THE END OF WORK by Jeremy Rifkin


The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the Post-Market Era
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 A professional alarmist's attention-grabbing, albeit overstated, appraisal of a brave new world in which demand for labor could fall ruinously short of supply. Citing anecdotal evidence from a wealth of secondary sources, Rifkin (Biosphere Politics, 1991) provides worst-case projections of the job-loss havoc that remains to be wreaked by labor-saving advances in agriculture, banking, manufacturing, retailing, transport, and other enterprises that once afforded secure employment. Given the gains routinely achieved in the state of the bioscience, computer, robotics, and allied arts, he insists that there's precious little reason to believe that downsizing American corporations and their foreign counterparts won't continue to do more with less. Unless immediate steps are taken to rectify the situation, the author warns, civil unrest, open conflict between haves and have-nots, or even anarchy could result from what he calls the third industrial revolution. Not too surprisingly, Rifkin offers a lengthy list of suggestions for protecting the global village from the socioeconomic crises that could erupt when and if technology idles new multitudes of erstwhile breadwinners. To illustrate, he urges sharing of productivity gains (e.g., via shorter work weeks) and greater incentives for participation in the voluntary (i.e., non-marketplace) sector, such as time-based tax deductions. The author goes on to propose that government should encourage communitarian activity by substituting so-called social wages (e.g. negative income tax) for welfare. As a practical matter, then, Rifkin is recommending utopian solutions for the dystopian problems that could accrue in the arguable event that current trends persist. (Robert L. Heilbroner provides the book's foreword.) A bleak reckoning of the potential price of progress that will strike many observers as longer on ardor than analysis. (First printing of 50,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-87477-779-8
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Tarcher/Penguin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1994


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