• RRP: £23.50
  • You Save: £6.51 (28%)
FREE Delivery in the UK.
Only 1 left in stock (more on the way).
Dispatched from and sold by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.
The Great Turning: From E... has been added to your Basket

Dispatch to:
To see addresses, please
Please enter a valid UK postcode.
+ £2.80 UK delivery
Used: Like New | Details
Sold by ThriftBooks-USA
Condition: Used: Like New
Comment: All items ship from the USA.  Arrival time is usually 2-3 weeks. Almost in new condition. Book shows only very slight signs of use. Cover and binding are undamaged and pages show minimal use. Spend Less. Read More. Your satisfaction is guaranteed.
Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 2 images

The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community Paperback – 30 Apr 2007

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

See all 10 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price
New from Used from
Kindle Edition
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
£10.63 £1.43
Note: This item is eligible for click and collect. Details
Pick up your parcel at a time and place that suits you.
  • Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
  • Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
How to order to an Amazon Pickup Location?
  1. Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
  2. Dispatch to this address when you check out
Learn more

Man Booker International Prize 2017
A Horse Walks Into a Bar has won the Man Booker International Prize 2017. Learn more
£16.99 FREE Delivery in the UK. Only 1 left in stock (more on the way). Dispatched from and sold by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.
click to open popover

Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.

Product details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Lynne Rienner Publishers (30 April 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: 691,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?

Product description


"A work of amazing scope and depth that shows we can create cultures where our enormous human capacities for joy, caring, and cooperation are realized."

"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.

See all Product description

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars
5 star
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star
See all 3 customer reviews
Share your thoughts with other customers

Top Customer Reviews

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.
Comment 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
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
Comment 19 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
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
Comment 14 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars 46 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Spread the Word 20 May 2016
By Jean in Wisconsin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an interesting history lesson on empire, but a lot of this book is about stuff that I have been reading about for years. What I like best about this book is that it is, hopefully, giving people a broader view on how and why the world is this way. The final section on the solution for today's problems was repetitive. It went on and on a bit, in my opinion.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Relevant 10 Dec. 2011
By T Aquinas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
David Korten's book, The Great Turning, describes the history of our country in a way that makes perfect sense in understanding what is transpiring right now. It shows how we do not live in a democracy, but, rather, a plutocracy. And the founding fathers set it up that way. Only a few, including Thomas Jefferson, actually wanted it to be a democracy. And Jefferson wrote the beautiful words in the Declaration of Independence that make it sound like a democratic country. The others had in mind that there would be a ruling class of wealthy, elite men, hence the plutocracy we ended up with.

In my mind, the Occupy Wall Street movement is the people pushing back at "Empire" and trying to actually turn the U.S into the democracy we finally realize we don't have.

I strongly recommend this book. It is easy reading, but profound.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Great Turing 2 May 2011
By Doug B. Gledhill - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I thought this book was very informative and enjoyed reading it. I hope Mr. Korten is right about the potential of establishing an Earth Community. His experiences have led him to believe this is feasible and for the sake of us all, a turning in a new direction is an absolute.
Still, I witness the lower behavioral classifications at play daily, which gives me doubt about the species abilities to achieve his vision. This, like other books from this author have always illuminated different aspects of life for me, and I find this man insightful, articulate and willing to address issues that I wish the rest of the country were willing to contemplate. Given the realities such contemplation is sorely needed.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Description of What We Need; Not Clear on How to Get It 25 Dec. 2007
By Lou Thomas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Great Turning" by David Korten provides a well-organized and articulate description of what is wrong with our present, domination-based political and economic system, along with an envisionment of a proposed, alternative world in which things will be organized in a more cooperative and sustainable manner. In so doing, it makes an immense contribution to the vocabulary and literature describing not only our present conundrum, but also the new civilization that we might hope to create in answer to the present one's discontents. Since there are few, if any, authors who have even attempted such an ambitious project, this book is certain to occupy a central place in future discussions regarding the present crisis.

The book's descriptions of what is wrong with the present system of domination are insightful, and its descriptions of the more cooperative world to which we might aspire are visionary. Korten articulates the world view of what he calls "Empire" vs. that of "Earth Community" as first-person narrative "creeds" for each, an approach that has great clarifying power. Illustrating these distillations is an overview of the historical interaction of Empire with Earth Community, showing the recurring features of each through the ages. This reads almost like Howard Zinn's classic "People's History of the United States," only expanded beyond the U.S. to fill the world stage. Note that this is not a comprehensive history of human civilization; it is a view focused specifically upon the two conflicting tendencies that define our present-day life-or-death crisis. There are many other perspectives possible: the development of technology, the evolving view of nature, the vision and role of art, the biological evolution of the species, and so on. Korten chooses his particular focus in order to frame and explain the monumental decision facing us in the present historical moment.

My main concern regarding this book has to do with its cursory, almost dismissive, treatment of the topic of coercive manipulation of movements by control systems. To all of the complex issues raised by this topic, it has but one response: non-violence. The non-violent approach is described in the book's section on strategy as follows:

"Metaphorically, the strategy might be thought of as a process of 'walking away from the king,' because it centers not on confronting the authority of the king, but on walking away--withdrawing the legitimacy and the life energy on which the king's power depends. Think of it as a conversation with the king along the following lines:

"'You have your game. It's called Empire. It may work for you, but it doesn't work for me. So I'm leaving to join with a few million others for whom the game of Empire isn't working either. We are creating a new game with new rules based on the values and principles of Earth Community. You are welcome to join us as a fellow citizen if you are willing to share your power and wealth and to play by the new rules.'"

Korton states clearly that Earth Community movements "must always adhere to the principles of non-violence...even in the face of violent police and military repression." His arguments for this are that it "underscores Earth Community's moral authority, draws attention to the illegitimacy of Empire, and breaks the cycle of violence." Unfortunately, none of these arguments proves that non-violence will actually work, in all cases, as a strategy for dealing with the coercive tactics used by control hierarchies to suppress Earth Community movements that threaten those systems.

This is no small matter. Non-violence is the only approach the book allows for dealing with the vast arsenal of collective and individual shock tactics at the disposal of Empire, from war to torture to economic disruption. If Korten's movements cannot overcome such coercion, then they cannot succeed. And yet, even though the success or failure of the book's proposed movements hangs upon that question of efficacy, there is no discussion or example of how a non-violent approach could deal with even a single instance of coercion.

It's not that non-violent strategy has no way of dealing with coercion; it does. It deals with it by developing such a strong collective identity that threats and rewards leveled by the control system at individual members have no significant effect on their determination to support the broader movement, even if those members are threatened with death. Because its individual members are committed enough to persevere despite such threatened consequences, the broader movement can continue to withhold its cooperation from the control system, without anyone getting scared off or bought off. Korten is no doubt describing such non-cooperation when he refers to "withdrawing the legitimacy and the life energy on which the king's power depends." The control system, being parasitic, will then, if it is rational, have to yield to the demands of the movement, because it cannot destroy the entire diverse and cooperative community upon which it depends without destroying itself.

I see three problems, however.

1) Not all control systems are rational, and not all control systems have an actual dependency upon the oppressed population.

An irrational or self-destructive system may not acknowledge its own dependence upon the underlying cooperative and diverse society that it exploits, and may therefore have fewer or no limits upon the destruction that it is willing to wreak upon that society in order to control it. Such systems will actively pursue the suicidal path of destroying the cooperative host organism upon which they depend in an attempt to control it, even in the face of a disciplined nonviolent refusal to cooperate.

In this situation, nonviolent movements for justice seem likely to lead to the equality of the grave. As author Naomi Klein has noted in a recent interview, belief in "The Rapture," in which all of the world is destroyed except for a chosen few, is the terminal psychological manifestation of such an elitism unto death. The prevalence of that belief among members of the Bush Administration and its supporters indicates that we may presently be encountering exactly that kind of implacable irrationality.

In other cases, the control system may actually not be critically dependent upon the population under attack. For example, the U.S. Prison Industrial Complex treats poor communities of color as "surplus" people suited only for filling up jails that it runs for a profit. In this situation, non-cooperation on the part of the oppressed has no effect on the oppressor, because the latter does not need the former to do anything other than sit in a cell, a requirement that can be directly and physically enforced, regardless of whether the victim "cooperates."

The successful non-violent movements of Gandhi and King were dealing with control systems which, while brutal, were not irrational or suicidal, and the control systems that they confronted were not able to destroy them with impunity.

2) There are approaches other than non-violence that have worked in some situations, and which have arguably fewer negative consequences than those that would be suffered using a non-violent approach. Korten seems to be rejecting these out of hand.

The book cites only two examples of successful non-violent movements, that of Gandhi and that of Martin Luther King. By contrast, there are quite a number of examples of movements that have moved us closer to Earth Community that were not grounded in non-violent principles. In Korten's own account of the U.S. Revolution, for example, he describes the military resistance of the colonists to British rule in laudatory terms, even though what the colonists did was the exact opposite of "walking away from the king." He sums up the U.S. revolutionary struggle as follows: "In the end, General Washington and his army expelled the British with the help of France, Spain and the Netherlands. The war ended with the Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783. A rebellious people inspired by a vision of liberty gave birth to a new nation. It was a remarkable contribution to humanity's long journey beyond monarchy and theocracy, but it was only a beginning on the road to real democracy."

Why is violent resistance treated so positively for the U.S. revolution, but ruled out for present movements? It would be interesting to hear Korten's vision of how a non-violent colonial movement might have accomplished these same, or better, results. But the book does not analyze how and why repression works or does not work, the weaknesses that it plays upon, and what kinds of movements, non-violent or otherwise, have been successful in defeating it. Instead, it relies upon a mere reference to non-violent theory, leaving the proof of that theory to unspecified others who have already written on that topic. There is not even a reference to a specific work on how various forms of coercion can be overcome by non-violent methods.

Perhaps the absence of such an analysis is why the book does not list any contemporary examples of repression to match the kinds of historical examples (slavery, violent strikebreaking, etc.) to be found throughout the book. For instance, we do not find analysis of the struggle against the mass warehousing of men of color in an ever-expanding prison industrial complex, the environmental justice movement's struggle against toxic pollution that is concentrated in poor communities of color, movements opposing the repression of immigrants, indigenous peasant movements such as the Zapatistas, or other militant movements fighting oppression against great odds. What we do find is "creative social entrepreneurs" from the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies "linking local independent businesses, nonprofit organizations, and local governments in mature, locally rooted, life-serving economies with the potential to displace the rootless, opportunistic, money-driven, and ultimately suicidal corporate global economy."

Forming local economic networks is both admirable and essential, but the corporate control hierarchy is not going to simply "wither away" in the face of such multiple positive initiatives. And entire sections of the population are under attack right now. If non-violence is the answer, then we need an analysis of why and how it can work in the face of coercive manipulation by the opposing control systems, because those systems will not sit idly by while the ground is taken out from under them.

3) Korten has not discussed how a non-violent movement with the required collective consciousness and willingness to sacrifice is to be built.

When one considers the kinds of brutality that even rational control systems may impose, developing a non-violent movement's tolerance for punishment becomes a very serious matter.

Many of the manipulative methods employed by control hierarchies are specifically intended to stop individuals and movements from ever getting to the state where they assume the kind of collective identity and discipline that are required to carry out non-cooperation in the face of rewards and punishments intended to divert them from that purpose. Therefore, a reference to non-violence as a response to such methods raises the question of how we can create a movement with the sense of collective identity that is required to be able to remain cohesive in the face of such attacks on its members.

If non-violence is to be used, then it is necessary to analyze exactly what is required to make a movement willing and able to sustain the kinds of injuries that are bound to be inflicted in the course of taking a nonviolent approach against a violent adversary. Such injuries were a prominent part of both Gandhi's and King's one-sided nonviolence in their encounters with oppressive control systems.

This last point raises the issue of how the sense of identity of a movement's members is related to its willingness to sustain injury on behalf of a collective interest. Korten describes the present hold of Empire over our society as a "cultural trance," but does not describe the ways in which certain states of mind allow a control system's specific threats and rewards to cause people to sacrifice their true collective interest on behalf of the institutions of Empire, while other states of mind have the opposite effect.

The book elaborates a kind of Maslovian hierarchy of individual identity, but it does not describe the ways, or reasons, that some kinds of identity are susceptible to coercive manipulation, while others are more able to stand up to it. Specifically, the book describes five levels of consciousness: Magical, Imperial, Socialized, Cultural and Spiritual, with Magical consciousness involving propitiation of authority figures (the state of a person serving as a manipulated cog within a control system), Imperial consciousness being the thought process of those performing such manipulation, Socialized consciousness being a state that acknowledges dependency upon (and hence the need to adapt to) a larger group of which one is a member, Cultural consciousness being a state that values and tolerates other cultures for the sake of the diversity that they contribute rather than merely for the direct contributions that they make to one's personal well-being, and Spiritual consciousness being an overall awareness of diversity and cooperation interacting as the essential process creating all Being.

While these are helpful and meaningful distinctions, they are also descriptions of states of mind, of perspectives, rather than of active engagements in responding to and creating one's reality. Furthermore, they are the states of mind of *individuals*, not of *movements*, and so they lack an explicit collective aspect. That is, they reflect what an individual may personally value, which can include valuing collective entities, but they do not reflect the interactions of those individuals (e.g., as citizens) with their communities, nations, and so on.

How these states of mind are generated and maintained, how they interact with one another, and specifically, how the Imperial mindset is able to manipulate and maintain the Magical mindset, and how Spiritual consciousness might confer some immunity to such manipulation, are not explored in the book. For example, to me it appears that the Magical mindset could be manipulated by applying a credible mortal threat, because its egocentric perspective cannot model (imagine) the world without itself in it, and so a mortal threat undermines that model to such an extent that it cannot function, exposing the individual to the uninterpreted sensory inputs that characterize an infantile state (i.e., a state of terror), which is an immensely vulnerable condition. By contrast, the Spiritual mindset sees the individual as a finite element of a larger universe that will continue on without the individual once she or he is gone. Hence, the presence of a mortal threat does not undermine that mental model, and consequently a spiritually-oriented individual can function much more effectively in the face of a credible threat to its life.

Maslow, in his own hierarchy of mental states, emphasized that progress "upward" through his various states is heavily dependent upon the degree to which the material needs of a person are met, but Korten does not explore or discuss such a relationship between satisfying basic material needs and the ability of people to advance through the hierarchy described in his book. Since economic need is one of the main ways that people are manipulated by control systems, exploring that relationship (of ideology to material sufficiency) is essential to those aspects of strategy that attempt to insulate against such manipulation. This might lead to an approach involving networks of mutual support to ensure that the minimal material needs of all persons involved in a broad-based movement are met out of the movement's collective resources. A simple example of such an approach is the strike fund of a union. These are the kinds of strategic issues that need to be elaborated. Just to refer to non-violence by name does not explicate this content.

Philosophically, Korten's hierarchy of mental states implies an ethical metric in which spiritual motivation is preferable to the self-centered motivations of greed and fear. Starting from the co-related Magical and Imperial levels, which are narrowly focused upon the individual as such, the scope of identity moves outward to the increasingly more inclusive levels of one's own society (Socialized consciousness), other societies with which one's own society (but not necessarily one's self as an individual) has a relationship (Cultural consciousness), to the Spiritual level that encompasses the entirety of Existence.

The more narrowly-focused states are characterized by a lack of integrity that makes them more susceptible to manipulation by an external power (in the case of Magical consciousness), or to unilateral projections of their own power (in the case of Imperial consciousness) to capture needed resources (which undermine self-sufficiency) . The integrity of the person grows as more inclusive levels are reached until, at the Spiritual level, one has identified with the perfect integrity of Existence as a whole, an integrity which cannot be violated because there is nothing outside of Existence as a whole that might violate it, and no way that this singular Existence can be divided into anything other than itself. Ultimately, there is a relationship between such integrity within a community and the ability of an individual member of that community to resist manipulation (i.e., because it cares more about its larger context than about its self as such).

Another issue I have with the book is its preference for illustrative examples and stories at the expense of deeper analytical arguments. The stories are helpful, and are very well developed, but that does not mean that we should let them stand in place of a deeper analysis.

For example, Korten's hierachy of mental states implies an ethical metric valuing Spiritual consciousness more highly than, say, Magical or Imperial consciousness. However, the book does not make an explicit argument regarding *why* one such state is preferable to another. Similarly, it uses parables ("stories"), credos and envisionments to describe the present system and its alternatives, and strongly implies that its envisioned alternative of "Earth Community" is preferable to the present system of "Empire," but once again does not say exactly why this is so. While the desirability of what Korten calls Spiritual consciousness over what he calls Magical consciousness may seem obvious to many readers, we live in an age of moral relativism in which one view is as good as any other, and viewpoints can be changed like clothing to suit one's present needs and circumstances. Having a more fundamental ethical synopsis would help, because if we can answer the question of why certain outcomes are preferable, then we may be able to find the key to motivating people to pursue those outcomes. Stories, by contrast, illustrate "what" states are desired more than they describe "why" they are preferable, or "how" to accomplish them. This allows us to recognize the promised land when we see it, but does not provide a map of how we can travel there, or an argument regarding why it is better. Also, without such a metric, how can we know that we are making progress rather than regressing? Finally, once we are able to define the moral high ground, we may discover that it has pragmatic advantages that we can most effectively access when we have a specific abstract model of what that high ground is.

Korten has done a great job of deconstructing the stories of "Empire," and he seems to think that "Earth Community" advocates now need their own stories (which he has provided) to counterpose to those of the Right. But maybe the reason that the advocates of "Empire" resort to stories is because they have no underlying truths that would be acceptable if stated explicitly. By contrast, Earth Community's underlying truths should be resonant with the majority of people, and hence need not be presented solely as parables.

If I were to try my own hand at crafting such an ethical abstraction, I might describe Earth Community's general principles directly as follows: "Increase diversity and cooperation at every level of the hierarchy of inclusivity (e.g., family, community, nation, international community, biosphere) in which we hold membership, and when conflicts arise between doing this on one level vs. another, favor the more inclusive level (e.g., international community over nation) within which one has both knowledge and influence." Since Being itself is equivalent to diversity (i.e., total homogeneity equals total non-being), to pursue diversity can be shown to be simply a choice of Being over Non-Being, and there are few justifications more fundamental than that. As for cooperation, that is how distinct, diverse, bounded things come about - by the cooperative principle that unites their parts. So, cooperation must be pursued as a corollary to the pursuit of diversity. By contrast, the parasitic Empire's mode of operation reduces diversity by concentrating power in the hands of a few, and replaces cooperation with regimentation. Hence, when reduced to their fundamentals, Empire represents non-being, Earth Community represents Being, and it is not consistent for a living, breathing being to choose non-being, Q.E.D.

Another area that is not elaborated in this book is the transition from economic hierarchy to local economic control and bottom-up diversity and cooperation. This area also overlaps with the issue of how coercion impacts movements for change, because intermediate (e.g., reformist) economic forms must be able to resist such manipulation if they are to survive to become elements of a more lasting and systemic change to our social and economic structure.

Korten does express the concept of locally-rooted communities, but it is more of an urban planning concept (e.g., to save energy) than a means for managing the economy. And he does talk about "economic democracy," but only in terms of local ownership of homes and of businesses, not in terms of a model for cooperative decisionmaking. He talks about a "vibrant community life grounded in mutual trust, shared values and a sense of connection," but says nothing about how such a community will localize its economic and political decisionmaking. He says that "All people have a meaningful and dignified vocation that contributes to the well-being of the larger community," but says nothing about how more rewarding and empowering work, and work that is less so, will be allocated by the community itself among its various members. He says that "Intellectual life and scientific inquiry" will be dedicated to "life-serving technologies that address society's priority needs," but says nothing about how those priorities are to be democratically (and locally) determined.

Korten seems to realize that something is amiss, because at the end of this litany of desired outcomes, he writes: "The first time through, this list may read like a radical utopian fantasy, but only because it constrasts so starkly with our present experience." Actually, what makes this list seem utopian is the lack of a concrete envisionment of, and plan for, how these various desirable outcomes could actually be realized.

In considering the above issues, it is useful to view Korten's work in the light of that of two other authors: Naomi Klein, with her recent breakthrough analysis of economic and psychological coercion, "The Shock Doctrine," and Michael Albert, with the model for decentralized, democratic and cooperative economic decisionmaking presented in his many writings on "Participatory Economics" (also called PARECON). The work of Klein and Albert, in particular, complements "The Great Turning" by going in depth exactly where "The Great Turning" is brief. We need visionaries, and we need realists, and (aside from Vandana Shiva) it seems nearly impossible find them both in the same body, so it is important to hone the views of visionaries like Korten by considering how their proposed movements would respond to the tactics revealed by eye-widening exposes of capitalism's dark side such as those of Klein, and to concrete economic planning models such as those created by Albert, as well as to the daily problems encountered by grass roots activists organizing real movements on the ground. One planned conference that aims to create that kind of synergy is the "Building a New World" international conference [...] scheduled for this coming May.

In "The Shock Doctrine," Klein analyzes and explores the coercive methods employed by dominator hierarchies to enforce their top-down control. These could be used as starting points for an exploration of how the positive solutions developed in "The Great Turning" can be made resistant to the coercive attacks so aptly delineated in Klein's book. In "The Great Turning," the elitist bias of economist Milton Friedman's writing is analyzed and rejected, but since Friedman's writings do not acknowledge the coercion that has been routinely and necessarily employed to implement his economic program, an analysis of the writings per se will also not encounter that topic (which may be why it is not discussed in "The Great Turning"). That is why it is essential that "The Shock Doctrine" be read along with the Korten analysis, because the Klein book is focused upon exactly that issue.

While Naomi Klein's work has provided an essential additional piece of the puzzle, for each coercive method that it documents, it raises a parallel, unanswered question regarding how to resist such techniques. There are two related aspects to such questions: 1) how to evolve from the present hierarchical systems to the new systems that will replace them without the intermediate, transitional systems being shattered and divided by coercion, and 2) how to prevent the resurgence of hierarchy once a more cooperative system has been put into place. Korten's answer of "nonviolence" at least does not entirely ignore this question, but as noted above, more detail as to how and why this approach would work is required.

Although nonviolence may not be sufficient to prevail in all circumstances, the willingness of individuals and groups to face coercive harm narrowly focused upon them rather than yield to manipulation by betraying the broader community (which is also required for nonviolence) is still an essential part of any resistance (nonviolent or otherwise) to the coercive methods of dominator hierarchies. If a movement's goals are to replace dominator hierarchies with a cooperative, bottom-up system, then that kind of broadening of identity can be accompanied by a movement's active protection of its communities and individuals, without any fundamental contradiction arising between such a movement's methods and its goals.

In his work on PARECON, Michael Albert has answered some of the questions just cited regarding how to build robust movements in the face of repression. If Empire is defined as a top-down, hierarchical system, then it seems to me that its alternative will be a bottom-up system that emphasizes cooperative relationships between independent entities, each of which has its own unique, self-determined integrity and character, and that is the kind of system that Albert describes.

Regarding the question of how to keep diverse and cooperative alternatives from getting dragged back to a hierarchical mode, Michael Albert has pointed out that in the Argentine factory takeovers (which, perhaps not coincidentally, have been documented in Naomi Klein's film, "The Take"), despite the democratic decisionmaking implemented by workers restarting the idled Argentine factories themselves, pre-existing hierarchical relationships were preserved in the stratified work complexes, in which certain persons had more access to operational information, and more ability and time to launch initiatives, which ultimately discouraged the participation of others who had less enabling assignments. So, part of the problem of protecting new, more democratic and localized control over decisionmaking may be the difficulty of detecting and eliminating such vestigial elements of hierarchy (e.g., through the balanced job complexes proposed by Albert's Participatory Economics, or Parecon, approach). This involves an analysis of how the modality of hierarchical control has grown like a fungus into the flesh of our present economy and society, with an eye to rooting it out and replacing it with bottom-up, cooperative systems that are respectful of their individual members. This is the kind of detailed analysis that we need to make the vision of "The Great Turning" a reality.

Despite its omissions, "The Great Turning" provides important abstract views of the two defining tendencies of our present crisis. In so doing, it brings to the table one important piece of an overall solution to that challenge. However, its lack of transitional and structural detail, and its sparse practical treatment of the issue of coercive manipulation by control hierarchies, make it necessary to add perspectives from other sources to attain a more complete picture of how "The Great Turning" might actually occur.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnum Opus 19 Jan. 2007
By Annabel Ascher - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In The Great Turning David Korten's basic optimism comes through, even as he weaves together the usual litany of post-modern ills, (such as climate change, resource depletion, and the failure of corporate capitalism), with the history of empire from the early chiefdoms to Mesopotamia and Egypt through Rome, Western Europe, and finally, the United States. In this recitation it is the synthesis that is remarkable more than the litany of ills and the history per se, both of which are familiar to educated people.

Korten's thesis is that at one time there was a matristic Earth Community, and that this primordial state was overtaken by what he names Empire in the generic form. This turning away from our most ancient ancestor's more ecologically sound lifeway has puzzled others before Korten. In Jared Diamond's 1987 essay The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race the precursor to Empire is explored in some depth. I have recently been wondering if the seed of the current global meltdown of the 20th and 21st centuries was somehow endemic to the human species. Korten's story of Empire goes far in filling this particular intellectual void.

Korten's analysis of the current situation is extremely cogent. He describes the `divide and conquer' tactics of the right wing corptocracy, which has been somewhat successful in turning a beleaguered middle class against the usual suspects, gays, people of color, and even Jews, when the true source of their economic and social distress are the plutocratic policies of the far right global capitalists that are the current rulers of Empire. These policies are represented as being democratic, but they are actually the antithesis of democracy. Korten rightly points out that ordinary Americans, whether they label themselves liberal or conservative, have the same basic desire for strong communities, healthy families and a clean environment. It is in the basic goodness of ordinary people that we may find hope for the necessary cultural transformation.

Korten is at his best when he moves into the possibility of global solutions to these ills.

In order for humankind to survive it must move out of the adolescence of Empire on a species level, and into the maturity of a new Earth Community. This change must take place on a cultural level before it takes place on an economic level and on an economic level before it occurs on a political level. The Great Turning requires all three. The true democracy involved in creating global civil society is one piece of the puzzle we must solve for the sake of the world. Reading Korten it seems possible.
Were these reviews helpful? Let us know