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The End of Work

Tarcher/Putnam, 1995
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In this compelling, disturbing, and ultimately hopeful book, Jeremy Rifkin argues that we are entering a new phase of history — one characterized by the steady and inevitable decline of jobs. Worldwide unemployment is now at the highest level since the great depression of the 1930s. The number of people underemployed or without work is rising sharply as millions of new entrants into the workforce find themselves victims of an extraordinary high-technology revolution. Sophisticated computers, robotics, telecommunications, and other cutting-edge technologies are fast replacing human beings in virtually every sector and industry-from manufacturing, retail, and financial services, to transportation, agriculture, and government.

Many jobs are never coming back. Blue collar workers, secretaries, receptionists, clerical workers, sales clerks, bank tellers, telephone operators, librarians, wholesalers, and middle managers are just a few of the many occupations destined for virtual extinction. While some new jobs are being created, they are, for the most part, low paying and generally temporary employment. More than fifteen percent of the American people are currently living below the poverty line. The world, says Rifkin, is fast polarizing into two potentially irreconcilable forces: on one side, an information elite that controls and manages the high-tech global economy; and on the other, the growing numbers of permanently displaced workers, who have few prospects and little hope for meaningful employment in an increasingly automated world.

Rifkin suggests that we move beyond the delusion of retraining for nonexistent jobs. He urges us to begin to ponder the unthinkable-to prepare ourselves and our institutions for a world that is phasing out mass employment in the production and marketing of goods and services. Redefining the role of the individual in a near workerless society is likely to be the single most pressing issue in the decades to come.

Rifkin says we should look toward a new, post-market era. Fresh alternatives to formal work will need to be devised. New approaches to providing income and purchasing power will have to be implemented. Greater reliance will need to be placed on the emerging "third sector" to aid in the restoration of communities and the building of a sustainable culture.

The end of work could mean the demise of civilization as we have come to know it, or signal the beginning of a great social transformation and a rebirth of the human spirit.

The Civil Society Education Project

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Reviews

"Rifkin's book is dynamite.... The End of Work is absolutely superb, thoroughly researched, soberly written."

— San Francisco Examiner



"Fascinating... Rifkin does a fine job of telling us what we already know (at least dimly) but have been reluctant to face up to: that it's no longer necessary for everybody to work to produce the things we need, and that simple fact changes everything.... He poses real questions that we've spent too little time thinking about."

— Washington Post



"Rifkin warns that in the coming years new, more sophisticated software technologies are going to bring civilization ever closer to a near worker-less world. His book is timely and... is arousing enormous interest."

— The Financial Times

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Related Global Column Articles

The Boston Globe, Technological gain: a 30-hour workweek for all, November 19, 1995


Los Angeles Times, What's a Human Worth in a Workless World?, October 11, 1995


Mother Jones, Work in the 21st Century: Vanishing Jobs, October, 1995

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Press

acrobat reader PDF documentHartford Courant, 'The End of Work': a futurist's grim warning, May 12, 1997

acrobat reader PDF documentDuluth News-Tribune, Vanishing workers, October 30, 1996

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