Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Rifkin's new book continued

Continuing from this post. Chapter 4 is a quick run through of the accompanying worldviews from feudal to capitalism. He starts by noting that worldviews justify themselves as the ways things are, either by divine or natural order. The feudal Great Chain promised salvation by knowing one's place in the hierarchy and doing one's duty. In the transitional medieval market economy this shifted to one's hard labor, earnings and property as signs that one was favored by God, which shifted to a more secular notion of one's autonomy and worth as equivalent with one's property.

When the market economy transitioned into capitalism there arose much more vigorous defense of individualism tied with private property as inherent to human nature. Utilitarianism became the defining worldview justification. This led Herbert Spenser to twist Darwin's idea into social Darwinism, a justification for “survival of the fittest.” Darwin was aghast at such a torturous distortion of his work.

Nonetheless Spenser saw the way of things thusly: “...all structures in the universe develop from a simple, undifferentiated state, to an every more complex and differentiated state, characterized by greater integration of the various parts” (64). Therefore only the most complex and vertically integrated business should survive, as this was natural to evolutionary development. All of which leads to oligopoly with its hierarchical and centralized command and control. This remains the dominant and regressive Republican view today in the US. And I might add the predominant spiritual, philosophical and economic kennilingus view as well.

Not to fret. At the end of the chapter Rifkin assures us that complexity is not synonymous with such a structure. As I've been saying, there is another kind of complexity as explored in this thread. That's where the emerging structure of the collaborative commons comes in, featured in the coming chapters.

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