensitivity and expanded human consciousness But these increasingly complicated milieus reuire extensive energy use and speed us toward resource depletion The irony is that our growing empathic awareness has been made possible by an ever–greater consumption of the Earth′s resources resulting in a dramatic deterioration of the health of the planet If we are to avert a catastrophic destruction of the Earth′s ecosystems the collapse of the global economy and the possible extinction of the human race we will need to change human consciousness itself–and in less than a generation Rifkin challenges us to address what may be the most important uestion facing humanity today Can we achieve global empathy in time to avoid the collapse of civilization and save the planet One of the most popular social thinkers of our time Jeremy Rifkin is the bestselling author of The European Dream The Hydrogen Economy¸ The End of Work The Biotech Century and The Age of Access He is the president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington DC. It took me a couple of months to go through this book some 600 pages with rather tight reasoning threads all the way through But in the end I found this to be a truly remarkable work I will try to summarise it hereFact 1 The whole of our civilisation at this time with a few exceptions relies on fossil fuel oil coal gas for about everything consumer goods transportation food and farm produce This has been the case for than a century The problem is that we are currently using up fossil fuel at such speed that with the increasing world population around 7 billion people that is four times the world population only a century ago there is less and less fossil fuel available for each of us This means a significant imbalance in the world economy where prices are bound to go up We already sense this as we go from one economic crisis to the next with no way to stop this process from getting worse each time Added to this rampant international conflicts to secure the spots where the sources of energy are located think oil wells in the Persian Gulf for instanceFact 2 While using up our primary energy source we are bringing about a change in the climate of our planet unprecedented in millions of years Fossil fuel consumption is releasing enormous amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere and increasing the greenhouse effect dramatically As a result solar heat cannot bounce back into space as it used to and the ecosystem temperature is rising The glaciers are disappearing jeopardising the populations that depend on them The polar caps are melting and the sea levels are rising The vast Canadian and Russian permafrost lands are thawing out releasing massive amounts of methane into the atmosphere increasing the greenhouse effect in a deadly feedback loop And as if this wasn’t enough extensive cattle mostly beef production is releasing astronomical amounts of greenhouse gases into the airThe result is likely to be significant climate imbalance increasing droughts along with all the conseuences you may imagine We don’t know if we are past the point where we can reverse the process but in any event we are probably facing a global mass extinction within the few decades to comeFact 3 The picture looks pretty grim but according to Rifkin there’s still hope Since the Enlightenment human beings have been considered rational and self interested But recent discoveries in cognitive science brain studies and child psychology demonstrate that human beings are primarily soft wired for empathy altruism and intimacy This empathic drive can be nurtured so that each of us can celebrate the beauty and frailty of life It can also be repressed in such a way that secondary drives kick in such as narcissism aggression or violence It all depends on parenting education and cultureTo reflect on our present civilisation Rifkin then goes on to explore human history and the significant changes in energy regimes which in turn brought about new communication regimes and new domains of consciousness and empathy In short there are four stagesStage 1 It starts with the prehistoric nomadic hunter gatherer populations Energy came from plants and animals; consciousness was mainly mythological animist belief; empathy extended to blood ties only the family the tribe the villageStage 2 A few thousand years ago humanity built the first great hydraulic civilisations Mesopotamia Egypt China Mexico Energy came from extended and centralised agriculture which gave rise to writing to manage storage and trade of grains; consciousness was primarily theological polytheism monotheism Buddhism; empathy extended to coreligionists These civilisations however ended up collapsing Rifkin’s explanations on the fall of the Roman Empire due to entropy in agricultural energy are uite enlighteningStage 3 A couple of centuries ago a new energy regime appeared with coal steam and rail 1st industrial revolution A new communication regime was instated with the print press and the development of literacy through public schooling; consciousness evolved to the ideological stage with the creation of nation states; empathy extended once to encompass our fellow citizensStage 4 A few decades ago in the developed countries the energy regime switched again from coal to cheaper energy sources oil gas and uranium 2nd industrial revolution and the development of mass transportation cars trucks highways tankers planes airports; the telephone was introduced on top of print; consciousness became psychological and therapeutic the development of psychology since Freud; empathy extended to like minded peopleThis is where we are right now and we need to move fast to the next stage of energycommunicationconsciousnessempathy regime because our fossil fuel civilisation is sunsetting The mind boggling problem the empathyentropy paradox is that as communication consciousness and empathy expand to the furthest reaches of the world and energy is consumed depleting the Earth of its natural resources and putting us all at the brink of planetary doom Will we able to develop a biosphere consciousness and save our world in time?We are in fact on the cusp of a 3rd industrial revolution with the development of distributed Internet communications which increases global consciousness Rifkin calls it “dramaturgical consciousness” and empathy in a way never seen before in the history of humankind A similar revolution needs to happen now on the energy side a radical shift from geopolitics to biosphere politics This means rushing towards #1 Clean renewable energy sources sunlight winds tides geothermal recycled waste; #2 New ways of collecting energy namely every building must be a power plant solar panels on each roof; #3 A massive and radical change in infrastructure hydrogen storage and inter grid IT networks ie peer to peer energy distribution to every building every vehicle every home applianceThis book which is by the way heavily documented with all sorts of references and studies the endnotes make for about 14th of the volume has far reaching implications in politics and government parenting and education architecture and housing economy and corporate life and nearly every aspect of our lives It is a brilliant call to action Let’s hope we can listen before it is too late This is an enormous book covering the entire psychological history of our civilization positing an argument for the direction we are now headed what he calls biosphere consciousness He makes this case by showing that every paradigm shift in the history of our culture was caused by a simultaneoous revolution in communications technology and energy regime and with it always came an increased sense of individualism which in turn led to an increased sense of empathy He argues that we are on the brink of another such revolution the communications technology being the internet and the energy regime being various distributed forms of energy productionThe best but most long winded part of this book is the history I found it fascinating to see history portrayed in this way I never thought much about how our civilizations' psychologies have been developing and now that I have I wonder if this is a lot relevant way of telling history The author is definitely a believer in our civilization He tells stories of history without flinching acknowledging the horrors but focusing on how we've been progressively developing empathyFor much of the book he seems to blame the state of our civilization on entropy rather than the destructive attitudes and beliefs He also gets a few facts wrong but by the end of the book it becomes clear that he really does get it for the most part I agree about the direction of our civilization but I'm not as optimistic about it I fear it will be too little too late The message Rifkin has to tell is one of the most important in our social and cultural history and the only aspect keeping me from giving the book a solid five stars is the slight caveat attached to any Rifkin books which is related to the way he tells a story Rifkin is a pop scientist and culturalist hence his work won't go as deep as say Steven Pinker's 'The Better Angels of Our Nature' or Peter Turchin's 'War and Peace and War' The advantage to taking the 30000 foot approach as Rifkin does is not just that his ideas become comprehensible to a wider audience but that he can integrate a broader array of cultural and environmental trends in making his case The disadvantage is that when we don't dive deep into how the selfish gene and altruistic gene interact or in how mirror neurons have evolved in larger neural networks Rifkin's case sounds less convincing Particularly as he brings in elements of entropy trends and energy use trends that Rifkin has written about before there is a danger in pulling in any random element to prove the case for an emergent empathic civilizationThe best part of Rifkin's book resides in its center section about the shift over centuries from magical hunter gatherer to faith centered medievalists to Enlightenment rationalists and nineteenth century Romanticists and on to the 20th century psychology centric and 21st century altruists Cognitive neuroscientists would buy into much of what Rifkin poses as a history of consciousness and it seems almost intuitive and obvious how the empathic gene takes center stage over time but also showing why each step in moving to multi conscious empathy was a necessary step that would be difficult to skip I find Rifkin to be a little too kind to the 19th century Romanticists I love Rousseau and Goethe to be sure but Byron and Shelley displayed an underside that showed that an excess of Romanticism can lead to Mussolini style fascism Just ask Ezra PoundRifkin's opening Part 1 seemed less necessary somehow since he spends the first few chapters taking apart Sigmund Freud In the 21st century this seems almost like a straw man exercise Does anyone believe in Freudian theory any ? Maybe among the humanists Rifkin hangs with residual trust in Freud remains but my jaded postmodern and neuroscientist friends dismissed Freud years ago Rifkin almost could have started with Part 2 of his book and formed a coherent wholeMany will criticize Part 3 of the book as being far too kumbaya for a world still dominated by materialist greed and war but there are many who dismiss Pinker and Turchin as well The trends toward an empathic universal consciousness emerging are real ones but as Rifkin says they emerge on a backdrop of humans befouling their own environment The point is we fully recognize it and are trying to confront the damages we cause Selfish acuisition and slaughter of the Other will always be with us but empathy does indeed seem to be coming front and center Those who dwell in visions of Apocalypse will deny this but the reasons for limited optimism are everywhere Rifkin makes an important point when he says that in any era remnants of the consciousness style of older eras remain as evolutionary vestiges of unwanted limbs Therefore we should expect to still retain some forager mysticism some Medieval monotheism some Newton era neutral objectivism some Byron Romanticism some 20th century promotion of self esteem and some 21st century multiculturalism The trick lies in getting the balance rightRifkin's argument in Part 3 that the dramaturgical self makes the issue of self authenticity less relevant is an important one and I applaud the way he has applied that to social networks Rifkin thinks that narcissism in the era of Facebook and Twitter is actually less of a problem than it was in the 1980s and 1990s and he might have a point though there are still a plethora of fame and infamy hungry narcissists on FacebookRifkin's 2009 book concludes with a nod to the 2008 election of Barack Obama a mention that might sound dated because of all the problems Obama has faced But the results of the 2012 elections reinforce his point somewhat but not so much in the fact that Obama was re elected Most Republicans gnash their teeth not so much over four years of Obama but from a universal shift to gay marriage approval pot legalization rejection of politicians like Akin and Mourdock etc It isn't so much that Obama himself represents a turning point as much as the Millenials are ushering in the victory of multicultural hippie paganism over Judeo Christian traditionalism and this probably will ease the way to the empathic civilization Rifkin describes Skeptics would say there still are far too many Islamic Salafists Russian Orthodox traditionalists and East African evangelicals out there but Rifkin would argue that this does not necessitate wars the dominance of English language pop culture and its multicultural support for women's rights gay rights etc assures that the battle is won without a shot being firedI only regret that in the last few pages of the book Rifkin returns to Goethe's critiue of the scientific method I agree with the notion of a compassionate method of neutral inuiry but if we go too far down the route Rifkin suggests we end up in the post modernist mush where any narrative is eual to any other narrative It is true that what we consider a solid objective world is actually a series of probability wave fronts and that strengthens Rifkin's argument that the self is a process not an object Nevertheless there is a physical world of wavefronts that exists outside the sentient self and Francis Bacon had a point in describing a way of studying the external world so that we don't bring in our biases The scientific method may be updated for the 21st century but if we throw out the baby with the bathwater we find that there would be as much validity for blaming Hurricane Sandy on witches or a vengeful God as on climate fronts disrupted by human behavior And we don't want to go back to a world dominated by magic and divine interventionRifkin is a very sharp guy who has always displayed a few annoying tendencies in pop psychology whether writing about biotechnology or Europe or entropy But if you can apply the right filters you will find 'The Empathic Civilization' filled with some of the most important cultural ideas yet expressed this century and you can always go back to Pinker or Turchin for a deeper dive Despite being sometimes overwritten Rifkin's latest contribution to what I like to call cosmopolitan theory starting now has changed how I see things I'm not necessarily converted to all his theories or his barely suppressed optimism but two experiences one directly related to reading The Empathic Civilization and one indirectly related show how this paradigm shifter shifted mine just a wee bit1 Rifkin makes a strong case for an idea I had never considered before but which rang true as if I'd been thinking it subconsciously for years Human nature is not some static entity to which one can universally appeal Rather it's intimately connected with the kind of world childhood largest worries methods of commerce and communication that exists at any given time Our conscious policy and personal decisions can take the raw material of the world and either form a large human family or deteriorate into unhealthy narcissism 2 Ok maybe this isn't as indirect as I thought Rifkin's conception of the Third Industrial Revolution the nexus of internet technology and sustainable energy despite my usual skepticism made loads of sense For some reason I had never considered the possibility of an entire globe powered sustainably The energy lost in the transfer of electricity though it wouldn't disappear would be drastically reduced and an eually powered planet would undoubtedly be a empathic planet Although I will say I think Rifkin is a little too impatient with nuclear power and I think his main objection stems from his optimism and impatience to commence the new empathic world orderThis is probably unintelligible to folks who haven't read the book It's long daunting in appearance and sometimes meandering But the stirring conclusion after Rifkin's survey of world everything psychology history economics biology etcmakes the foundational 400 pages worth the time and effort It's a game changer Rifkin is a brilliant guy who portrays his ideas in a very clean and enjoyable writing style The majority of this book is a retelling of human history with the focus being on how our consciousness has grown and been shaped by certain events He ends with some great ideas on how we are and how we can continue to improve society while ensuring the safety of the planet we reside on I enjoyed every page of this book and I caught myself wondering a few times how much better the world might be if this book was reuired reading in every college across the globe This is another inspiring book by Jeremy Rifkin the second of his that I've read It draws on similar themes as The Zero Marginal Cost Society in that the world is experiencing a revolution is energy and communication in a massive way The Internet is only one example another inspiring idea is the decentralization of energy into renewables that can be harvested by individuals and communities and fed back into a responsive grid The author traces the history of empathy back to the beginning of history in an impressive arc that ends up with the Millennial generation The central uestion of the book is Can human empathy overcome entropy? New technology has given us the ability to connect with people across the planet at the same time that climate science is showing us the impending tragedy of global warming Will we be able to organize our way out of this mess in time? With chapters titles like The Planetary Entropic Abyss and The Theatrical Self in an Improvisational Society this is not light reading It's a brick I skimmed some of the way because it is chock full of great examples that thoroughly illustrate his ideas I renewed this book from the library twice but I'm glad I finished it Rifkin proposes the hypothesis that empathy is a first order driver of human actions on par with what we consider primal instincts and he makes a very good case He goes into detail explaining how communications have evolved in a symbiotic relationship with energy revolutions for example writing was necessitated by the need to create complex instructions for hydraulic civilizations printing presses helped with the industrial revolution etc As civilizations grow they use energy which creates an entropy problem but because they also develop in terms of communication capabilities they also evolve a greater sense of empathy Now as the world has become so interconnected we are moving away from individual autonomy and even away from nationalism towards greater interdependence and shared experiences and from competition to cooperation Empathy and the ability to empathize has changed as we moved from being able to empathize based on tribes to religion to nations and now to a species as a whole It is a very well crafted and researched book but it falls short in not covering other avenues where evolving empathy has made a difference like war and global trade and it doesn't cover enough non Western cultures nor does it examine any backlash to the growing empathic civilization or any predictions about moving past nationalism beyond mere generalities At over 500 pages it is still worth a read for the very good ideas you get from it and I found it both hopeful and affirming of things I have long felt but it still left me wanting to get information and ideas On the other hand maybe that's what makes it so good it makes me want to read Part biology part psychology part history and all philosophy this is a book that deserves to be read slowly and digested not raced through Rifkin takes as his thesis an idea that has been pushed by practically every new age guru for the last 100 years in fact I wonder if Aleistar Crowley and Ayn Rand weren't a backlash against that; that humanity is entering a new social paradigm based not on self interest and material gain but on empathy and sharing Just in time too as the fuels that have powered our previous 300 year Enlightenment based paradigm are about to A run out and B cause drastic climate effectsHe begins by discussing mirror neurons which allow one person to feel what another is feeling then delves into the advancement of psychology since Freud He posits that human psychology is developed by human civilization; when your culture is based on a medieval hierarchy you don't necessarily have the same developed sense of individuality that a 21st century person does; and without individuality there is only a limited capacity for empathy Empathy is what enables us to feel the same way towards people we haven't met yet s though they were our immediate family thus drawing our global population into a human familyThere is a sense of urgency however; the old paradigm of materialism being central to well being still holds sway among the rich and powerful and why not? and the earth can't absorb much carbon By the way we hit peak oil per capita in 1979; a function of declining oil reserves and an exploding population Most books provide an escape from daily life or offer information about a specific subject Jeremy Rifkin's Empathic Civilization does both and also has the power to fundamentally change one's entire worldview As for escape The Empathic Civilization removes readers from the specific minutiae of everyday life encouraging them instead to focus on big broad issues and consider themselves as part of a larger extremely powerful whole As for information the book introduces readers to a litany of fascinating insights related to such diverse fields as economics psychology history politics science theology and philosophyRifkin takes The Empathic Civilization a step above and beyond with his overall thesis that the world is indeed in dire straights and that we can only solve these pressing problems through empathy Overall The Empathic Civilization has changed the way I regard thought civilization family friends and the meaning of life This is a book that must be read from cover to cover with full attention Rarely does a book offer so much in one volume so do not consider its heft to represent an all you can eat literary hot dog eating contest but rather a gourmet all you can eat buffet of some of the most fascinating concepts you'll have encountered in years Bon appetit This is the book that pulls it all together Jeremy Rifkin captures the currents of history and puts our current dilemmas as a global society into perspective RIfkin's formulation of the core dialectic of the progression of human consciousness through cultural technological advances balanced by the increasing entropy which results from the increasing technological demands of our increasingly complex civilization is nothing less than genius Amazingly Rifkin a consultant to the United Nations and the EU knows psychoanalytic concepts better than most psychiatrists and weaves these seamlessly into his theories which incorporate an in depth understanding of complex systems theory and of course the history of civilization and religion Rifkin's analysis of the evolution of human consciousness through the stages of mythological theological ideological psychological and most recently what he calls dramaturgical consciousness is fascinating and convincing His thesis regarding the historical evolution of the self and its correlation with sophisticated capacity for empathy is also convincing Rifkin explains how we are at a turning point with global consciousness within our grasp but the the bill for civilization's energy expenditures coming due and threatening to undo all we have accomplished An awesome analysis of our time

The Empathic Civilization eBook ☆ The Empathic  MOBI
  • Hardcover
  • 688 pages
  • The Empathic Civilization
  • Jeremy Rifkin
  • English
  • 24 March 2016
  • 9780745641454