Visionary activist and author Jeremy Rifkin exposes the real stakes of the new economy, delivering "the clearest summation yet of how the Internet is really changing our lives" (The Seattle Times).
Imagine waking up one day to find that virtually every activity you engage in outside your immediate family has become a "paid-for" experience. It's all part of a fundamental change taking place in the nature of business, contends Jeremy Rifkin. After several hundred years as the dominant organizing paradigm of civilization, the traditional market system is beginning to deconstruct. On the horizon looms the Age of Access, an era radically different from any we have known.
In his latest synthesis of business analysis and academic philosophizing, Rifkin (The End of Work, The Biotech Century, etc.) argues that we are in the midst of a new age in which "concepts, ideas and images--not things--are the real items of value" and where "the purchase of lived experiences becomes the consummate commodity." In the book's first half, Rifkin contends that ownership of property has become increasingly devalued. Today's companies avoid amassing physical capital, which can later prove "an albatross" that prevents them from keeping up with rapid technological advances. Instead, they prefer to "outsource ownership," contracting third parties to provide and maintain equipment. This trend combines with others, such as the proliferation of service relationships, to put more emphasis on access than ownership, heralding a time when what companies sell will be human experience itself and all cultural activities will be commodified. In the book's second half, Rifkin shows how "experience industries"--such as travel and entertainment--are coming to dominate the new global economy. "More and more of the global cultural sphere--its natural wonders, cathedrals, museums, palaces, parks, rituals, festivals--is being siphoned off into the marketplace," he says, where it serves as a backdrop "for enacting paid-for cultural experiences" that is divorced from historical context. As in Rifkin's earlier works, the author asserts the truth of his ideas in considerable detail without offering much supporting evidence, leaving readers either to believe him or not. Even so, his larger historical and social perspective and lack of technological boosterism is refreshing.