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A New Consciousness for a New Century

by Jeremy Rifkin

Pub Date: May 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-517-57746-1
Publisher: Crown

 It's been downhill all the way for 400 years, says Rifkin (co-author, The Green Lifestyle Guide, 1990, Entropy, 1980, etc.), in this latest jeremiad on modern times. It all began with the enclosure laws, parceling off the commons to the wealthy where once the peasants held sway, sharing pasturelands, cooperating with sowing and reaping. Using enclosure as metaphor, Rifkin goes on to describe the rise of capitalism and industrial society as more and more enclosuresof land, sea, air, space, and even genes, what with the patenting of genetically engineered organisms. Hand in hand with these developments was the loss of faith and the acceptance of the Cartesian model of God as the prime mover of a clockwork world; later came the dethronement of God by our materialist culture. Needless to say, the world's a shamblesas Rifkin relentlessly relates with his data on environmental catastrophe, global warming, loss of ozone, the widening gulf between the have and have-nots, etc. Sowhat to do? Rifkin's solution is a resacralization of life; a move f rom geopoliticsused pejoratively here to mean any doctrine of Lebensraum or manifest destinyand a turn to ``biospheric'' politics, his term for harmony with nature. People must recognize that the earth is a living organism (Gaia) and instead of conquering nature to ga in security, reopen the global commons so that all may share. National states and multinationals will have to give way. Overlooked in this sermon are any gains attributable to science in the conquest of disease and extension of the life span, in communication, in the rise of democratic states. Overlooked are the crises wrought by the population explosion. Newton, Descartes, Darwin are equally tarred as materialist contributors to class inequities. Back to the Middle Ages with you, Rifkin, and see if you really like the common life.