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Entropy: A New World View (with Ted Howard)

Viking Press, 1980
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Once in a great while an idea changes the course of history.

The Entropy Law--or the Second Law of Thermodynamics--is such an idea. It states that all energy flows inexorably from the orderly to the disorderly and from the usable to the unusable. According to the Entropy Law, whenever a semblance of order is created anywhere on earth or in the universe, it is done at the expense of causing greater disorder in the surrounding environment. This law was first propounded in the 19th century, but its full implications are only now being felt and explored. Entropy tells us that the world is winding down, and is to the future what the theories of Copernicus and Newton were to the 16th and 17th centuries-a concept both simple and earth-shattering. It is an idea that is already changing the values and goals of philosophers, politicians, scientists, businessmen, and economists. The Entropy Law is about to become an integral part of our world view.

Now Jeremy Rifkin presents this fundamental re-conceptualization for the general audience, in a book that speaks to every corner of the reader's life, from driving to work in the morning and buying groceries at the local supermarket to grappling with inflation and debt.

After defining entropy in simple terms, he discusses how it applies to nuclear and solar energy, urban decay, military activity, education, agriculture, health, economics, and politics. Entropy explains why progress, science, and technology have not resulted in greater peace and order but in fact in their very opposites: crisis, chaos, pollution, and decay. The author looks to this basic law of nature for an understanding of where we've gone wrong and for a daring map of where we may-or perhaps must-head in the future. Many of the world's most respected and influential thinkers are embracing this law as the single most important principle that affects the way we live, and as the new overarching frame for organizing the civilization of the future.

Entropy will strike a resounding chord for everyone who wonders why "nothing seems to work anymore" and why solving one crisis usually leads to another even larger crisis. It is a hard-hitting, accessible, impeccably credentialed, and absolutely essential primer to the world we live in and, more important, to the world as we will shape it in the decades to come.


"A well-written, logical assault on the conventional view that, given time and knowledge, everything will work out … As we re-industrialize the US to meet new energy realities, our policy should determine which industries are inevitably running down and which can grow. An understanding of entropy could help in that identification and this book can help provide that understanding."

— Business Week

"Rifkin's message is of utmost importance … It should be read by everybody who is concerned about life and society as we know it."

— Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"A powerfully argued and well-written book … Rifkin's achievement lies in lifting the concept of entropy from the narrow confines of physics, generalizing it, and taking the generalization to its logical conclusion."

— New Scientist

"A comprehensive world view … timely, thought-provoking and surprisingly engaging. It is an appropriate successor to Silent Spring, The Closing Circle, The Limits to Growth, and Small is Beautiful."

— Minneapolis Tribune


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