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Empathic Civilization Jeremy Rifkin Essay

Jeremy Rifkin's The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis and Frans de Waal's The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society are truly books for these times.  If you read only two books this year, make it these!  (If you read three, add Tom Atlee's Reflections on Evolutionary Activism: Essays, Poems and Prayers From an Emerging Field of Sacred Social Change.)

I carefully read every page of Jeremy Rifkin's doorstopper (616 pages, not counting footnotes).  I marked it up extensively.  I re-read some sections.  Next, I listened to the audiobook version of Frans de Waal's take on the deep evolutionary roots of human (and mammalian) empathy.  Nearing its end (his discussion of "The Dark Side"), I was moved to tears more powerfully than by any other book I can remember.

Out of the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of books I've read in my 51 years of life on this planet, I consider Jemery Rifkin's The Empathic Civilization to be one of the 5 most significant, important, inspiring, and realistically hopeful I've yet encountered.  And The Age of Empathy is also in my "Top 20" list.  (HERE is a great 10-minute YouTube introduction to Rifkin's book!)

The history of cosmic, biological, and human evolution understood meaningfully is my field of expertise.  Rifkin's book does it all (including his quoting of de Waals' earlier writings).  Rifkin integrates humanity's best collective intelligence regarding human nature and human history and does so in a way that is an absolute delight to read.  (I could hardly put it down.)  Midway through the book I thought to myself, incredulously, "How can one person know all this?!"  That's when I went back and re-read the acknowledgments.  Rifkin had a director of research working on this project for 4 years, with two dozen interns.  No wonder it's so complete!

If you give both of these books a good reading, you will gain a lifeline for maintaining a sense of deeply grounded hope—no matter how disillusioning the news of the day and no matter how challenging your own life experience with our species' evolved nature.


Excellent RSA YouTube intro to The Empathic Civilization
Is Kindness an Evolutionary Advantage?
The Young Pioneers of the Empathic Civilization
Video interview with Jeremy Rifkin via Huffington Post
Only Empathy Can Save Us: Why Jeremy Rifkin's The Empathic Civilization is February's HuffPost Book Club Pick
'Empathic Civilization' Excerpt: Homo-Empathicus, The Big Story That Historians Missed
Jeremy Rifkin's New Book: The Coolest Online Reading Experience
Our Brains Were Built For Feeling Each Other's Pain
'Empathic Civilization': Where the Jobs Are
'Empathic Civilization': Building a New World One Child at a Time
'Empathic Civilization': Amazing Empathic Babies
'Empathic Civilization': How Little Minds Are Wired For Compassion
'Empathic Civilization': Why Empathy is Essential For Doctors and in Conflict Resolution

[Posted March 7, 2010]

“‘One of the leading big-picture thinkers of our day’ (Utne Reader) delivers his boldest work in this erudite, tough-minded, and far-reaching manifesto.” amazon.com

About the Book

Never has the world seemed so completely united-in the form of communication, commerce, and culture-and so savagely torn apart-in the form of war, financial meltdown, global warming, and even the migration of diseases.

No matter how much we put our minds to the task of meeting the challenges of a rapidly globalizing world, the human race seems to continually come up short, unable to muster the collective mental resources to truly “think globally and act locally.” In his most ambitious book to date, bestselling social critic Jeremy Rifkin shows that this disconnect between our vision for the world and our ability to realize that vision lies in the current state of human consciousness. The very way our brains are structured disposes us to a way of feeling, thinking, and acting in the world that is no longer entirely relevant to the new environments we have created for ourselves.

The human-made environment is rapidly morphing into a global space, yet our existing modes of consciousness are structured for earlier eras of history, which are just as quickly fading away. Humanity, Rifkin argues, finds itself on the cusp of its greatest experiment to date: refashioning human consciousness so that human beings can mutually live and flourish in the new globalizing society…

As the forces of globalization accelerate, deepen, and become ever more complex, the older faith-based and rational forms of consciousness are likely to become stressed, and even dangerous, as they attempt to navigate a world increasingly beyond their reach and control. Indeed, the emergence of this empathetic consciousness has implications for the future that will likely be as profound and far-reaching as when Enlightenment philosophers upended faith-based consciousness with the canon of reason.

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