Rifkin’s misreadings of the zero-marginal cost of production of information technology
ideology and the narrative of the demise of capitalism
Keywords:Epistemology, marginal cost of production, ideology, new technology
In this paper, I address contemporary attacks on rationalism thanks to Rifkin’s concepts of “extreme productivity” and “zero marginal cost of production” as examples of an ideological twist on genuine economic expressions. The main issue dealt with epistemological issues in the context of the contemporary communication age. It consists to clarify the relation between economic ideas and their relation to reality. To proceed accordingly, I implement a hermeneutic method applied to Rifkin’s discourse. That method is grounded in the scholarly tradition of “the ordinary language philosophy”. Its results proceed to show 2 distinct language games at work: 1- the neoclassical definition of marginal cost and its own logic is distinct from Rifkin’s use of it. 2- Rifkin uses the expression “marginal cost” under the auspices of an ideological discourse on the demise of capitalism. 3- The confusion is based on a systematically deceptive use of scholarly referencing. I conclude by drawing some lessons for the role of a multidisciplinary defense of economic rationality in contemporary discourse.
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