This dude also deserves a thread, a postmetaphysical visionary of an integral paradigm different from the trademarked variety. And quite "spiritual" to boot, if by that we mean creating a more equitable and humane lifeworld in which all can thrive and aspire to their highest potentials. From the integral capitalism thread:


Have you discussed Jeremy Rifkin's notion of "distributed capitalism," based on emergent peer-to-peer technological models, which he discussed in his book, The Empathic Civilization?  I skimmed the thread and didn't see mention of it, so I thought I'd add it to the mix.  Here's a brief article on it.

(An interesting notion of his, which is not directly relevant to this thread but possibly relevant to this forum, is Rifkin's notion of an emergent "dramaturgical self" as a stage of self-making beyond the "existential postmodern self."  I haven't explored it in depth -- I've just been reviewing his book for a class -- but I'll look into it more and will comment further if it's relevant.)


Thanks for these links. I've heard of Rifkin but have yet to read him. I agree with most of what he's saying but he is stretching the definition of the term capitalism beyond its intended meaning. Recall its meaning from the beginning of the thread. Private ownership of the means of production with profit flowing to the top is antithetical to shared, open and distributed ownership of resources and information and P2P relationships, much like selfish concern and cosmocentric morality are so in a moral hierarchy. Rifkin is right to make the connection between the worldview and economic-communication systems, and that the internet correlates with an empathatic, biospheric view necessary for such shared resources and environmental consciousness. But again, capitalism was all about the exploitation of natural resources as if they were infinite with little to no regard for the environmental consequences. Rifkin laments this destruction and rightly analyzes the consciousness and systems that created it, capitalism, yet by keeping that name in his new view of P2P distribution is a functional misfit.

One can also view him speak on his new book at YouTube. Just watching the first couple minutes it seems to be the same info in the text linked above.


I also had posted this video on his work here on IPS awhile back.


Now I understand hybrid systems during transition phases. For example we have hybrid gas-electric cars which are better than just gas-driven. But we know that it is a transition to a full electric car when we develop the technology and infrastructure to make it feasible. That is, we know we must completely leave behind using a limited resource like petrol for a more sustainable energy source. So with economic systems. There are hybrids of capitalism with open source and of course it is a step in the right direction. But like with petrol we know that at some point we will leave capitalism behind in a more equitable, humane and environmental consciousness with correlative political economy.


So for me it says something about our consciousness to which economic system we attach. Given the I-I agenda of a kinder, gentler capitalism it appears to be on the transition of rational-pluralistic and it calls that integral. Hence you get no language or values about open source, distributed networks or P2P. Whereas I think what Rifkin is describing, that ecologic empathy that is growing out of the informational-pluralistic into the internet P2P network, is what we might call integral. And it is open source, not private property. But again, it is currently a hybrid in transition but we know where it is going and what must be left behind.*


*As to worldview and moral level replacement, see the previous thread on ladder-climber-view. Like I said, I don't think it's a strict or clean dividing line between one level and the next, with transitions containing mixes and hybrids. But we see the trajectory of where it's going and what it will eventually leave behind.

You can find Rifkin's website here. Following is an excerpt from the synopsis on his lecture "The age of access":

"The new information and telecommunications technologies, e-commerce and globalization are making possible a new economic era as different from market capitalism as the latter is dissimilar from mercantilism. In the new century, markets are slowly giving way to network ways of conducting business, with far-reaching implications for the future of society....The notion of exchanging and holding on to fixed property becomes an anachronism in a society where everything is continually evolving."

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This synopsis on Rifkin's lecture on the hydrogen economy is revolutionary and brilliant. He wants to apply existing internet and global communications tech to

reconfigure the world’s power grids so that people can produce renewable energy and share it peer-to-peer, just like they now produce and share information, creating a new, decentralized form of energy use.  We need to envision a future in which millions of individual players can collect, produce and store locally generated renewable energy in their homes, offices, factories, and vehicles, and share their power generation with each other across a Europe-wide intelligent intergrid.  (Hydrogen is a universal storage medium for intermittent renewable energies; just as digital is a universal storage mechanism for text, audio, video, data and other forms of media).

This is contra the entire thrust of capitalism. And it's using computer tech and smart grids, all of which isn't all that far off from the computer communism of the latest Zeitgeist movie. You don't hear anything remotely like this from kennilinguists. Also note though that he's developing this with the EU, again well ahead of the curve.

The coming together of distributed communication technologies and distributed renewable energies via an open access, intelligent power grid, represents “power to the people”.  For a younger generation that’s growing up in a less hierarchical and more networked world, the ability to produce and share their own energy, like they produce and share their own information, in an open access intergrid, will seem both natural and commonplace.

Regarding Rifkin's empathic consciousness based on research on mirror neurons, recall L&J's section in the last chapter of PF on spirituality where they highlight this research. Granted L&J don't develop this idea very far but it is the same as Rifkin's ideas about it and a valid basis for a postmetaphysical spirituality.

Here are a few of his comments on spirituality (and reason):


"Empathy represents the deepest expression of awe, and understandably is regarded as the most spiritual of human qualities.  But empathy also requires trust – the willingness to surrender ourselves to the mystery of existence at both the cosmic level and at the level of everyday life with our fellow beings.  Trust becomes indispensable to allowing empathy to grow, and empathy, in turn, allows us to plumb the divine presence that exists in all things.  Empathy becomes the window to the divine.  It is by empathic extension that we transcend ourselves and begin connecting with the mystery of existence.  The deeper, more universalizing our empathic experience, the closer we come to experiencing the totality of being – that is, we become more all-participating, all-knowing, and all-belonging.

If one looks closely at the world’s institutional religions, it is possible to find snippets of this embodied approach to searching out the divine along the margins of the main texts.  Theologians call this panentheism…

Yet the central narratives of the world’s great religions – Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism – remain, for the most part, disembodied and extraworldly, cutting off empathic extension and the search for connectivity and God’s immanence.

In the Age of Empathy, spirituality invariably replaces religiosity.  Spirituality is a deeply personal journey of discovery in which embodied experience – as a general rule – becomes the guide to making new connections, and empathy becomes the means to foster transcendence.  The World Values Society and countless other polls show a generational shift toward the divine, with the younger generation in the industrialized nations increasingly turning away from institutionalized religiosity and toward personal spiritual quests that are embodied in nature and empathic in expression.

Reason too can be salvaged from its disembodied Enlightenment roots and be recast within an embodied empathic frame.  While reason is most often thought of in terms of rationalization, that is, abstracting and classifying phenomena, usually with the help of quantifiable tools of measurement, it is more than that.  Reason includes mindfulness, reflection, introspection, contemplation, musing, and pondering, as well as rhetorical and literary ways of thinking.  Reason is all of this and more.  When we think of reason, we generally think of stepping back from the immediacy of experience and probing our memories to see if there might be an analogous experience that could help us make the appropriate judgment or decisions about how best to respond.

The critical question is where does reason come from?  The Cartesian and Kantian idea that reason exists independently of experience as an a priori phenomenon to be accessed does not conform to the way we reason in the real world.  Reason is a way of organizing experiences and relies on many mental tools.  The point, however, is that reason is never disembodied from experience, but rather a means of understanding and managing it.

Experience, as we learned earlier, begins with sensations and feelings that flow from engagement with others and quickly becomes bundled into emotions with the help of reason and then is transformed into purposeful behavioral responses, again with the aid of reason. Needless to say, experience is not always so neatly executed.  One’s feelings can remain raw and unformed.  It is possible to not even know why one feels a certain way.  Similarly, our emotions can run away with us, inflicting harm on ourselves and others.

Empathy brings together sensations, feelings, emotions, and reason in a structural way toward the goal of communion with the vast others that stretch beyond our physicality. If empathy did not exist, we could not understand why we feel the way we do, or conceptualized something called an emotion or think rationally.  Many scholars have mistakenly associated empathy with just feelings and emotions.  If that were all it was, empathic consciousness would be an impossibility.

We are beginning to learn that an empathic moment requires both intimate engagement and a measure of detachment.  If our feelings completely spill over into another’s feelings or their feelings overwhelm our psyche, we lose a sense of self and the ability to imagine the other as if they were us.  Empathy is a delicate balancing act.  One has to be open to experiencing another’s plight as if it were one’s own but not to be engulfed by it, at the expense of drowning out the self’s ability to be a unique and separate being.  Empathy requires a porous boundary between I and thou that allows the identity of two beings to mingle in a shared mental space...

By reimagining faith and reason as intimate aspects of empathic consciousness, we create a new historical synthesis that incorporates many of the most powerful and compelling features of the Age of Faith and the Age of Reason, while leaving behind the disembodied story lines that shake the celebration out of life" (Rifkin, The Empathic Civilization)

Again, very impressive. Has he too been reading my posts? Or discussing this with L&J? The same ideas about real and false reason and its embodied basis, the same panentheisim grounded in empathy. The same postmetaphysical emphasis on a transcendent yet eminently immanent mystery or awe. And most importantly, how this manifests in economic systems that facilitate it, and even might be prerequisite before most of us can get to that type of consciousness.

LOL, I don't know, Ed -- maybe he's been reading our whole forum!  In the space of several pages in the bit I read this morning, he mentioned Francisco Varela, L&J, and Henryk Skolimowski...

But in the likely event that he hasn't been reading us, he still definitely deserves a "thread" on the Postmetaphysical Visionaries section of the forum, so thank you for starting it!

Here's a review of the book by Bruce Gibb in the June 2010 issue of Integral Leadership Review from an SDi perspective. An excerpt:

"One might conclude that Rifkin’s COG is at green because the values he espouses and the demons he denounces are typically those of a person at green. At the same time, however, since his articulation of these values are in the service of global turquoise, one could argue that his COG is at the turquoise level. I conclude the latter....

"His enumeration of the life conditions that support turquoise empathetic emergence will be a challenge to those who only think of turquoise mainly in terms of spiritual consciousness."


Here's a bit from Rifkin's essay "Leading the way":

The Four Pillars of the Third Industrial Revolution:

1. Renewable Energy

2. Buildings as Positive Power Plants

3. Hydrogen Storage

4. Smartgrids and Plug-in Vehicles


Indeed, a new Distributed Social Vision flows inexorably from the Third Industrial Revolution narrative and is impossible to achieve without it.


A New Distributed Social Vision in the 21st Century:

1. A Sustainable Standard of Living

2. The Economic Multiplier Effect

3. New Jobs and Business Models for the 21st Century

4. Advancing Energy Security

5. Empowering the People

6. Education for the 21st Century

7. A Quality of life society

8. Rethinking Globalization from the Bottom-up

9. The European Union’s Special Role in Spearheading a Third Industrial Revolution

10. The Millennial Generation’s Legacy: A Sustainable Planet


You can read the introduction and first chapter of the book at this link. Recall in the capitalism thread I said that it was likely a necessary step in our evolution but that perhaps it's time to move on? In the intro Rifkin says:

"The irony is that our growing empathic awareness was made possible by an ever-greater consumption of the earth's energy and other resources" (2).

But it's time to move on because that wave is literally destroying the planet.

"The irony is that our growing empathic awareness was made possible by an ever-greater consumption of the earth's energy and other resources"

..... oh if only this could be true. But I fear that 'peak oil' is only 'peak conventional oil' ( about 30% of total reserves ) and then there is all that Thorium to mine 1.3 million to 2.6 million tons of the stuff.... alas it could be many a year before we are forced to change our ways.

theurj said:

You can read the introduction and first chapter of the book at this link. Recall in the capitalism thread I said that it was likely a necessary step in our evolution but that perhaps it's time to move on? In the intro Rifkin says:

"The irony is that our growing empathic awareness was made possible by an ever-greater consumption of the earth's energy and other resources" (2).

But it's time to move on because that wave is literally destroying the planet.

It is a very long term project, as Rifkin attests. As the old saying goes though, a journey of a thousand steps begins with the first step. Good thing Rifkin and cohorts are taking those initial steps with practical solutions that are now being implemented in the EU. This is what goes out of democratic socialism and why the EU is the breeding ground, not the US.

And here is a review of the book criticizing an adherence to a form of capitalism. Excerpt:

"The problem is that capitalism requires the methodical foreclosure of our moral instinct for empathy and the manufacture of cultural indifference to quell this response. Tellingly, Rifkin lavishes praise on new management styles that incorporate empathic sensibility toward employees and in selling products. Caring bosses will be a priority. Again, he fails to acknowledge the empathy-denying imperatives of capitalism itself."

The same reviewer above, Gary Olson, links to another of his articles on neuroscience research into empathy and how capitalistic agendas thwart it. And in the above article, how Rifkin doesn't deal with this. And ironically capitalists, aware of the mirror neuron research, use it to program out empathy. For example:

"Cultures are rarely neutral, innocent phenomena but are consciously set up to reward some people and penalize others.  As Parenti (2006) forcefully asserts, certain aspects of culture can function as instruments of social power and social domination through ideological indoctrination.

"Culture is contested terrain and studying it can reveal how power is exercised and on whose behalf.  Lakoff (2005) reminds us that in cognitive linguistics certain values like compassion are termed 'contested concepts' because although a core meaning might be assumed, those holding a wildly different ideological commitment can appropriate and direct them toward other ends.  The primer here is Gramsci's (1971) classic analysis of cultural hegemony in which capitalism maintains domination, in part, through subtly but actively creating society's prevailing cultural norms.  This consensual control is achieved through mass media, education, religion and popular culture as subordinate classes assimilate certain ideas as 'common sense.'

"One of the methods employed within capitalist democracies is Chomsky and Herman's 'manufacture of consent,' a form of highly sophisticated thought control.  Potentially active citizens must be 'distracted from their real interests and deliberately confused about the way the world works' (Cohen, 1991, p. 7; Chomsky, 1988).  In a recent interview, de Waal succinctly described this system maintenance function: 'You need to indoctrinate empathy out of people in order to arrive at extreme capitalist positions' (de Waal, 2007b).

"I'm arguing that the human brain is the primary target of this perverse 'nurture' or propaganda.  In the context of this paper we might rephrase this as the human brain's mirror neuron network is the target of this manufacturing of ignorance and indifference because exposure to certain new truths about empathy—hard evidence about our innate moral nature—poses a direct threat to elite interests.  There's no ghost in the machine, but the capitalist machine attempts to keep people in line with an ideological ghost, the notion of a self constructed on market values. . . . if no one saw himself or herself as capitalism needs them to do, their own self-respect would bar the system from exploiting and manipulating them (Kelleher, 2007). 

"The global capitalist culture with its premium on accumulation and profits not only devalues an empathic disposition but produces a stunted character where everything is transformed into a commodity, not only things, but individuals themselves.  The very capacity to practice empathy (love) is subordinated to our state religion of the market in which each person seeks advantage in an alienating and endless commodity-greedy competition.

"The dominant cultural narrative of hyper-individualism is challenged and the insidiously effective scapegoating of human nature that claims we are motivated by greedy, dog-eat-dog 'individual self-interest is all' is debunked.... These new research findings help to further refute the allegation that people are naturally uncooperative, an argument frequently employed to intimidate and convince people that it's futile to seek a better society for everyone.  Stripped of yet another rationalization for empire, predatory behavior on behalf of the capitalist mode of production becomes ever more transparent.  And learning about the conscious suppression of this essential core of our nature should beg additional troubling questions about the motives behind other elite-generated ideologies, from neo-liberalism to the 'war on terror.'"


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What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

This group is for anyone interested in exploring these questions and tracing out the horizons of an integral post-metaphysical spirituality.

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