Reviews

The Luddite as Messiah

Jeremy Rifkin declares himself a heretic in this book, but he is more accurately described as a Cassandra and not a Huss or a Bruno. This "new age" doomsayer feels romantic impulses and expresses them with poetic skill, but his limited grasp of history, his absurd economic proposals, and his skewed philosophical perspective still show through. According to Mr. Rifkin, "The future of our civilization, our species and our planet now hangs precariously in the balance. The scientific world view and the technologies it has generated have taken our world to the very edge of earthly existence, and now we face the prospect that the future itself might be annulled in our lifetime." What has brought us to this precipice? Rifkin blames the belief in continuing technological advance through science fostered by the Enlightenment philosophers.

Presumably the lust to manipulate the environment, to control every force in nature, has unleashed the process that will destroy the earth as a habitable sphere. For Rifkin, the scientific hubris which aims at "cheating death" will actually result in necrophilia. Many readers, though, will question Rifkin's analysis. The Enlightenment was not, as he alleges, exclusively the work of positivists, and the power science has given man over nature has often proved beneficial rather than insidious. Although Rifkin devotes considerable attention to the horrors of nuclear weaponry,...

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