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Medium 9781887208086


David C. Korten Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The great spiritual-religious wisdom traditions of the world have all taught some variant of this message: The deepest human pleasures come from living in a world based on justice, peace, love, generosity, kindness, and celebration of the universe and service to the ultimate moral law of the universe.1

Rabbi Michael Lerner

Gandhi… entered public life as the defender of a small, immigrant minority in a dusty corner of a global empire, but before he was done he had led a movement that, more than any other force, dissolved that empire, and in the process had proposed a way of life in which the constituent activities of existence—the personal, the economic, the social, the political, the spiritual—were brought into a new relationship.2

Jonathan Schell

It is not enough, as many progressives in the United States are doing, to debate the details of tax and education policies, budgets, war, and trade agreements in search of a positive political agenda. Nor is it enough to craft slogans with broad mass appeal aimed at winning the next elections or policy debate.

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Medium 9781605093758


David C. Korten Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

We are told routinely that the first priority must be a strong economy. Yet, we know now that we should seek first a strong society, strong nature, and a strong democracy. Today’s economy offers little help in these regards. We must move beyond it. We need to reinvent the economy, not merely restore it.


When economic failure is systemic, temporary fixes, even very expensive ones like the Wall Street bail-out, are like putting a bandage on a cancer. They may create a temporary sense of confidence, but the effect is solely cosmetic.

Unfortunately, even influential pundits who recognize the seriousness of the environmental and social dimensions of the current economic crisis generally limit their recommendations to a tune-up of the existing system. It is rare indeed to hear establishment voices call for a redesign of our economic institutions.

Jeffrey Sachs and James Gustave Speth are both influential establishment authors who in recent books present nearly identical statements of the need for action to reverse environmental damage and eliminate poverty. Their recommendations, however, are worlds apart. Sachs focuses on the symptoms and prescribes a bandage. Speth takes a holistic approach, looks upstream for the cause, and prescribes a cultural and institutional transformation.1

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Medium 9781626562875

Introduction: Capitalism and the Suicide Economy

David C. Korten Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Perhaps the greatest threat to freedom and democracy in the world today comes from the formation of unholy alliances between government and business. This is not a new phenomenon. It used to be called fascism. . . . The outward appearances of the democratic process are observed, but the powers of the state are diverted to the benefit of private interests.

—GEORGE SOROS, international financier

None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.


Twenty years ago, When Corporations Rule the World sounded a global alarm: The consolidation of power in a global economy ruled by corporations poses a growing threat to markets, democracy, humans, and life itself.

Unfortunately, subsequent events affirm all but extraneous details of the analysis. Corporate power is now more concentrated and operates ever further beyond human control. Its exercise is more reckless. Its political domination is more complete. Its consequences are more devastating. And system collapse is more certain and imminent.

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David C. Korten Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

America is lurching to the right.… Until the 1960s, there had been almost no relevant right-wing organizations in America.… By the 1970s, the Right had been transformed into an institutionalized, disciplined, well-organized, and well-funded movement of loosely knit affiliates.… The New Right network supports whoever shares its desire for radical political change and its resentments of the status quo. As such, the New Right is anything but conservative.1

Alan Crawford

The evil was very grave: the Republicans, entrenched in power, cynically abused it; they subverted the integrity of the vote, and of the press; they mocked the spirit of the Constitution through partisan legislation, and copying the tactics of tyrants, used overseas wars to deflect attention from their actions.2

José Martí, Cuban poet and independence hero on the U.S. election of 1884

Following World War II, the United States developed a broad middle class that made it the envy of the world. Achieving this took a devastating depression, a labor-friendly president who refused to field federal troops to fire on striking workers, a world war, and a strong, well-organized labor movement. Those elements combined to create a dynamic that for a time moderated the excesses of Empire.

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David C. Korten Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

By deliberately changing the internal image of reality, people can change the world.


I believe that the world has moved closer to oneness and more people see each other as one with the other. . . . It is possible to have new thoughts and new common values for humans and all other forms of life.

coordinator, Kenya Green Belt Movement

No sane person seeks a world divided between billions of people living in absolute deprivation and a tiny elite guarding their wealth and luxury behind fortress walls. No one rejoices at the prospect of life in a world of collapsing social and ecological systems. Yet we continue to place human civilization and even our species’ survival at risk mainly to allow a few million people to accumulate money beyond any conceivable need. We continue to go boldly where no one wants to go.

Many are awakening to the reality that economic globalization has come at an intolerable price. In the name of modernity we create dysfunctional societies that breed pathological behavior—violence, extreme competitiveness, suicide, drug abuse, greed, and environmental degradation—at every hand. Such behavior is the inevitable consequence of a society’s failure to meet the needs of its members for social bonding, trust, affection, and shared sacred meaning.1 Yet the madness of pursuing policies that deepen economic, social, and environmental dysfunction is not inevitable. The idea that we are caught in the grip of irresistible historical forces and inherent, irreversible human imperfections to which we must adapt is pure fabrication. Corporate globalization is advanced by the conscious choices of those who view the world through the lens of corporate interest. Human alternatives do exist, and those who view the world through the lens of a healthy society have both the right and the power to choose them.

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