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Culture of Empathy Builder:  Jeremy Rifkin

Economist, writer, public speaker and activist

Jeremy Rifkin, released a new books tilted The Empathic Civilization. He also posted an article on the Huffington Post about the how empathy relates to the Earthquake in Haiti.

I just went to his talk in Sonoma, CA on January 24th and video taped it. It's about 1 hour and 20 minutes with Q and A.  See below.

I had a few minutes to talk with Jeremy while I was miking him for audio. He was quite interested in the empathy documentary project and I'm contacting his staff to see how we can collaborate. He also mentioned that HuffingtonPost will be doing a month of empathy discussions based on his book. So keep an eye out for that.

I think this will be a significant book in helping to generate a national dialog about empathy. The book is huge with over 600 pages. It took him 4 and half years to put it together and it covers a lot and pulls many threads together, from history, philosophy, science, child education, etc. etc. The research is amazing. I just started chapter seven and have nine more to go.

The introduction and first chapter, about 40 pages of the book is readable directly online on his website at Following are some more links to videos, radio interviews and articles.

  • Videos

    • Animated overview of The Empathic Civilization  

    • More Empathy in the Global Economy?  Berlin, Germany (2010-02-11)

    • Overview of The Empathic Civilization - Interview in Washington

    • At Politics and Prose Bookstore, Washington, D.C (2010-01-11)

    • The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis, Sonoma, CA  (2010-01-24)

    • Authors@Google (2010-01-25)

    • Empathic Civilization - Selfishness to Empathy

    • @ Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts

    • Huffington Post Book Club Official Selection 3 - Empathic Civilization

  • Radio

    • Michael Krasny - KQED Radio interview

    • The Bob Edwards Show - XMradio interview

  • Articles




The Jeremy Rifkin Book Tour - Video By Edwin Rutsch
Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis  
Video Taped at Praxis Peace Institute, January, 24, 2010 in Sonoma, CA. (1 hr. 20 min.)

         On Vimeo - one continuous video.



Authors@Google - January 25th, 2010

  • Introduction:

    • book covers conflict between

      • entropy and empathy

      • thinking and doing

      • structure of consciousness

  • Start on a somber note 

    • End game for the fossil fuels

    • oil - industrial engine turned off

    • financial markets collapsed

    • our civilization is based on fossil fuels

    • We hit peak oil

    •  entropy bill  - carbon dioxide

    • Copenhagen - couldn't get a deal

    • this industrial revolution  - coming to an end

  • Problem is ideas are based on 18th century ideas

    • Dark Ages - church view

      • Babies are born evil

    • Enlightenment

      • John Locke - babies are born tabla rasa - born to own property

      • Adam Smith - babies born with self interest:  rational, autonomous agents

      • Benton - babies born to seek pleasure over pain, are utilitarian

      • Darwin  - babies born to propagate themselves and reproduce

      • Freud  - babies born to  insatiable sex drive

    • If this is our core nature - we're doomed.

  • In last 10 years science studies  show a difference

    • Mirror neuron - born for empathy

    • Emphatic distress

    • Child development

      • babies seek connection

      • babies cry when other babies cry

      • stages of empathic development

      • empathy feel the others struggle

  • Empathy is the opposite of heaven and Utopia

    • is recognition of life and death and awe of life

  • Consciousness changes over history - rewiring

  • Evolution of empathy

    • how to prepare empathic civilization and Homo Empathicus

  • Energy convergence - history of energy, communications, consciousness

    • Small groups

    • Hydraulic cultures

    • Industrial revolution 1

    • Industrial revolution 2

  • When consciousness changes - empathy extends itself 

    • As communications expands, people empathize with new groups

    • groups, blood ties, religions, cultures, countries,

    • can this be extended to the biosphere?

  • Empathy - entropy paradox

  • Industrial revolution 3 - Homo Empathicus

  • Distributed; energy, consciousness

    • empathy extended across the world

    • story of Iranian student that was killed

    • people are starting understating the interconnection

  • how to break empathy-entropy paradox?

    • happiness studies

    • self interest will not work

    • new dream being created - quality of life

      • collaboration

      • connection with technology-internet

    • how to use internet to bring the community together?

    • You need to start a discussion to build a new empathic civilization

  • Q: Previous revolutions were top down, now it's being prevented by the top?

    • Starting to see it happen with CEOs and younger generation.

  • Q: EU is mandating things, doesn't sound distributed?

    • bring in everyone



2011-02-07 - Jeremy Rifkin on global issues and the future of our planet 

Jeremy Rifkin: The Empathic Civilization - Allan Gregg  


Animated overview of The Empathic Civilization  


Jeremy Rifkin - The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis
Full Lecture which took place at Ross Institute's August 2010 Summer Academy.

  • 1:08:00 When we look back on our minds -
    • we recall the moments we had an empathic experience.
    • when we reach out from ourselves and experience the other.
  • Empathy is the ultimate democratic experience - I have to experience the other like myself.
  • 1:12:00 - awesome - need to reclaim awe
    • reconnect with life
    • awe > wonder > imagination > triggered by empathy
    • bring spirituality back
  • 1:14:20 - Part 2 Education System
    • empathy in the education system
    • The philosophy of individual was embedded into the education system
      • top down structure - authority
      • knowledge is power - competition
      • sharing is cheating
      • efficient
      • productivity
    • create Empathic Model
      • intimacy - companionship - sociability
      • Parenting
        • shaming culture
          • living up to a standard - isolation
          • leads to withdrawal or aggression
        • therapeutic culture
          • how would you feel
          • guilt feeling
      • School
        • present model
          • top down
          • patriarchal
          • centralized
          • standardized test
      • To empathy
        • distributed and collaborative
        • empathic curriculum vrs self esteem
          • self esteem - I'm great, narcissism
        • Programs
          • Roots of Empathy example
            • the many benefits
          • Chicago Alzheimer program -
          • Using Skype - collaborative
          • Community Service - work
        •  sharing knowledge - group meeting and sharing
    • 1:30:00 time value - efficiency
      • what is efficiency?  in relationships
      • what is empathic efficiency?
      • mechanical vrs. connection
      • truth is our common experience
      • prepare students to have as many embodied experiences as possible
      • need to get out of the classroom
      • all life is a relationship
    • new consciousness: examine minds together, distributed, collaborative, empathic

More Empathy in the Global Economy?
            @ The American Academy in Berlin

  • Introduction: We Are at a Turning Point
    • somber note - we may be at seminal turning point
    • sun source of energy
    • humans new species using 24% of all photosynthesis
    • we are the monster species
  • Two Seminal Events Representing the End Game
    • oil is running out and economy depends on it
    • July 2008 - price of oil skyrocketed - $147
    • peak oil per capita - per person
    • oil end game
  • Severity of Climate Change
    • changes water cycles - floods, draughts, etc.
    • 1 out of 7 go hungry
    • 3 degree temp rise - we  lose 70% of species dies
  • Failure of Copenhagen 2009
    • breakdown of talks
    • imperils human race
    • what is fault?  18th century  ideas of human nature
    • religion - we are born in sin, depraved, hold out for heaven.
    • Enlightenment
      • Locke - babies born blank slate - disposition to own property
      • Adam Smith - born for autonomy, self-interest
      • Jeremy Bentham - born for pleasure over pain and for utilitarianism
      • Darwin - born for drive to perpetuate themselves
      • Freud - born for sexual drive
      • Are babies - depraved, evil, sinful, rational, detached, calculating, autonomous, self interest, libido?
      • if this is the case we're doomed
  • Man: The Social Animal
    • Nation state is modeled on the Enlightenment thinking
    •  A new model in emerging - New scientific discoveries
      • mirror neurons
      • animals that nurse their young build social bonds
      • most social animals are humans
      • born for attachment, connection, intimacy, belonging, trust
      • if punishment, avoidance, - violence, domination, will dominate
  • The Nature of Empathy
  • Homo empathicus
  • empathy is emotional and cognitive response
    • babies crying when they hear other's cry
    • 2.5 years old - self identification and empathy matures.
      • feeling you as me
    • 9-8 years - aware of birth and death
      • aware of difficulty of life
      • we're all in the same situation
      • no empathy in heaven or utopia.
      • empathy needs awareness of finite quality of life
      • empathy is based on our imperfections
    • can we extend empathy to all?
      • people, animals, biosphere
  • Skewed View of History
    • bad history of humanity - focus is on bad things, the pathological
    • most of life is ordinary - it's connection, empathy
    • blank pages of history
    • how does consciousness change?
  • Great Change = Convergence of Energy and Communication
    • new energy and communications changes
    • change as a gestalt
    • Sumerians - hydraulic agriculture
      • writings,  communications
    • 1st industrial revolution
      • print press - steam engine, public schools
    • 2nd industrial revolution
      • radio, TV, electricity - coal, oil, gas, internal combustion engine
    • Causes changes in consciousness
      • Hunter gather - mythological consciousness
      • Hydraulic agriculture - great religions and theology
      • 1st industrial revolution - ideological consciousness
      • 2nd industrial revolution - physiological consciousness
    • There is development of greater empathy in each stage
      • blood ties
      • Religious associations
        • Jews with Jews
        • Christians with Christians
        • Muslims  with Muslims 
      • Nation State
  • Global Economy Dependent on Global Empathy
    • Next step - empathy with species and biosphere
    • culture story and narrative - bonds of trust
    • Commerce and trade come from social trust
    • how global economy if trust only goes to local community
    • need to expand trust
  • Breaking the Empathy Entropy Paradox
    • complex societies take more energy
    • possibly of thinking as a human race and biosphere
    • example Haiti earthquake, polar bear and cub video,
  • Four Pillars of a Third Industrial Revolution
    • Third industrial revolution
      • distributed consciousness
      • new distributed energy
      • internet - distributed communications
    • 1. 20% - renewable energy 2021
    • 2. buildings - converted to power plant
    • 3. world transport - store the energy, hydrogen, etc.
    • 4. energy intergrid
  • Power of Self Reflection
    • Can we do this?
    • I don't know
    • looking in mirror and seeing a self -
      • self reflection, self hood
      • need to see self to empathize with others
      • seeing earth from space - saw self
      • Google maps another example
  • Can Germany Lead the World Into an Empathic Society?
    • a common ancestor - the DNA Eve and Adam
    • bible got it right.
    • Create a Empathic Civilization.
    • Germany is best situated to lead this empathy movement.
    • Can Germany lead Europe and Europe lead the world?
    • Need a great conversation about this.
    • Death bed test - the empathic moments we remember are the most important

Jeremy Rifkin @ CultureWatchEurope "Culture and the Policies of Change"

Interview in Washington
A short overview of The Empathic Civilization  

At Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C  (2010-01-11) 

Jeremy Rifkin argues that a new science of human nature is emerging that demonstrates that humans are not as aggressive, materialistic, and self-interested as once believed. He says humans are driven by empathy and cooperation.

  • 00:13:32  their own. so if we are wired or predisposes for empathy is it possible we could extend empathic consciousness...

  •  00:20:23 and become impact it. this changes the range of empathy very genetically. hunter gatherer cultures...

  • 00:21:09 Muslims and Muslims. the extension of empathy and the process. and the 19th century when...

  •  00:21:19 industrial revolution, print technology had empathy extend itself? to the nation state. broader...

  • 00:22:56 and at the far reaches we now can extend our empathy to the globe. when the first video showed up...

  • 00:23:09 bear and backup isolated on the ice floe the empathy of the human race exhibited itself we can now...

  •  00:56:27 and Jonathan was on c-span this week extending empathy to animals will also help solve the problem...

  •  00:58:03 at our core and impacting creature. we do seek empathy with each other. that is the game plan. when...

Jeremy Rifkin - The Empathic Civilization
Gives short overview of his book. Selfishness to Empathy


Jeremy Rifkin - The Empathic Civilisation
Bestselling author, political adviser and social and ethical prophet Jeremy Rifkin investigates the evolution of empathy and the profound ways that it has shaped our development and our society. @ Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts




Huffington Post Book Club Official Selection 3 - Empathic Civilization

  • Introduction: HuffPost Blogger Robbie Vorhaus

  • How did you come to write the book?

    • 6 years of work

    • babies are wired for empathy, needs to be supported

    • shift in parenting over history

    • baby politics - need to nurture empathy in the culture

    • now society is more repressing it.

  • Are you a vegan?

    • vegetarian since 1977

    • support fellow creatures

  • First earth day, was that about empathy?

    • yes, and Apollo photo of the earth

  • 5:40 - Leadership and empathy?

    • analysis of leaders

    • Spanish president - ends machismo

    • old hierarchy keeps us from empathy

    • politics is cultural

    • need cultural discussions

    • German President Merkil - she listens

    • this is a turning point in history

Jeremy Rifkin: The Empathic Civilization


Radio Interviews

Michael Krasny - KQED Radio interview
January 25, 2010

"European adviser and author Jeremy Rifkin challenges the notion that people are innately selfish and materialistic. In his new book, "The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis," he alleges that our future rests on our ability to function as an empathic society. We talk with Rifkin about his call for a "third Industrial Revolution."

The Bob Edwards Show - XMradio inteview
January 31, 2010

"Social thinker and author Jeremy Rifkin’s book The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis looks at emerging scientific studies that show humans are not naturally aggressive and self-interested, but fundamentally empathetic.  Rifkin’s book is a new interpretation of the history of civilization, focusing on the development of human empathy through the present time. "

Interview Outline

  • Story of WW1 - Christmas peace

  • Philosophy:

    • Church - We are born in sin

    • Enlightenment - We are born tabla rasa, self interested, seek pleasure

    • Still the dominate idea

  • Mirror neurons discovered

    •  biologically wired to feel empathy

    • Homo Empathicus - wired to be social

  • Historians look at pathological/power and not the daily empathy

  • How do we extend empathy?

    •  Energy revolutions

    • History of civilization;

      •   hunter gatherer, hydraulic civilization (writing), industrial revolution, industrial revolution 2,

      • Consciousness changes and empathy expands

  • How do you explain, greed, me decade, Bernie Madoff, etc.?

    • babies seek connection,  if empathy not met then other forces come in.

  • Oil is running out, This industrial revolution is coming to an end.

  • Technology is extending to a global empathy consciousness

  • red cross -can't absorb being overloaded with others pain in war zone

  • individuality needed for empathy - if overwhelmed can respond

  • Need to go to Biosphere consciousness

  • Building the 3rd industrial revolution - distributed energy and communication

    • opposite of drill baby drill

    • need a global consciousness and extend empathy

  • Start a global conversation about empathy.


Where to pursue happiness
About the nature of culture and how culture needs to be reclaimed from commerce and it's reliance on selfishness and greed. A good explanation for why we need to reclaim our culture and build a Culture of Empathy.

The Empathic Civilization
15 March 2010 in Shaw Library, Old Building - London School of Economics





Empathic Civilization: Why Have We Become So Uncivil?
by Jeremy Rifkin on Feb 09, 2010
"In the past two weeks, President Obama has made an unprecedented plea for civility in public discourse. Washington insiders say they can’t ever recall a period in American public life as full of anger and polarization as now. TV and radio talk show hosts, in particular, have fanned the flames of hatred with occasional outrageous personal attacks on public figures and advocates of policy agendas with which they disagree. If we continue along this toxic road, it could lead to unfathomable damage to the American psyche. The question is “Why is The United States becoming so uncivil”?"


Articles on Huffington Post

"For this month's HuffPost Book Club, I have chosen a big book -- both figuratively and literally. Jeremy Rifkin's The Empathic Civilization clocks in at close to 700 pages and sets out to present nothing less than -- as Rifkin puts it -- "a new rendering of human history and the meaning of human existence." ...

Please read The Empathic Civilization and join in our month-long discussion about it. Not only will Jeremy Rifkin be regularly blogging about the issues his book raises, we will also be featuring posts from over 30 of the world's leading scientists, scholars, and public policy intellectuals in a many fields, which will allow us to have a robust and informed discussion on what it will take to create and nurture a truly empathic civilization."

By Jeremy Rifkin on Huffington Post

2011-01-13 - Will We Heed President Obama's Call for a More Empathic Society?
In a memorial service held in Tucson, Arizona for victims of the recent tragedy, President Obama called on Americans to "sharpen our instincts for empathy" so that we can become a more civil people.The President's call for a more empathic culture and civil society raises the troubling question of "What has gone so terribly wrong with America?"

2010-01-11 -
The Empathic Civilization: Rethinking Human Nature in the Biosphere Era
Self interest versus empathy and the
development of empathetic consciousness.  "
Two spectacular failures, separated by only 18 months, marked the end of the modern era. In July 2008, the price of oil on world markets peaked at $147/ barrel, inflation soared, the price of everything from food to gasoline skyrocketed, and the global economic engine shut off."

2010-01-15 - The Earthquake That Triggered A Global Empathic Response: What The Haitian Crisis Tells Us About Human Naturer
Frantic tweets and videos have been seeping out of Haiti, pleading for help from the rest of the human race in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake that leveled one of the poorest countries on the planet, spreading destruction and death."

2010-02-04 - 'Empathic Civilization' Excerpt: Homo-Empathicus, The Big Story That Historians Missed  - book excerpt

The following is an excerpt from the HuffPost book club pick for February, Jeremy Rifkin's "The Empathic Civilization".  Historians, by and large, write about social conflict and wars, great heroes and evil wrongdoers, technological progress and the exercise of power, economic injustices and the redress of social grievances. When historians touch on philosophy, it is usually in relationship to the disposition of power. Rarely do we hear of the other side of the human experience that speaks to our deeply social nature and the evolution and extension of human affection and its impact on culture and society.

2010-03-01 - 'Empathic Civilization': When Both Faith And Reason Fail, Stepping Up To The Age of Empathy

At the dawn of the modern market economy and nation-state era, the philosophers of the Enlightenment challenged the Age of Faith that governed over the feudal economy with the Age of Reason. Theologians and philosophers have continued to battle over faith vs. reason ever since, their debates often spilling over into the cultural and political arenas, with profound consequences for society.

Today, however, at the outset of a global economy and the biosphere era, a new generation of scientists, scholars, and social reformers are beginning to challenge some of the underlying assumptions of both the Age of Faith and the Age of Reason, taking us into the Age of Empathy.

The empathic advocates argue that, for the most part, both earlier narratives about human nature fail to plumb the depths of what makes us human and therefore leave us with cosmologies that are incomplete stories--that is, they fail to touch the deepest realities of existence. That's not to dismiss the critical elements that make the stories of faith and reason so compelling. It's only that something essential is missing--and that something is "embodied experience."



Canwest News Service Review of Book
A book review.  "Rifkin's simple thesis, souped up unnecessarily with the laws of thermodynamics, is as follows: human beings are "wired for empathy," contrary to the teachings of centuries of philosophy, religion and psychology. This capacity for empathy has always been countered, however, by the "entropic bill" of civilization; that is, the harnessing of energy (wood, coal, steam, oil) to maintain centres of power which, as they grow, become unsustainable. "

2010-01-31 - Jade Keller - on the nature of being human
The story we are told about human nature is that man is inherently self-interested, pleasure-seeking, sinning and utilitarian – doing the minimum to get the maximum benefits for oneself, and that this nature is driven by a life that is nasty, brutish and short. Indeed, all we have to do is take a cursory glance over history, and we’ll see the world stricken with crime, wars, genocide, power games, and greedy, greedy people taking advantage for themselves, to the detriment of everyone else (*cough* Bernie Madoff *cough*).

But maybe we are overlooking something. I heard an interview with Jeremy Rifkin, which you can listen to here, in which he discusses his new book The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis


2010-02-19 - Mr. Cool Weather - The End Game For The Modern Age - interview
In The Empathic Civilization, Jeremy Rifkin argues that before we can save ourselves from climate change we have to break a vicious circle and embrace a new model of society based on scientists’ new understanding of human nature. I asked him how we can do it.

What is the premise of The Empathic Civilization?
My sense is that we’re nearing an endgame for the modern age. I think we had two singular events in the last 18 months that signal the end. First, in July 2008 the price of oil hit $147/barrel. Food riots broke out in 30 countries, the price of basic items shot up and purchasing power plummeted. That was the earthquake; the market crash 60 days later was the aftershock. It signaled the beginning of the endgame of a great industrial era based on fossil fuels. The second event, in December 2009, was the breakdown in Copenhagen, when world leaders tried to deal with our entropy problem and failed.

2010-03-13 -  John Gray - The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis
Will global empathy save us from the catch-22 of climate change? John Gray is skeptical

One need not be a hardened cynic to find this Rousseauesque tale implausible. Humans may be more moved by empathy than is sometimes allowed, but empathy for the feelings of others is not only expressed in compassion. It is equally the basis of cruelty, a trait that is also distinctively human.

2010-05-10 - Jeremy Rifkin - You Were Right the First Time, Mr. President: The Supreme Court Needs Empathy
President Obama has nominated Elena Kagen to be the 112th Justice of the Supreme Court. Strangely, in introducing his new nominee the President made no mention of the 'E' word. Apparently the word been banned at the White House. The mere utterance of the word empathy sends shivers down the spine of the most seasoned political operatives in the Obama administration. Here is a President who for years claimed that empathy was the guiding philosophical principle of his public and private life, who now apparently has taken an oath of silence, for fear that the mention of the term might compromise the prospects for his Supreme Court nominee and, perhaps, other aspects of his foreign and domestic policies.

Empathy has suddenly become a four letter word, and the reason goes far beyond the question of the way a Supreme Court nominee should approach a legal question. At the root of the matter is a sea change in our thinking about what constitutes human nature and the socialization process.

2010-05-03 - Jeremy Rifkin -The Coming of the Third Industrial Revolution
In a world marred by a profound crisis, how can we advance? According to Jeremy Rifkin, author of "The Empathic Civilization," the approaching Third Industrial Revolution and the new era of distributed capitalism allow us to sculpt a new approach to globalization, this time emphasizing continentalization from the bottom up.

2010-05-03 - Troy Williams - Empathic Civilization
Rifkin argues that empathy has the potential to unite humanity through a mass networked biospheric consciousness. The downside however is that the technology that could unite the global family may just destroy us first.Troy Williams: You begin with a discussion on “the great paradox.” The systems that bring about the potential of global connectivity are also threatening the survival of our species.

Empathic Education: The Transformation of Learning in an Interconnected World


2010-07-01 -  Minnesota Public Radio Broadcast Midmorning

  • Empathy and Sotomayor and Justice?
    • Misunderstanding of empathy
  • Empathy and Immigration?
    • Era of change is difficult
    • how to see a more universal human empathy