History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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The Marginal Propensity to Revolt (given the dwindling of ideological commitment in the marginal decrease in the size of bread crusts)

June 5th, 2014 · No Comments

The Leap to Biosphere Consciousness and Collaboration: An Interview With Author Jeremy Rifkin

I am tempted to ridicule Rifkin, but I should not, becasue he could be onto something, even though his thesis uses the concept of ‘marginal’ which immediately sets off a hype alarm, marginal economist on the loose. Actually, on the verge of publishing Last and First Men, an inherent critique of such things, it is important to consider two aspects of the ‘end of capitalism’. First, after all, it is a no-brainer that a trend line toward postcapitalism should be pursued with vigor, if real. But secondly, the issue is not economic dynamics, as such, but the inherent value of a capitalist system next to a communist system: the sapitalist always flunks in the end. We don’t transit from capitalism due to dynamics, but through a decision to do something else. If we follow the trend lines we will ge swindled at the last moment as the system’s final promises recede. In any case, Rifkin has turned the tables on the marginalists by using their term against them. I may have missed his cleverly designed barb.

Im my version of marginalism, the marginal decrease in bread crusts leads to state transition: no bread crust, ideology fails, starvation imminent, revolt switched on…
Rifkin is, btw, the author of a good critique of Darwinism, his Algeny, a book he may want readers to forget he wrote. Bold print: Rifkin is a postdarwinist
Here is what constitures a fairly clear set of predictions, somehow interesting: we shall see…

A new economic system is entering onto the world stage. The Collaborative Commons is the first new economic paradigm to take root since the advent of capitalism – and its antagonist socialism – in the early 19th century. The Collaborative Commons is already transforming the way we organize economic life, with profound implications for the future of the capitalist market.
Ironically, what’s precipitating the demise of the capitalist system is the extraordinary success of the invisible hand of the marketplace. There lies a paradox at the very heart of the capitalist ethos that has been responsible, in large part, for its great success over the past two centuries, but that is now leading to its potential downfall. Private enterprises are continually seeking new technologies to increase productivity and reduce the marginal cost of producing and distributing goods and services so they can lower prices, win over consumers, and secure sufficient profit for their investors. (Marginal cost is the cost of producing additional units of a good or service, if fixed costs are not counted.) Businesses, however, never imagined that extreme productivity might one day bring marginal costs to near zero, making many goods and services potentially nearly free – and no longer exchangeable in the capitalist market. That’s now beginning to happen.
Extreme productivity, brought on by a plethora of new smart technologies, is propelling the capitalist system to an endgame in which each additional unit of many goods and services are beginning to approach near zero marginal cost. The zero marginal cost phenomenon invaded the information goods sector in the past decade. Hundreds of millions of consumers turned prosumers, producing and sharing their own music, videos, and other forms of entertainment, as well as news and knowledge, at near zero marginal cost, bypassing the capitalist marketplace. Music industry revenues plummeted. Newspaper and magazine revenues also shrank, with many publications going out of business, unable to compete with web media and blogs, operating at near zero marginal cost. Similarly, book publishing shriveled while retail bookstores closed their doors as more prosumers published free e-books. More recently, the zero marginal cost phenomenon burst into the hallowed sanctum of higher education, wreaking havoc on the traditional learning model. Six million students are currently enrolled in free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), that operate at near zero marginal cost, and are being taught by world-class academics, and receiving college credits.

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