Saturday, May 11, 2024

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

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Economics

Watch Short Review

“Ironically, capitalism’s decline is not coming at the hands of hostile forces.  There are no hordes at the front gates ready to tear down the walls of the capitalist edifice.  Quite the contrary.  What’s undermining the capitalist system is the dramatic success of the very operating assumptions that govern it.  At the heart of capitalism there lies a contradiction in the driving mechanism that has propelled it ever upward to commanding heights, but now is speeding it to its death.” – Jeremy Rifkin, Chapter One: The Great Paradigm Shift From Market Capitalism To The Collaborative Commons, Page 2

“A near zero marginal cost society is the optimally efficient state for promoting the general welfare and represents the ultimate triumph of capitalism.  Its moment of triumph, however, also marks its inescapable passage from the world stage.  While capitalism is far from putting itself out of business, it’s apparent that as it brings us ever closer to a near zero marginal cost society, its once unchallenged prowess is diminishing, making way for an entirely new way of organizing economic life in an age characterized by abundance rather than scarcity.” – Jeremy Rifkin, Chapter One: The Great Paradigm Shift From Market Capitalism To The Collaborative Commons, Page 9

“The social Commons is where we generate the good will that allows a society to cohere as a cultural entity.  Markets and governments are an extension of a people’s social identity.  Without the continuous replenishment of social capital, there would be insufficient trust to enable markets and governments to function, yet we pejoratively categorize the social Commons as “the third sector” as if it were less important than markets or governments.” – Jeremy Rifkin, Chapter One: The Great Paradigm Shift From Market Capitalism To The Collaborative Commons, Pages 17-18


Is This An Overview?

Capitalism is transitioning into a different economic system, a different economic paradigm.  Capitalism is transitioning into the Collaborative Commons.  Markets are transitioning into networks.  Ownership transitioning into access.  Capitalisms’ internal mechanisms are enabling the transition into Collaborative Commons. 

Competitive pressure generates improvements to productivity, that leads to the optimum general welfare.  Productivity reduces costs of production, which causes the cost of production to approach near zero.  As costs of production approach zero, the price of the products approach zero as well.  Products become free, which undermines the profitability motive of capitalism.  Capitalism cannot function without profits, therefore there are many industry incumbents who attempt to prevent the reduction in profit by reducing the competitive pressure.  But the attempts fail as entrepreneurs find ways to circumvent the incumbents. 

Within the Collaborative Commons, everything is connected through the internet to improve efficient use of natural resources, economic production, and social life.  Sensors using data that enables analytics that automate systems to further improve efficiency and productivity.



What is shared are the benefits of the different economic system, while the consequences are not shared.  Benefits of data and surveillance on efficiency is shared, but not consequences on mental health of always being surveilled and lack of data security. 

There is a claim that capitalism is about scarcity while Collaborative Commons are about abundance.  Abundance of Collaborative Commons is based on near zero marginal cost.  The problem is that abundance is not absolute, its relative.  Scarcity is defined by resources which are more limited.  The relative abundance and scarcity of resources changes.  Capitalism used the relatively abundant resources, but there were other resources that were scarce.  Collaborative Commons is a different system which have different scarce and abundant resources, but scarcity still exists.  The scarce resources of the Collaborative Commons have become time and attention. 

People might be able to contribute to tasks that they want to without pay, but they would need to obtain an alternative income to pay for resources they need to survive.  The Collaborative Commons work is subsidized by work that provides people with an income.  

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What is capitalism transiting into to?
•Why is capitalism transitioning?
•What are Collaborative Commons?
•What does competition do?
•What causes zero marginal costs?
•What happens at zero marginal costs?
•How do entrepreneurs effect society?
•What effect does the internet have on society? 
•How does zero marginal costs effect publishing?
•What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
•What is the Enclosure Movement? 
•What are free markets and do they need capitalism?  
•Why do large vertically integrated corporate enterprises exist? 
•How does 3D-printing effect society?  
•What is the comedy of the commons? 
•What are cultural commons? 

Book Details
Publisher:               Palgrave Macmillan [Macmillan Publishers Limited]
Edition ISBN:         9781137278463
Pages to read:          311
Publication:             2014
1st Edition:              2014
Format:                    Hardcover 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          3
Overall          2