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The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  1,440 ratings  ·  155 reviews
In The Zero Marginal Cost Society, New York Times bestselling author Jeremy Rifkin describes how the emerging Internet of Things is speeding us to an era of nearly free goods and services, precipitating the meteoric rise of a global Collaborative Commons and the eclipse of capitalism.

Rifkin uncovers a paradox at the heart of capitalism that has propelled it to greatness bu
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published April 1st 2014 by St. Martin's Press (first published January 1st 2014)
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3.99  · 
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 ·  1,440 ratings  ·  155 reviews

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Apr 27, 2014 rated it liked it
I didn't reach the end, but I've just changed the status from "reading" to "read" to make the fact that I've stopped reading it official. I got through most of it. Like the previous Rifkin book I tried to read, The Empathic Civilization, I found this book to be way too long and filled with redundant examples and details. This book reads as if the author were getting paid by the word. I like my non-fiction, social analysis denser than Rifkin delivers it. A skilled writer really could have conveye ...more
David Kinchen
Mar 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
BOOK REVIEW: 'The Zero Marginal Cost Society': Welcome to the Brave New Workerless World

"The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them." --Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870-1924) First Leader of the Soviet Union

Marginal cost is the term used in the science of economics and business to refer to the increase in total production costs resulting from producing one additional unit of the item. Zero marginal cost describes a situation where an additional unit can be produced without an
Sten Vesterli
Nov 09, 2014 rated it it was ok
This book is collection of specious arguments and logical fallacies construed to support a pre-conceived conclusion. It is an interesting criticism of capitalism, but as logically flawed as that of Marx and Engels.

The author looks at market capitalism and believes that because the capitalism part is under pressure, the market part will collapse with it. Unfortunately, this is based on an egregious logical error.

He is right that the cost of an item will move towards the marginal cost of producin
Johan Haneveld
Sep 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
If it were possible to give six stars I would (which goes to show there's something wrong with how I rate books ...). I'm not exaggerating if I say this book changed my life. Also, it has been a long time since I read out whole passages to my wife, and sent them to friends to inspire them. And it's a book about economy, a subject I professed to have zero interest in. I'm as surprised as you are! I myself would probably not have picked this book up, because the title makes it sound pretty technic ...more
Andy Oram
Apr 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, technology
One has to be in a certain mood to appreciate Rifkin, who envelopes you with an effusive flood of statistics and seemingly unconnected facts pulled together eventually into support for his claims. With books of this type, which put forward grand views of worldwide trends, it's not worth quibbling about oversimplifications (I found several among the areas I know something about) or ask whether history will really play out the way the author suggests (history never does). One has to just ask wheth ...more
Jul 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
A hefty portion of humanity’s uniqueness can be traced back to future projection. We constantly weave narratives that stretch moments and months and millennia ahead, even as we fumble to figure out what to do with today, each day. Everyone needs some kind of intellectual framework to navigate this tricky tension, which is where futurists come in––they synthesize data, make observations, and construct arguments for why we should think one way or another about what’s to come. Futurists should be j ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
Jeremy Rifkin writes in a visionary style. Most political and technological writing when it is not in horror story mode adopts the visionary style. In politics and technology, there is always a world to be won a vision of the future. Rifkin does a good job talking about the possibilities which abound in new technology mainly digital copies which have near zero marginal cost per unit spilling over into the world of objects and how it will bring about a transformation of not only the economy but ...more
Keith Swenson
Sep 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a book I would recommend to most people as interesting, well written, and informative.

Rifkin tries to give us an expansive, big-picture view of some of fundamental changes we are experiencing. Driven by information technology, we are seeing a host of second order changes with real consequences. In short, the internet of things is tied to the collaborative commons, and possibly bringing about the end of capitalism. That is the big story: the END of CAPITALISM. Can it be true?

He starts wit
Chris Chester
Hmm. Let me see if I can sum up Rifkin's argument. The two previous industrial revolutions were defined by new energy paradigms that were facilitated by new forms of communication. He envisions a new, third industrial revolution driven by distributed green energy and the Internet.

From there, he loops in technological advances, saying some combination of the Internet of Things, 3D printing, free online education, and automation will create an era of abundance driven by zero marginal costs. Struct
Jose Papo
Apr 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Jeremy Rifkin books are usually polemical. I liked this one a lot. The future he describes is possible if we as a global society really start to invest in more science and engineering education. The truth is that we need more engineers and less lawyers (nothing against lawyers, but in some countries it seems that priorities are upside down).

I dont believe the technological disruptions will end capitalism, but it will surely change and can be more human and collaborative if we help the sharing e
Eustacia Tan
Jan 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Hey, so a while back, I tried doing a liveblog of this book I had to read for school (and I actually really enjoyed it). It first went live on Dayre (see Part 1 here and Part 2 here), and I thought I'd share it here as well.

The premise is pretty fascinating. It's arguing that as the collaborative commons rise, capitalism will play a smaller, more streamlined role in the economy.

Makes sense when you think of how we're used to sharing things we make for free (like on Dayre) and using things for f
Timothy Volpert
Nov 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Excellent analysis of the situation I've been following for a while: what happens to capitalism once technology has demonetized everything? We've already seen this with the music industry, for instance, and it's not going to go away as 3d printing becomes more viable, etc. Rifkin's main thesis is that this may not be a disaster. I agree! It's a beautiful thing that it is so easy to find new music for cheap or free on the internet--the only downside is how do the musicians make a living? He is no ...more
Bianca Klein Haneveld
Jan 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book. It not only offers many hypotheses and credible arguments to be hopefull about a 'future of abundance', but describes one major flaw in capitalistic thinking very well. Human beings are not the egotistical, 'always out for nr 1.' beings that are assumed to love the money-powered systems of capitalism. We want the best for others and the world. Capitalism has done much good in this respect, providing a better life for many. But is has large drawbacks. 'Many' is not the same as 'ev ...more
Titus Hjelm
Interesting, but uneven treatment of our current predicament and potential ways out of it. Rifkin's critique of capitalism --although not particularly original--is perceptive. He distinguishes himself from the basic anti-capitalist argument by not contending to criticise current conditions, but also offering a detailed alternative for the future. In this future, capitalism has been superseded by the 'Internet of Things' and the Commons.

Herein lies the problem as well, however. The vision stumbl
Alan Zundel
Nov 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Despite its unenticing title, I emphatically recommend this book. It is easily the most important book I’ve read this year, as it gave me a better comprehension of the wrenching changes our world is going through as well as providing some welcome hope for our collective future.

The full title is “The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism,” most of which was opaque to me until I read the book. It was the phrase “eclipse of capi
Jul 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A compelling theory of economics for the coming century. Inspiring in many ways. A long read. Lots of historical context. I learned about the Enclosure movement and got to think deeply about property and why we treat so many things as commodities when they could be held in trust by communities in a commons-based approach. If this sounds like communism, it is and it isn't. As the title suggests, we're moving beyond capitalism/communism and into something more interesting as prices plummet for man ...more
Stefano Bernardi
Aug 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Really changed how I see the world. One of the truly eye-opening optimistic books, even if reality might take a while to catch up with it.
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating documentation of a possible future.
José Antonio Lopez
Mar 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Interesting question with an ignorant answer.

The first part of Rifkin books is quite interesting. Indeed it is intriguing that so many industries are rapidly growing offering free or almost free products and services. How can an economy sustain if this phenomena advances.

More and more people can set their conditions about job and companies, they no longer are job takers and employees for life. Probably this is possible because people in advanced societies don't have to worry about where to live,
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A must for everyone!!!
Jun 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mind blown. At times too dense with long stories that were not exactly relevant, this book delivered a punch on a very relevant topic that concerns our future: the underlying economic system that powered western economies over the past few hundred years. Author proposes an idea coined as "collaborative commons" as a paradigm shift that will begin to compete and over time overtake the capitalist marketplace.

The idea is that this shift will take place over time as the inherent feature of capitali
Dana Brown
Apr 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Rifkin draws from the company of elite intellectual circles, and espouses a utopian vision of our near future. He argues that if the globe is able to quickly implement a renewable energy infrastructure we will shift from an economy of scarcity to an economy of abundance. 3D printing will herald a third industrial revolution driven by an ubiquity of sensors, internet prosumers, and algorithim-ing everything to cut inefficiencies.

Reading this book, you feel inspired and in awe of emerging technol
Geert Hofman
This a good book about a possible and hopefully realistic future. Narratives like this one are absolutely necessary if we want to survive the current century as humanity.

Rifkin makes a good analysis of the current problems and suggests ways to tackle them. The current state of affairs of the so-called energy, communication and distribution matrix opens lots of opportunities to grasp. He makes it also cristal clear that if we don't act now, it will probably be too late. The evolution towards a c
Charlie Gorichanaz
May 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Reading this while on the verge of looking for a job after taking some time off might not have been the right move. Perhaps I can hold out long enough till I don't need to get a job?

But really, this book was incredible in a "Singularity is Near" way but with more down to earth discussion, including how things are already changing now and how millions of people have already been affected. For example, I was blown away to learn AI law research programs already can help one lawyer do the work of 50
Pooja Goyal
Jun 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I have read this year. I have been reading about jobless growth, rise of robots, sustainable energy revolution all as disparate events shaping the world. Rifkin brings it together in a compelling narrative describing how the world is changing at the intersection of economic, social and technology paradigms. The first front is economic where the capitalist economic paradigm is giving way to collaborative commons because the marginal cost of producing goods is fast approachin ...more
Yes, The Digital Era has come and Capitalism after having led to the Industrial revolution will have to evolve/is evolving. Will that "post-Capitalism" led to the Share Economy or, as Rifkin calls it, to the Collaborative Common Economy is quite possible but not yet certain.
Yes, Communications, Energies and Logistics are changing too with the rise of the Collaborative Commons. Many changes are head...

Clearly written and documented this book is a #mustread if you are looking on what the future w
Dec 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to ALICIA by: Neil Collins
Whew, well a year and a half that took me, I don't know where to begin. Excellent, important, important, important. What we have to, simply HAVE to F'ng keep talking about, loud and clear. This book goes along side "This Changes Everything" (which I'm not finished with yet) and TZM Defined in importance. I'm gonna have to stew over a better review. For now, just read it, or get this info somehow- it can be a pretty dense, heavy read so if you're not a big reader Jeremy Rifkin also has a lot of g ...more
Risalat Khan
Aug 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Rifkin is undoubtedly a brilliant thinker, and his vision for the future is bold, original, and enormously hopeful. While he lays out detailed analyses to support his reasoning -- I was still hungry for more consideration of some of the greatest challenges facing our 21st-century globalised society (climate change, food and water security, etc.). Yet, this book will give you pause and make you think deeply about the broad patterns and trends in our world whether or not you end up agreeing with h ...more
Philip Mckenzie
May 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Rifkin puts forth some compelling ideas about the potential of the IoT as we move closer to zero cost. It is less about all of these predictions coming true and more about the converging of several trends across industry. I viewed the book as one part of the puzzle in understanding how we move from an economy of scarcity to an economy of abundance. I would recommend checking it out and experimenting with some of the concepts mentioned. In short, an important and compelling read.
Eric Paul
Aug 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Even if you disagree with the central thesis, the book does such a great job at showing us where we are as a species at this moment in time, technologically, economically, socially, empathetically(!), philosophically -- the list goes on. It's a fascinating read with a mountain of information, evidence and analysis. I would recommend watching his lecture at before reading or if you're on the fence.
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American economic and social theorist, writer, public speaker, political advisor, and activist.
“For the materialist, advertising becomes the powerful drug that feeds the addiction. Advertising prays on one’s sense of inadequacy and loneliness. It promises that products and services will enhance a person’s personality and identity and make him or her more appealing,” 6 likes
“The democratization of manufacturing means that anyone and eventually everyone can access the means of production, making the question of who should own and control the means of production irrelevant, and capitalism along with it.” 3 likes
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