The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World [NOOK Book]


The Industrial Revolution, powered by oil and other fossil fuels, is spiraling into a dangerous endgame. The price of gas and food are climbing, unemployment remains high, the housing market has tanked, consumer and government debt is soaring, and the recovery is slowing. Facing the prospect of a second collapse of the global economy, humanity is desperate for a sustainable economic game plan to take us into the future.

Here, Jeremy Rifkin explores how Internet technology and ...

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The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World

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The Industrial Revolution, powered by oil and other fossil fuels, is spiraling into a dangerous endgame. The price of gas and food are climbing, unemployment remains high, the housing market has tanked, consumer and government debt is soaring, and the recovery is slowing. Facing the prospect of a second collapse of the global economy, humanity is desperate for a sustainable economic game plan to take us into the future.

Here, Jeremy Rifkin explores how Internet technology and renewable energy are merging to create a powerful “Third Industrial Revolution.” He asks us to imagine hundreds of millions of people producing their own green energy in their homes, offices, and factories, and sharing it with each other in an “energy internet,” just like we now create and share information online.

Rifkin describes how the five-pillars of the Third Industrial Revolution will create thousands of businesses, millions of jobs, and usher in a fundamental reordering of human relationships, from hierarchical to lateral power, that will impact the way we conduct commerce, govern society, educate our children, and engage in civic life.

Rifkin’s vision is already gaining traction in the international community. The European Union Parliament has issued a formal declaration calling for its implementation, and other nations in Asia, Africa, and the Americas, are quickly preparing their own initiatives for transitioning into the new economic paradigm.

The Third Industrial Revolution is an insider’s account of the next great economic era, including a look into the personalities and players — heads of state, global CEOs, social entrepreneurs, and NGOs — who are pioneering its implementation around the world.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Impeccably argued . . . a compelling and cogent argument to overhaul our society and economy in favor of a distributed and collaborative model." —-Publishers Weekly
The Barnes & Noble Review

Books about saving the world are always a two-part confidence game. First comes the story of a calamitous decline and fall, and then the corresponding road to redemption is unveiled. For this type of book to work, its narrative picture must be painted in a chiaroscuro style — bathed in both darkness and light.

Jeremy Rifkin's The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy and the World is a classic example of this type of work. Rikfin's Manichaean narrative is simple, sometimes perhaps a little too simple. Over the last century, we have been "fossil fuel people" of the "carbon era," according to Rifkin. But America, he argues, is now in the death throes of this second industrial revolution. It has become a "failed economy," and we are "sleep walking" into the "deceleration" of the "environmental catastrophe" and the "extinction of life on the planet."

That's the dark part. The bright bit is inevitably biblical in its promise of salvation. F. Scott Fitzgerald famously warned that there are no second acts in American life. But for Rifkin it's America's second act — the destructive carbon revolution of the twentieth century — that's the problem. And it's America's third act, he says, that will save life on our planet from the catastrophe of extinction. The early twenty-first century's third industrial revolution of green energy and the "lateral power" of the network, Rifkin promises us, offer a more democratic and "distributed" alternative to the hierarchical structures of traditional economic and political institutions. It's in what he calls the "marriage" of energy and communications that our salvation as both a nation and as a species lies.

The Third Industrial Revolution is sobering reading. Writing with urgency and authority, Rifkin skewers President Obama for failing to strategically confront the fundamental decline of industrial America — arguing that Obama lacks a "narrative" to unleash the third industrial revolution. Rifkin is provocative, too, relating the global revolt against government and corporations that now links the streets of London and Greece to today's populist uprising on Wall Street to the crisis of top- down institutions struggling to maintain their authority in the face of the breakdown of the old industrial order.

In contrast with Barack Obama, however, Jeremy Rifkin does have a story to tell about how to save the planet. In what he calls "the five pillars," he lays out a comprehensive plan to realize the third industrial revolution. Rifkin's "new narrative," borrowing from the very high-level consultancy work he has been doing for the European Union, is truly revolutionary and comprises the most confident part of the book. Turning the old hierarchies of the industrial revolution on their head, Rifkin argues in favor of a complete shift to renewable energy wind, solar, and garbage in which we can turn all our homes into "micro- power plants" that will then be shared on a grid via the Internet. "Renewable energies are everywhere," he explains as he charts the European ambition to make all of its citizens into new energy moguls by creating 190 million power plants in the Union.

The Third Industrial Revolution is a big, brash, bold book in keeping with Rifkin's forty-year career as an anti-corporate gadfly. So should we believe in it? "The economy is always a confidence game," Rifkin argues — and so, I've already argued, is this type of book. But for all its vigor and erudition, it's undermined by one fatal flaw. The heart of Rifkin's critique of industrial civilization lies in its top-down hierarchies, which, he says, have become anachronistic in the face of the "distributed," collaborative nature of today's Internet world. And yet Rifkin — who seems to be "friends" with everyone from European prime ministers like Angela Merkel and David Cameron to European royalty like Prince Albert of Monaco — is a classic example of a top-down technocrat who is anything but "distributed" in his glamorous, Davos- friendly lifestyle.

No, there's nothing lateral about Jeremy Rifkin or his green manifesto. Ironically, he's as top-down as they come, a classic example of a mandarin from the second industrial revolution, more Auguste Comte than Jimmy Wales, who implements change on behalf of everyone else. And The Third Industrial Revolution is a pretty conventional top-down twentieth-century text, too, written without the kind of interactivity or textual innovation that one might expect of a prophet of lateral power.

"Drill baby drill," is the Tea Party mantra for solving today's industrial crisis in America. Rifkin, of course, disagrees. "Drilling for oil won't get us out of the crisis because the crisis is oil," he argues. But the crisis, as he explains, goes way beyond oil, to the roots of an American democracy in which mandarin technocrats like Jeremy Rifkin are dismissed as "elitists." Perhaps that's why he has more confidence in Europe, rather than America, to realize the third industrial revolution. And that may be why, I suspect, The Third Industrial Revolution will evoke more confidence in top-down Europe than in bottom-up America.

Andrew Keen is author of The Cult of the Amateur, which has been translated into fifteen languages. He hosts "Keen On," the popular weekly media and culture show on and regularly tweets at

Reviewer: Andrew Keen

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780230340589
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 10/4/2011
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 184,867
  • File size: 425 KB

Meet the Author

Jeremy Rifkin is president of the Foundation on Economic Trends and the author of eighteen bestselling books, including The Hydrogen Economy and The End of Work. He has been a guest on Face the NationThe Lehrer News Hour20/20Larry King LiveToday, and Good Morning AmericaThe National Journal named Rifkin as one of 150 people in the U.S. that have the most influence in shaping federal government policy. He has also testified before numerous congressional committees, and since 1994, Mr. Rifkin has been a senior lecturer at the Wharton School’s Executive Education Program at the University of Pennsylvania.

Rifkin is chairman of the Global CEO Business Roundtable, which includes IBM, Cisco, Cushman and Wakefield, and has served as an adviser to various global leaders, including Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Angela Merkel of Germany. His monthly column on global issues appears in many of the world’s leading newspapers and magazines, including The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian in the U.K., Die Süddeutsche Zeitung in Germany, Trud in Bulgaria, Clarín in Argentina, and Al-Ittihad in the U.A.E. He lives in Bethesda, MD.

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Table of Contents

The Real Economic Crisis Everyone Missed
A New Narrative
Turning Theory to Practice
Distributed Capitalism
Beyond Right and Left
From Globalization to Continentalization
Retiring Adam Smith
A Classroom Makeover
Morphing from the Industrial to the Collaborative Era

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 15, 2011

    A Blueprint for Sustainability - Thoughtful and Exciting

    Jeremy Rifkin renders enormously complex ideas accessible. He lays out a blueprint for a sustainable future that is not without problems to solve, but with problems that clearly can be solved, and solved in a way that keeps everyone whole. The most difficult problems are not those of science or technology, they are humanity's entrenched ways of being. Rifkin, and like-minded thinkers such as Amory Lovins and Paul Hawken, among others, understand history in a way that frees rather than binds, and the possibilities they identify are rooted in what is, and from that, what can be. This book is not about outlandish fantasies of a utopian future, it is about the path we are on now, the obstacles in that path, and the decisions to be made.

    I have savored this book, at times like a feast, at others like tapas, and it always stays with me, a constant heady companion. Someone said that history, and I¿m paraphrasing, is the great human conversation. Like Bucky Fuller¿s World Game, this book provides the structure for a compelling conversation, one that recognizes that we create scarcity by what we believe, how we behave, how we treat and manage resources, that in fact there is abundance on this planet, plenty for all. The Third Industrial Revolution is all about how to manage abundance and how to do so in context of humanity¿s highest aspirations.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted October 24, 2011

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    Posted November 16, 2011

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