08 Sep 14

In his book The Zero Marginal Cost Society (Campus, 2014), social theorist Jeremy Rifkin argues that capitalism is becoming a victim of its own success: machines powered by alternative energies are undermining our sense of private property, taking away jobs, and turning consumers into free agents in a global “sharing economy.” While intense economic competition is forcing the introduction of ever newer technologies, productivity is reaching a point where the marginal cost of making additional units is so low they are essentially free. Rifkin describes how the emerging “Internet of things” will accelerate the beginning of an era of free goods and services, precipitating the rise of a global collaborative commons and the shutdown of capitalism: profits dry up, property ownership becomes meaningless, and an economy based on scarcity gives way to an economy of abundance, changing the very nature of society itself. In the wake of these developments, Rifkin envisions a new and more fulfilling form of communitarianism that spreads across the globe. Rifkin was the American Academy in Berlin’s Allianz Distinguished Visitor in the Fall 2014. The talk took place at the Allianz Forum in Berlin.