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6. Embracing Life’s Wisdom

Korten, David C. Berrett-Koehler Publishers PDF

Chapter 6

Embracing Life’s Wisdom

We must draw our standards from the natural world. We must honor with the humility of the wise the bonds of that natural world and the mystery which lies beyond them, admitting that there is something in the order of being which evidently exceeds all our competence.


I sympathize, therefore, with those who would minimize, rather than with those who would maximize, economic entanglement between nations. Ideas, knowledge, art, hospitality, travel—these are the things which should of their nature be international. But let goods be homespun whenever it is reasonably and conveniently possible, and above all, let finance be primarily national.

— J O H N M AY N A R D K E Y N E S 2

in the aftermath of the 1997 Asian financial debacle, a New York

Times editorial on Vietnam’s economic policies chided those Vietnamese who “dream of some middle course that would allow them the benefits of capitalist development without increased foreign influence and a weakening of domestic political control.”3 In the view of the Times, “Such dreams are illusory, as other socialist countries trying to step halfway into the world market have discovered.”

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14. Engaging the Future

Korten, David C. Berrett-Koehler Publishers PDF

Chapter 14

Engaging the Future

Suppose you had had the revolution you are talking and dreaming about. Suppose your side had won, and you had the kind of society you wanted. How would you live, you personally, in that society?

Start living that way now! Whatever you would do then, do it now.

When you run up against obstacles, people, or things that won’t let you live that way, then begin to think about how to get over or around or under that obstacle, or how to push it out of the way, and your politics will be concrete and practical.

— PA U L G O O D M A N 1

We encourage others to change only if we honor who they are now.

We ourselves engage in change only as we discover that we might be more of who we are by becoming something different.

— M A R G A R E T W H E AT L E Y



our task is no longer one of creating countercultures, engaging in political protest, and pursuing economic alternatives. To create a just, sustainable, and compassionate post-corporate world we must face up to the need to create a new core culture, a new political center, and a new economic mainstream. Such a bold agenda requires many kinds of expertise working at many levels of society—personal and household, community, national, and global. It requires breaking the bonds of individual isolation that leave us feeling marginalized when in fact we may already be part of a new majority. There are thousands of useful tasks to be undertaken.

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2. The Naked Emperor

Korten, David C. Berrett-Koehler Publishers PDF

Chapter 2

The Naked Emperor

For we are all capitalists now, are we not? These days the victory of the market over state is quite taken for granted.


Although members of other species trick one another, humans are the expert self-deceivers: as the best symbol users, the most intelligent species, and the only talkers, we are the only beings accomplished enough to fully fool ourselves.

— LY N N M A R G U L I S



we are subjected to a constant refrain: the victory of capitalism is the triumph of the market and democracy. Capitalism is an engine of wealth creation. Freed from the oppressive hand of public regulation, market forces will cause the world’s great corporations to bring prosperity, democracy, a respect for human rights, and environmentally beneficial technologies to all the world. If some must suffer temporarily to make way for greater progress for all, it is only capitalism’s creative destruction at work on the path to a better tomorrow.

The mantra continually propagated by our most powerful institutions brings to mind the human capacity for self-deception immortalized in the story of the emperor’s new clothes. Many of us are like the emperor’s subjects. We see the truth, but lack the courage to speak. The time has come to speak the truth that so many of us know in our hearts.

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3. The Midas Curse

Korten, David C. Berrett-Koehler Publishers PDF

Chapter 3

The Midas Curse

In the history of capitalism’s long expansionary cycles, it is finance capital that usually rules in the final stage, displacing the inventors and industrialists who launched the era, eclipsing the power of governments to manage the course of economic events. . . . Since returns on capital are rising faster than the productive output that must pay them, the process imposes greater and greater burdens on commerce and societies.


We are seeing a worldwide pattern of decapitalization. Capital, whether it be natural capital in the form of resources, or human capital in the form of low-wage workers, or local capital in the form of functional and healthy local economies, is being extracted and converted to financial capital at an increasingly accelerated rate.

— PA U L H A W K E N 2

in greek mythology a king named Midas ruled over the people of

Phrygia, an ancient nation in Asia Minor. In return for a favor, the god

Dionysus offered to grant Midas a wish. Midas asked that all he touched might turn to gold. His wish was granted, but when his touch turned his food, drink, and even his beloved daughter to gold, he realized that his assumed blessing was in fact a curse. He now had gold without limit, but at the price of life—both his own and that of those he loved.

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13. Life Choices

Korten, David C. Berrett-Koehler Publishers PDF

Chapter 13

Life Choices

Life and livelihood ought not to be separated but to flow from the same source, which is Spirit. . . . Spirit means life, and both life and livelihood are about living in depth, living with meaning, purpose, joy, and a sense of contributing to the greater community.

— M AT T H E W F O X 1

To you the earth yields her fruit, and you shall not want if you but know how to fill your hands. It is in exchanging the gifts of the earth that you shall find abundance and be satisfied. Yet unless the exchange be in love and kindly justice, it will but lead some to greed and others to hunger.


we stand at a critical point of choice between two stories—two paths to contrasting futures. One is the story of a universe that begins and ends in death. The other is the story of a universe that begins in life and unfolds as an expression of life’s creative force.

Envisioning the path of life requires that we know what we truly value, that which in our more reflective moments we identify as the essential elements of good living. Alisa Gravitz, the executive director of Co-op

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