From Empire to Earth Community
David Korten (Author)
Publication date: 10/22/2007
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Legendary author David Korten (author of the international bestsellers When Corporations Rule the World and The Post-Corporate World, with more than 150,000 copies sold combined) addresses the threat of continued warfare to the future of humanity, appealing to the millions of concerned citizens searching for alternatives.David Korten’s classic bestseller When Corporations Rule the World was one of the first books to articulate the destructive and oppressive nature of the global corporate economy. In The Great Turning he argues that corporate consolidation of power is merely one manifestation of what he calls “Empire”: the organization of society through hierarchy and violence that has largely held sway for the past 5,000 years. The Great Turning traces the evolution of Empire from ancient times to the present day but also tells the parallel story of the attempt to develop a democratic alternative to Empire, beginning in Athens and continuing with the founding of the United States of America—although elitists with an imperial agenda have consistently sought to undermine the bold and inspiring “American experiment.” Finally, Korten draws on evidence from sources as varied as evolutionary theory, developmental psychology, and religious teachings to make the case that “Earth Community”—a life-centered, egalitarian, sustainable alternative to Empire based on democratic principles of partnership—is indeed possible. And he outlines a grassroots strategy for beginning the momentous turning toward a future of as-yet-unrealized human potential.
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The Great Turning pulls together the many strands of my journey of understanding that began more than forty-six years ago in my senior year of college. Most everyone who has since touched my life has contributed in some way to the reflections I share in the pages ahead. I mention here only those whom I have had the privilege of knowing and engaging personally during the more than three years I have devoted specifically to writing this book and who have made special contributions to my thinking.
Fran Korten, my wife and life partner, has shared in every aspect of my journey and contributed at each step in the conceptualization and writing of this book, including detailed editorial input to each chapter. Crucial framing ideas come from Janine Benyus, Thomas Berry, Marcus Borg, Riane Eisler, Matthew Fox, Mae-Wan Ho, Marjorie Kelly, Frances Moore Lappé, Joanna Macy, Nicky Perlas, Paul Ray, Elisabet Sahtouris, Vandana Shiva, Meg Wheatley, and Walter Wink. Sarah van Gelder worked with me on the original conception and outline.
I am especially grateful to Steve Piersanti, founder and publisher of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, for his exceptional support in every aspect of the creation of this book from initial conception to final production, and for his total availability. My thanks to the entire staff of Berrett-Koehler for the enthusiasm and support that have made this project possible. I am also grateful for the continuing relationship with Krishna Sondhi and the staff of Kumarian Press, with whom I have been publishing since 1983.
Danny Glover, Robert Jeffries, and Belvie Rooks raised my awareness of the centrality of race in shaping the American experience. Raffi Cavoukian drew my attention to the universal concern for children as a potential bridge across the seemingly irreconcilable political divide between conservatives and liberals. Larry Daloz, Sharon Parks, Elizabeth Pinchot, David Womeldorff, and Donna Zajonc all contributed to my understanding of the developmental stages of the human consciousness and their broad implications for actualizing the potentials of our nature.
Board and staff colleagues at YES! magazine have served as my primary intellectual community during the writing of this book. Those not already mentioned whose contributions merit particular note include Gar Alperovitz, Rod Arakaki, Dee Axelrod, Jill Bamburg, Richardx Conlin, Kim Corrigan, Tanya Dawkins, Carol Estes, Kevin Fong, Susan Gleason, Alisa Gravitz, Carolyn McConnell, Gifford Pinchot, Michael Ramos, Dan Spinner, and Audrey Watson.
Colleagues from two other groups, the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) and the International Forum on Globalization, have also provided important intellectual support. Those associated with BALLE whose contributions merit special mention include Laury Hammel, Michelle and Derek Long, Richard Perle, Don Shaffer, Michael Shuman, and Judy Wicks. Those from the IFG who bear special mention include Debi Barker, John Cavanagh, Maude Barlow, Walden Bello, Robin Broad, Tony Clarke, Edward Goldsmith, Randy Hayes, Colin Hines, Martin Khor, Andrew Kimbrell, Jerry Mander, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Sara Larrain, Simon Retallack, Mark Ritchie, Vandana Shiva, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, and Lori Wallach.
Michelle Burkhart provided thorough and tireless assistance in the early stages of the writing as a volunteer research intern. Mark Dowie, Tom Greco, Todd Manza, Gabriela Melano, Ted Nace, and Hilary Powers all provided valuable feedback as part of the Berrett-Koehler editorial process. Doug Pibel contributed his editorial genius in a review of the completed manuscript before final submission. A combination of professional competence and collaborative working style made it a special joy to work with Karen Seriguchi as the copy editor.
Peter Bower, Susan Callan, Riane Eisler, Robert Erwin, Matthew Fox, Bill Kauth, Eric Kuhner, Don MacKenzie, Sue McGregor, Bill Phipps, Marcus Renner, Elisabet Sahtouris, Roger Simpson, Melissa Stuart, and Lama Tsomo all provided helpful feedback on early drafts. Medea Benjamin, David Cobb, John Cobb Jr., Kevin Danaher, Hans-Peter Duerr, Thom Hartmann, Bob Hasegawa, Jim Hightower, Georgia Kelly, Dal LaMagna, Dan Merkle, Anita Roddick, Juliet Schor, Tom Thresher, and Linda Wolf contributed ideas and inspiration.
Carolyn North organized an invitational seminar under the auspices of the Whidbey Institute that provided invaluable feedback on an early draft from Skye Burn, Ellen Camin, Doug Carmichael, Elizabeth Davis, Halim Dunsky, Kurt Hoelting, Stephanie Ryan, Marilyn Saunders, and Bob Stilger. Sharon Parks served as discussion leader and Larry Daloz as rapporteur.
Inspiration also came from friends and colleagues with whom I had particularly meaningful exchanges through a series of State of the Possible retreats organized by the Positive Futures Network for progressivexi leaders. These included Sharif Abdullah, Rebecca Adamson, Brahm Ahmadi, Nane Alejandrez, Negin Almassi, Carl Anthony, Kenny Ausubel, Rachel Bagby, John Beck, Juliette Beck, Edget Betru, Grace Boggs, Yelena Boxer, Chuck Collins, Susan Davis, John de Graaf, Drew Dellinger, Brian Derdowski, Yvonne Dion-Buffalo, Cindy Domingo, Ronnie Dugger, Mel Duncan, Sheri Dunn Berry, Mark Dworkin, Malaika Edwards, Jim Embry, Chris Gallagher, Bookda Gheisar, Tom Goldtooth, Sean Gonsalves, Sally Goodwin, Elaine Gross, Herman Gyr, Han-shan, Rosemarie Harding, Vincent Harding, Debra Harry, Paul Hawken, Pramila Jayapal, Don Hazen, Francisco Hernandez, Francisco Herrera, Cathy Hoffman, Melvin Hoover, Ellison Horne, Thomas Hurley, Timothy Iistowanoh-pataakiiwa, Verlene Jones, Don Kegley, Peter Kent, Dennis Kucinich, Wallace Ryan Kuroiwa, Meizhu Lui, Carolyn Lukensmeyer, Marc Luyckx, Melanie MacKinnon, Jeff Milchen, John Mohawk, Bill Moyer, Charlie Murphy, Eric Nelson, Nick Page, Susan Partnow, Nicole Pearson, Nick Penniman, Kelly Quirke, Jamal Rahman, Paul Ray, Joe Reilly, Anita Rios, Michele Robbins, Ocean Robbins, Jan Roberts, Vicki Robin, Shivon Robinsong, Jonathan Rowe, Peggy Saika, Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, Priscilla Settee, Ron Sher, Nina Simons, Alice Slater, Mark Sommer, Linda Stout, Dan Swinney, Clayton Thomas-Müller, Barbara Valocore, Roberto Vargas, John Vaughn, Sara Williams, Ray Williams, Akaya Windwood, and Melissa Young.
This book was researched and written as a project of the People-Centered Development Forum (PCDForum), an informal alliance of organizations and activists dedicated to the creation of just, inclusive, and sustainable societies through voluntary citizen action. The PCDForum is a purely voluntary organization that pays no salaries. I have received no personal compensation from any source for the preparation of this book, and all royalties from book sales will go to the PCDForum to support its continuing work. The views expressed in this book are mine and do not necessarily represent those of any of the persons mentioned above or of the PCDForum or any other organization with which I am affiliated. I extend my deepest appreciation for all the many friends and colleagues who helped to make it possible and apologize to those I may have neglected to acknowledge.
David C. Korten