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Rifkin on Commercial Exchange vs Social Exchange, Part 2

February 13, 2012

Excerpted from The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis, by Jeremy Rifkin:

Back to Part 1

While sometimes referred to as the third sector, as if to suggest that it is of less relevance than the marketplace or government, in fact, civil society is the primary sector.  It’s where people create the narratives that define their lives and the life of the society.  These narratives create the cultural common ground that allows people to create emotional bonds of affection and trust which are the mother’s milk of empathic extension.

Without culture it would be impossible to engage in either commerce and trade or governance.  The other two sectors require a continuous infusion of social trust to function.  Indeed, the market and government sectors feed off social trust and weaken or collapse if it is withdrawn.  That’s why there are no examples in history in which either markets or governments preceded culture or exist in its absence.  Markets and governments are extensions of culture and never the reverse.  They have always been and will always be secondary rather than primary institutions in the affairs of humanity because culture creates the empathic cloak of sociability that allows people to confidently engage each other either in the marketplace or government sphere.


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