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The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis Hardcover – December 31, 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For author and social thinker Rifkin (The European Dream, The Hydrogen Economy), an E.U. advisor and senior lecturer at Wharton's Executive Education Program, the central paradox of human existence is, and has always been, the conflict between empathy and entropy: while globalization brings together diverse people, the very good-a rise in "empathic awareness"-is counterbalanced by the very bad-"dramatic deterioration of the health of the planet," by way of the technology that drives progress. Though wordy, Rifkin provides a thorough, lucid overview of mankind's history along the "empathy/entropy" spectrum: Spencer's mischaracterization of "nature red in tooth and claw," replaced by a more sensitive understanding of the biological and sociological evolution; the progression of socio-economic communities-civilizations-from the Neolithic to the "Modern Market Economy"; the current "Age of Empathy," in which the dominance of one language (English), "backyard" energies (wind, solar, etc.), the biosphere education in classrooms, and other developments, shine the way forward. Despite windiness and occasional hyperbole, this is the kind of reading fans of Jared Diamond and Richard Dawkins can sink their teeth into, with a contagious sense of urgency over whether we can "reach biosphere consciousness and global empathy in time to avert planetary collapse."
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"A brilliant read ... that boldly challenges the conventional view of human nature embedded in our educational systems, business practices, and political culture." Huffington Post "The kind of reading fans of Jared Diamond and Richard Dawkins can sink their teeth into, with a contagious sense of urgency over whether we can 'reach biosphere consciousness and global empathy in time to avert planetary collapse.'" Publishers Weekly "A thoroughly entertaining read." Socialist Unity "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." New York Times Rifkin is "one of the leading big-picture thinkers of our day." Utne Reader "Rifkin poses real questions that we've spent too little time thinking about." Washington Post --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 688 pages
  • Publisher: TarcherPerigee; First Edition edition (December 31, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585427659
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585427659
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #280,739 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Byron Mccormick on January 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a serious book. It's well researched, well thought out and articulates the author's thoughts clearly in easy to read fashion. The question Jared Diamond asked, " What did the people on Easter Island think as they cut down the last tree?"
resonates throughout this book, but we're not discussing an isolated island, but the future of at least the developed world and maybe mankind. Unlike many pundits and politicians, Mr Rifkin first delves deeply and broadly into underlying assumptions, historical context, and cultural issues, which while seeming maybe extraneous are the very essence from which we must fashion the future.
Businesses, organizations and civilizations fail mainly because they continue to operate on assumptions which a no longer valid...things have changed. The case is strong that we are at one of those massive inflection points in history where old assumptions are no longer holding true. With the pending sunset of the " second industrial revolution", Mr Rifkin then posits the framework for a "Third Industrial Revolution" which is as remarkably different from today's centralized carbon powered society, as is the IPhone, Amazon, internet world from the mom and pop grocery stores and wire based telephones of our parents. This is a compelling vision and is one which potentially puts mankind on a positive course for the future, taking "the world is flat" to it's logical conclusion with a highly distributed, more equitable form of capitalism, as opposed to the punitive, fine based approach we have so recently seen in evidence in Copenhagen.
One way to test proposition is to check it's sensitivity to the underlying assumptions. The vision presented still seems to remain vaild even when/if some of the assumptions presented turn out in the end to not be true.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I find it interesting that (at least as of the time of my writing this review) all three reviewers who rated this book less than 5 stars didn't actually read it, or by their own admission, didn't read very far. This is not surprising, of course. When we bring preconceived notions and biases to a book and fail to experience the fullness of what it actually says, we will judge it according to our prejudices and find it lacking. That's why I generally ignore such reviews, and discount their ratings.

I carefully read every page of this book (616 pages, not counting footnotes). I marked it up extensively. I re-read some sections. My bottom line recommendation: IF YOU ONLY READ ONE BOOK THIS YEAR, MAKE IT THIS ONE! I have read hundreds, perhaps thousands, of books in my 51 years of life on this planet. I must honestly say that I consider Jemery Rifkin's The Empathic Civilization to be one of the 5 most significant and important (and realistically hopeful) books I've ever read. I cannot recommend this book too highly. The history of cosmic, biological, and human evolution understood meaningfully is my field of expertise. This book does it all. It integrates humanity's best collective intelligence regarding human nature and human history and does so in a way that is a pure delight to read. Mid-way through the book I thought to myself, "How can one person know all this?!" That's when I went back and re-read the acknowledgements. Rifkin had a director of research working on this project for 4 years, with two dozen interns. No wonder it's so complete! I promise that if you give this book a good reading (it's worth taking the time to truly do so!), you will never see human nature, human history, or our prospects for a healthy future in the same way again.
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Format: Kindle Edition
A wonderful book which offers a very cogent analysis of the perilous state of the world. The root of our problems is that we have a mindset which is unsuited to the present era of instant global communication - we are still operating according to an outdated view of the world. The book is written with a great deal of passion and energy, and despite all its urgent highlighting of problems, still offers hope for the future.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a society-changing piece of work.

This is a magnum opus from a very specific point of view that overlooks both major consciousness figures and major biosphere figures. Herman Daly gets one note, Tom Atlee, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Steve McIntosh are not in this book. Buckminster Fuller, Paul Hawken, the Meadows, E. O. Wilson on Consilience, J. F Rischard on HIGH NOON, etcetera, are not in this book. My review begins after the Table of Contents, which the publisher failed to provide using standard Amazon tools for publishers.

Table of Contents

I The Hidden Paradox of Human History

HOMO EMPATHICUS

2 The New View of Human Nature
3 A Sentient Interpretation of Biological Evolution
4 Becoming Human
5 Rethinking the Meaning of the Human Journey

EMPATHY AND CIVILIZATION

6 The Ancient Theological Brain and Patriarchal Economy
7 Cosmopolitan Rome and the Rise of Urban Christianity
8 The Soft Industrial Revolution of the Late Medieval era and the Birth of Humanism
9 Ideological Thinking in a Modern Market Economy
10 Psychological Consciousness in a postmodern Existential world

THE AGE OF EMPATHY

11 The Climb to Global Peak Empathy
12 The Planetary Entropic Abyss
13 The Emerging Era of Distributed Capitalism
14 The Theatrical Self in an Improvisational Society
15 Biosphere Consciousness in a Climax Economy

- - - - - - - -

If this book is reprinted, it should be single-spaced. The massive bulk (675 pages) is pretentious and not necessary, especially for those of us that read when traveling, and for students having to carry books around.
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