The capitalist era is passing. Rising in its wake is a new global collaborative Commons that will fundamentally transform our way of life. Bestselling author Jeremy Rifkin explains that intense competition is forcing the introduction of ever newer technologies, in turn boosting productivity to the point where the marginal cost of producing additional units is nearly zero, making the product essentially free. In turn, profits are drying up, property ownership is becoming meaningless, and an economy based on scarcity is giving way to an economy of abundance. Rifkin describes how hundreds of millions of people are already transferring parts of their economic lives from capitalist markets to networked Commons. "Prosumers" are producing their own information, entertainment, energy, and 3-D printed products at nearly zero marginal cost, and sharing them via social media sites and other venues. Students are enrolling in massive open online courses (MOOCs) that also operate at near-zero marginal cost. As a result, "exchange value" in the marketplace is increasingly being replaced by "use value" on the collaborative Commons.
Identity is less bound to what one owns and more to what one shares. Cooperation replaces self-interest, access trumps ownership, and networking drubs autonomy. We are, Rifkin says, entering a world beyond markets where we are learning how to live together collaboratively and sustainably.
JEREMY RIFKIN, one of the most popular social thinkers of our time, is the bestselling author of 19 books including The Third Industrial Revolution, The Empathic Civilization, The European Dream, and The End of Work. Rifkin is an advisor to the European Union and heads of state around the world. He is a senior lecturer at the Wharton School's Executive Education Program at the University of Pennsylvania and the president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington, DC.