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Product details

  • Paperback: 402 pages
  • Publisher: Berrett-Koehler (1 Nov. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1887208089
  • ISBN-13: 978-1887208086
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 2.2 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 58,127 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Encouraging, in spite of our precarious situation. Korten offers three reminders to avoid overwhelm: tens, maybe even hundreds of millions of people are engaged in this work of Earth Community; every contribution, no matter how small, helps shift the balance"

From the Publisher

"An epic work. Exposes the myths that divide us and frames the stories that
can bring us together." - Danny Glover, Activist and Actor

"David Korten never fails to shake me out of my complacency, and reveal
complacencies I didn't even know I had. This work is a stunning and
compassionate tour de force, calling on history, science, economics, and
our human goodwill to illuminate the fact that we are at a fundamental
choice point. I can't stop thinking about the issues he raises, nor what
I'm going to do with my awakened consciousness. Thank you, David." -
Margaret J. Wheatley, author of the bestsellers Leadership and the New
Science and Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By anti consumer on 10 Jan. 2011
Format: Paperback
This is an amazing book, with great evidence and analysis. A master piece. Anyone with an intelligent interest about the state of world affairs. A must read for al politicians, economist, anthropologists, and anyone that has a family and wants the best for their families. Makes question the big questions that have been pushed aside by the distraction of money making. Slavery is alive in 2011 and we are all willingly submitting to our coorporate masters. If you want reassurance that the system is robbing humanity of Life it is imperitive that you read this. I reccomend you to buy two, one to keep for reference and the other to share with friends,a associates and relatives, that way maybe we can truly inspire people to stop conforming and make long term changes that benefit all of humanity. Truly inspirational book.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Brian Griffith on 12 Jan. 2007
Format: Hardcover
Korten writes like a man on fire with care. He has spent decades trying to empower local communities around the world as they face enormous challenges. And this has always involved trying to influence top-down, overly centralized organizations -- to serve their clients more than they serve their managers. That experience gives Korten a global view from the grassroots up. It also gives him a potent mixture of practical insight, real compassion, and sheer moral fury. Now, instead of tinkering with pyramid-shaped organizations to make them somewhat more effective, he tries challenging the whole set of assumptions behind our traditional systems. He takes his best shot at a better, more compelling story of how we are changing and what we are putting behind us.

Like most big picture painters, Korten pulls together history, politics, science and spirituality. And in each of these fields he shows himself passionately insightful. I think the price of the book is worthwhile just for the myth-recasting reality-check on U.S. history. Many scholars, consultants, or religious leaders try to paint the big new picture. But Korten's particular experience gives him a pragmatism and universalism that is rarely heard. His vision of transition from an imperial-style system to a real earth community compliments Riane Eisler's vision of change from cultures of domination to partnership. And his presentation could hardly be more clear or forceful.

author of A Galaxy of Immortal Women: The Yin Side of Chinese Civilization
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Mangizmo on 21 April 2007
Format: Hardcover
If you are a curious type, and ever have wondered about the nature of huge multinational corps, how they came to be, and wondered about their reason for existence, and their relationship with the state...this is a book for you, the sheer scope of this book is amazing, Korten draws analogies from ancient 'empire' based societies from Greece, Persia, Rome...and shows that human motivations and actions have changed little over 5000 years, although initially a depressing view of the human condition, Korton suggests (persuasively in my opinion) that humans now have the ability and the information, to change human society, from the empire based, money driven, consumerist environmentally damaging lifestyle, to a more sustainable future of 'earth community'...surely we all know something will have to give ??

There is a huge amount of solid historical information in this book, from the formation of the Roman Empire, to the declaration of independance of the USA,...even if you reject some of Kortens analyasis, the story of human history contained is brilliant

very very well written, its not an easy an easy ride but I shall read it at least twice....excellent
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 42 reviews
135 of 142 people found the following review helpful
People are the new super power--local resilience, global community 28 Jan. 2007
By Robert David STEELE Vivas - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have mixed feelings about this book. It is unquestionably a five-star work of reflection, integration, and focused moral intent. On the other hand, while it introduced a broad "earth-friendly" literature that I was *not* familiar with, it does not "see" a much broader literature that I have absorbed, and so I want to do two things with this review: feature the highlights from this book, and list a number of other works that support and expand on the author's reflections for the greater good of us all.

Early highlights include the continued relevance of Dennis Kucinich and the emerging value of the Case Foundation and Revolution Health as funded by Steve Case, founder of AOL. The author posits early on the choice we have been a great unraveling and a great turning. He describes all our institutions as failing at the same time that we have unlimited potential. He concludes, as have many others, that centralized authority is not working, and suggests that we must confront that which does not work and devise new constructive alternatives ("for every no there must be a yes").

In the middle of the book he describes the five levels of consciousness as magical, imperial, socialized, cultural, and spirirtual. I would have put socialized ahead of imperial, since the industrial era used schools to socialize us into both factory workers and conscripts for the armed forces. He concludes this section with a commentary on moral autism, which of course reminds us of nakedly amoral Dick Cheney.

The author moves toward a conclusion by pointing out that people are the new super-power, with the Internet and its many new features as the foundation for bringing people together and making people power effective.

A large portion of the middle section is a historical review of America, with its genocidal, slavery, and unilateral militant interventionist nature, and its extreme inequality now, which the literature on revolution clearly identifies (the latter, concentration of wealth) as a precurser to almost inevitable violent revolution).

The book ends with four strategic elements:

1) Awakening of cultural and spiritual consciousness
2) Resistance of the imperial empire's assault on children, families, communities, and nature
3) Form and connect communities of convergence
4) Build a majoritarian political base.

In parting notes he points out that the status of our children is the key indicator of our future, and that today one out of every two children is born into and lives into poverty (one reason why the High Level Threat Panel put poverty above infectuous disease and environmental degradation).

He ends by calling for local living economies at a human scale.

If you have the time to only read one book within the broad literatures of imagination, corporateism, and constructive prospects for the planet, this is probably that book. Below I want to a list quite a few that support this author's thesis, and for which I have provided a summative as well as an evaluative review within these Amazon pages:

The Corporation
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions
Rule by Secrecy: The Hidden History That Connects the Trilateral Commission, the Freemasons, and the Great Pyramids
Rule by Secrecy: The Hidden History That Connects the Trilateral Commission, the Freemasons, and the Great Pyramids
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
War Is a Racket: The Anti-War Classic by America's Most Decorated General, Two Other Anti=Interventionist Tracts, and Photographs from the Horror of It
The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency

See also:
Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin
Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth'
"The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past"
Imagine: What America Could Be in the 21st Century
The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World
The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All
The Change Handbook: The Definitive Resource on Today's Best Methods for Engaging Whole Systems
Deep Economy

There are many more should you wish to explore via my categorized lists, but the above both lend great credence to the author of this single book, and expand considerably on the reflections that he has distilled into this one book.
45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
The Global Mess We Are In and The Way Out Of It 2 Dec. 2006
By Bugs - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
David C. Korten has done a wonderful job of exposing the five thousand year history of Empire building and social hierarchy around the world and it`s tragic trail of greed and control driven tyranny, but with special attention to the history of it in the U.S. and up to it's current form- corporate control and manipulation of society decimating sustainable economics, the environment- and ultimately, the health of our nation and the world.

Korten relates that the U.S. Constitution was a remarkable accomplishment for it's time and along with evolving amendments to include all citizens of it's benefits, on paper at least, it appeared as a grand experiment in democracy.

As Korten succinctly points out, however, every advancement in democracy and fairness has been fought against by corporate giants and the rich for selfish monopoly of the assets of our nation leaving us with a huge disparity in wealth between the relatively small numbers of elite rich in proportion to the larger numbers of middle class on down to the very poor. That there is a class structure at all is a sad commentary on equality, fairness, and our democracy.

Korten proffers that the Great Turning will gain momentum when we embrace the notion that "...a proper market economy operates with rules, borders, and equitable local ownership under the public oversight of democratically accountable governments." (p 15)

The Great Turning embraces the tenants of the Earth Charter in recognizing that this world is finite, resources are limited and need to be used in a sustainable/regenerative way with equal distribution for a healthy and harmonious existence for all of the world's citizens.

"Creating a mature society, however, requires leadership by people of a mature consciousness." (p 48). And this is the essence of the message Korten is disseminating, I believe. His Great Turning and Yes!Magazine websites have an abundance of info and resources on taking action and organizing local groups for dialogue on the Great Turning.

The Great Turning is a remarkable achievement and a monument to sustainable human conduct and relation with all other life forms and the environment that supports us all.
73 of 79 people found the following review helpful
The book is better than I had expected 26 April 2006
By Peter - Published on
Format: Hardcover
...and my expectations were high to begin with. I must confess to only being half way through it. However, it's kept me up late both nights since purchasing it. (I'm writing this at 1:36 am after staying up way past my bed time to read "just one more" chapter.)

The author makes history come alive for the reader. Although I have read numerous books on history over the decades, this is the first one that explains the positive feedback loop that has allowed Empire to emerge and persist for 5000 years so far, despite the immeasurable cost to humanity and the planet.

The author recommends that readers form discussion groups and provides some tools for facilitating discussion. If you'd like to join mine, come to my site's forum.

This will be one of the most important books you will ever read.
79 of 89 people found the following review helpful
The Great Disappointment 2 Jun. 2006
By Jerry Upson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
If we judge a book by its intention, The Great Turning gets five stars. The values that are expressed are timeless and honorable. Korten sets out to both diagnose and prescribe a cure for the past five thousand years of world history, "Empire" in his words. It is a laudable goal, but in the end the book leaves one feeling empty.

The points made in the book have been made before by others, and made better. There is nothing new between the covers, no discoveries, no new research, no original insight.

Besides its lack of novelty, the scholarship isn't here. Scientists will wince at the liberties taken, the so-called experts cited, the theories proffered. Historians will be equally puzzled at the high altitude fly-over of the past five thousand years. By encapsulating the past in such a compressed manner and writing about it in a kind of muted progressive cant, nuance and granulation are lost, and history is reduced to a caricature of itself. Lost in the sixteen page summary of world history from Mesopotamia to Columbus was the rise of all of the world's great religions, most of which arose during the Axial Age as detailed in Karen Armstrong's book, The Great Transformation, a time when people turned away from barbarity and violence in order to create very different societies and moral codes. Instead of a human past that is varied and storied, you get unsupported assertions like, "Social pathology became the norm as the god of death displaced the goddess of life..."

There are many such sweeping generalizations. He anthropomorphizes: "Life observes the classic laws...." He waxes: "Human survival is now in question because our most powerful institutions have elevated assumptions and theories to the status of proven fact," which is exactly what the author does and it is a disservice to science and the book.

There is a great need for literature that truly touches and reaches others on the issues expressed in this book. Korten does try to weave the numerous elements of how he imagines a social awakening into a cohesive whole. There are parts of the book that will provide new ways of looking at the past. And Korten is hopeful, no small feat in these times. But there is no metaphor, story, insight, humor, delight or "aha." There is no room for humanity to sing, dance and play. You agree with the concerns, much as you would at homilies in church, but there is no emotional moment for the reader. There are no quotes that will be passed around, perfect restatements of old truths that deliver something special and new. And just as importantly, there is no space or air for the reader. You are not invited to consider what might be true; you are told the truth. The people who are cited are his friends, and they are his associates, and they are the people who blurb the book, so that in the end this feels like a conversation between a small group of people who know each other. My guess is that people who already believe these pronouncements will laud the book, as it reinforces their views. But I do not believe it will reach a wider community because in the end, the book is too taken with itself and doesn't make room for the broader community it would like to reach. And that is a loss.
35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Choosing The Great Turning 11 Jun. 2006
By Kafwood - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Drawing from a multiplicity of disciplines, The Great Turning identifies the consequences of empire and outlines a course for future corrective action. Korten leverages the work of numerous progressive thinkers and activists pulling their individual contributions together to guide the reader to his main thesis: a call for Earth Community. The well footnoted text leaves the reader with many opportunities to explore in depth the topics introduced from the fields of economics, history, psychology, theology, systems theory, biology, sociology and political science.

Recognizing the turbulence of the times we live in as an opportunity, rather than a harbinger of certain disaster, Korten underscores the importance of the choice before American society: Will this be the time of the Great Unraveling or the Great Turning? The Great Turning's emphasis on choice itself is a refreshing reminder, "The capacity to anticipate and choose our future is a defining characteristic of the human species. (p.26)"

Peeling back the layers of Empire's distortions and its socio-political trappings is the target of the first three sections of the book. The remaining two sections explore the realm beyond Empire: building Earth Community. Korten takes the position that developing parallel structures at the local level, in anticipation of the collapse of Empire, is the most effective way to rid ourselves of 5000 years of dominator culture.

Numerous relocalization efforts across the United States are presented as evidence of a grassroots Earth Community movement already underway. A complementary Great Turning website ( highlights local community initiatives as well as provides discussion guides for the book -- and The Great Turning will undoubtedly inspire discussion. It is an ambitious book and at times falls short of delivering on the solutions for the nascent movement it puts forward, but Korten makes clear that The Great Turning is an unfinished story, and asks the reader to contribute to its narrative.

The strength of the book is in its breadth and Korten's ability to connect the dots between diverse elements within our culture. Ultimately, The Great Turning is a call to action, alerting the reader to the necessity of participating in the birth of a life affirming plan for the benefit of our children and the future of the planet.
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