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The European Dream Hardcover – August 19, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Why are so few Americans paying attention to the dramatic changes taking place across the Atlantic, Rifkin (The End of Work) asks in his provocative and well-argued manifesto for the new European Union. Famously, Americans "live to work" while Europeans "work to live," and Rifkin demonstrates statistically and anecdotally that Europe's humane approach to capitalism makes for a healthier, better-educated populace. The U.S. lags behind in its unimaginative approach to working hours, productivity and technology, Rifkin claims, while Europe is leading the way into a new era while competing well in terms of productivity. Rifkin traces the cultural roots of what he says is America's lack of vision to its emphasis on individual autonomy and the accumulation of wealth; Europe's dream is more rooted in connectedness and quality of life. Americans may be risk takers, but Rifkin is more admiring of risk-sensitive European realism, as well as its secularism and social democracy. Exploring the history behind the two continents' wildly differing sensibilities, Rifkin examines the myth of the U.S. as "land of opportunity" and the two continents' contrasting attitudes to foreign policy, peace keeping and foreign aid. Rifkin's claims are not new, but he writes with striking clarity, combining the insights of contemporary sociologists and economists with up-to-the minute data and powerfully apt journalistic observations. While he may appear to idealize Europe's new direction, Rifkin's comparative study is scrupulously thorough and informative, and his rigor will please all readers interested in the future of world affairs.
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From Booklist

The American Dream is not dead, says Rifkin, but it's showing its years. Contrasting definitively American fantasies of individual autonomy, material wealth, and cultural assimilation with an emerging European vision of community relationships, quality of life, and cultural diversity, Rifkin argues that the great bloodshed of the twentieth century liberated Europeans from their past, better preparing them for global citizenship in the twenty-first century. Rifkin paints this contrast with grandiose, if sometimes messy, strokes, blending an intellectual history of the Enlightenment into an informed discussion of modern European political infrastructure. Rifkin is an American who has spent much of his life doing business in Europe, and his reasoned arguments are likewise often accompanied by personal anecdotes; it's clear on which continent his heart lies. But those who would dismiss Rifkin's polemics as rewarmed socialism miss the author's core argument. It is not a clash-of-civilizations diatribe but rather an appeal to Europeans to back their emergent vision with (American) courage and to Americans to temper their intemperate optimism with (European) moral perspective. The point is conversation, not competition. Brendan Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Tarcher; New Ed edition (August 19, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585423459
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585423453
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #745,411 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

One of the most popular social thinkers of our time, Jeremy Rifkin is the bestselling author of The European Dream, The Hydrogen Economy, The Age of Access, The Biotech Century, and The End of Work. A fellow at the Wharton School's Executive Education Program and an adviser to several European Union heads of state, he is the president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Bethesda, Maryland.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

91 of 105 people found the following review helpful By Stuart Gardner VINE VOICE on August 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is a well written, comprehensively researched and thought provoking book that attempts to define a developing "European Dream". A parallel argument is also made that the " American Dream" has run its course. A good case is made for suggesting the American work ethic and optimism for the future is being replaced by a society where luck is more important than hard work and a pesimistic outlook is starting to prevail.

Riffkin accuratley describes key and fundamental differences that do exist between the USA and Europe. He suggests the US is more religous, less concerned about environment and measures sucess by wealth. Europeans are more interested in quality of life and are increasingly matching or surpassing the productivity of the US worker (my summary does not do justice to his text).

Where I do think Rifkins work becomes prophecy is the concept of a European dream. I am English, and I do recognise the UK isn't the most pro european of member states. However, the concept of a United States of Europe with a shared dream appears far off, and getting further away with the inclusion of so many new eastern european states (having got shot of the USSR they are only now enjoying a renewed sense of national identity). There isn't even agreement within the UK for a common dream (between the Scots, Welsh, English and not forgetting the folks in Northern Ireland).

This is a fascinating book with numerous interesting predictions. Only time will tell.
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120 of 149 people found the following review helpful By Erin Campbell on October 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Rifkin provides a sorely needed counter-perspective to the current American assumption of the universalism of its values. By tracing the transplanting of Enlightenment ideas to the undeveloped New World, Rifkin shows how the American character of staunch individualism and unfettered expansionism were created. While these qualities have made America a superpower, Rifkin calls to question their efficacy in the new era of globalization where sustainability and collective action may prove more important. Rifkin outlines how Europe is conducting its own experiment in creating a system of cooperation among disperate partners which may prove more compatible with the emerging new world order. Currently, many European countries score very high in quality of life measurements, while the United States lags behind most of the industrially developed nations in many critical areas, like access to health care. By accepting lower levels of materialism, Europeans have more "quality time" for people and activities important to them. Rifkin does point out the potential pitfalls of this European experiment (e.g., tough enough in a hostile world?). Still, examining another system -- which is successful in different ways than America -- provides an opportunity to reflect on how American values may or may not mesh with the rest of the world.
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62 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Paul M. Day on July 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I should start by saying that I find the idea of a European challenge to America quite exciting, and being an American that view puts me with the minority who you would expect would buy this book.

However, Mr. Rifkin disappointed me with his analysis. It seemed to me that the man has little reverence for the truth, and uses quite a bit of interpretation to substantiate his claims. The book is soft on facts. He perpetuates myths about the American culture which were more applicable to 1920's American than to "post-modern" society. The book would have been far better if it were shorter. He often elaborates as if children whom know nothing of history were reading the book.

The first thing that infuriated me was that he constantly refers to modern science as "enlightenment science". He is actually referring to both the so-called science of eugenics and scientific management culture which were state and corporate inventions of the 19th century. Thomas Jefferson and Adam Smith had nothing to do with these perversions of science. While the enlightenment figures had a respect for objectivity in analysis, Mr. Rifkin makes it seem like Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin would have supported the barbarity science has been put to in the past 200 years. It was Smith himself who opposed turning man into machines. In Wealth of Nations, he believed that the government should step in to protect workers from the overuse of the division of labor, because it would "turn them into creatures as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human to be". In all, the enlightenment was humane and had a respect for humanity.

Corporate science, however, is what he is basically talking about. That came about with the industrial revolution and Taylorism.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Gunnar Beeth on January 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
Jeremy Rifkin's father once said to him: "What separates the dreamers from the doers is discipline and hard work." Jeremy Rifkin has obviously put an enormous amount of both discipline and hard work into this book. But the reader remains searching for inspiration and new major thinking.

Rifkin's thorough comparison of American to European thought and attitudes is outstanding. That comparison alone makes the book worth buying. Rifkin concludes amazingly:

"Europe is busy preparing for a new era while America is

desperately trying to hold on to the old one."

Rifkin is an outstanding historian and a person with excellent understanding of both Europe and USA. His chapter on "The Immigrant Dilemma" is also well worth reading.

I have learnt several tidbits from the book; but nothing earthshaking.

Obviously, "The European Dream" was written by an optimistic American. I couldn't imagine a cynical European sitting down to write a long book with that title.

Gunnar Beeth
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