David Korten

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David Korten
Born 1937
Longview, Washington
Occupation Teacher, institutional systems analyst, environmentalist, activist, and author
Alma mater Stanford University Graduate School of Business (MBA, PhD)
Genre Localized economies, ecological economics, environmental economics, alternative energy, living economies, sustainability, climate change
Spouse Frances Fisher Korten
Website
http://davidkorten.org/

David C. Korten (born 1937) is an American author, former Professor of the Harvard Business School, political activist, prominent critic of corporate globalization, and "by training and inclination a student of psychology and behavioral systems".[1] His best-known publication is When Corporations Rule the World (1995 and 2001). In 2011, he was named an Utne Reader visionary.[2]

Early life and career[edit]

David Korten was born in Longview, Washington in 1937 and is a 1955 graduate of Longview's R. A. Long High School. He received a master of business administration and PhD from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He said: "My early career [after leaving Stanford in 1959] was devoted to setting up business schools in low-income countries - starting with Ethiopia". He served during the Vietnam War as a captain in the United States Air Force, undertaking US-based teaching and organizational duties;[1] and for 5½ years was a visiting professor in the Harvard Business School. While at Stanford in the 1950s, he married Frances Fisher Korten, with whom he now lives on Bainbridge Island near Seattle, Washington.

Career and main body of work[edit]

David Korten in conversation with Silver Donald Cameron about his work.

Korten served for five and a half years as a Visiting Associate Professor of the Harvard University's Graduate School of Business where he taught in Harvard's middle management, M.B.A. and doctoral programs.

He also served as the Harvard Business School adviser to the Nicaragua-based Central American Institute of Business Administration. He subsequently joined the staff of the Harvard Institute for International Development, where he headed a Ford Foundation-funded project to strengthen the organization and management of national family planning programs.

In the late 1970s, Korten moved to Southeast Asia, where he lived for nearly 15 years, serving as a Ford Foundation project specialist and, later, as Asia regional advisor on development management to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which involved him in regular travel between Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines.[1]

Korten says he became disenchanted with the official aid system and devoted his last five years in Asia to "working with leaders of Asian non-governmental organizations on identifying the root causes of development failure in the region and building the capacity of civil society organizations to function as strategic catalysts of national- and global-level change".[1] He formed the view that the poverty, growing inequality, environmental devastation, and social disintegration he was observing in Asia was also being experienced in nearly every country in the world, including the United States and other "developed" countries. He also concluded that the United States was actively promoting—both at home and abroad—the very policies that were deepening the resulting global crisis.

He returned to the US in 1992 and has assisted in raising public consciousness of the political and institutional consequences of economic globalization and the expansion of corporate power at the expense of democracy, equity, and environmental protection.

Korten is co-founder and board chair of the Positive Futures Network which publishes the quarterly YES! Magazine. He is also a founding board member emeritus of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, a former associate of the International Forum on Globalization,[3] and a member of the Club of Rome.

The Great Turning[edit]

Korten's 2006 book The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community argues that the development of empires about 5,000 years ago initiated unequal distribution of power and social benefits to a small portion of the population they controlled. He also argues that corporations are modern versions of empire, both being social organizations based on hierarchies, chauvinism, and domination through violence. The rise of powerful advanced technology combined with the control of corporate as well as nation based empires is described as becoming increasingly destructive to communities and the environment. The world is shown as about to face a perfect storm of converging crises including climate change, peak oil, and a financial crisis caused by an unbalanced economy. This will cause major changes to the current economic and social structure. These crises present an opportunity for significant changes that replace the paradigm of "Empire" with one of "Earth Community". Korten's "Earth Community" is based on sustainable, just, and caring communities which incorporate mutual responsibility and accountability.

Responses[edit]

Korten's collaborator, Joanna Macy, has praised the book, writing "Here is the book we’ve been waiting for. We are not doomed to domination and suicidal competition. We can choose another story. This is the ‘Great Turning."[4]

Author John Michael Greer has critiqued[5][6][7] the book noting that "[i]n place of the sloppy and richly human realities of politics and culture in the world we actually inhabit, The Great Turning offers up a one-dimensional morality play in which Empire and Earth Community are the only options, and the choice between them is a choice between absolute evil leading to planetary suicide, on the one hand, and radiant goodness leading straight on to utopia on the other. Third options and moral ambiguity apparently do not exist in Korten’s cosmos." He writes that "[i]n Korten’s view, what makes the tactics of today’s neoconservatives wrong is not that these tactics are morally despicable in themselves; they’re bad solely because the neoconservatives are using them on behalf of Empire, and they become good when proponents of Earth Community take up the same tactics and use them instead." He concludes that "[w]hat it means is that the constructive resources politics might provide to the difficult future ahead are precisely those foreclosed by Korten’s apocalyptic politics, with its demonization of his opponents and its insistence on the unique rightness of his own political stance."

The Unitarian Universalists for a Just Economic Community, has adopted The Great Turning as a major focus.[8]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Planned Change in a Traditional Society: Psychological Problems of Modernization in Ethiopia, 1972, Praeger Publishers
  • People-Centered Development: Contributions Toward Theory and Planning Frameworks, with Rudi Klauss, 1984, Kumarian Press
  • Bureaucracy and the Poor: Closing the Gap, with Felipe B. Alfonso, 1985, Kumarian Press
  • Community Management: Asian Experience and Perspectives, 1986, Kumarian Press
  • Getting to the 21st Century: Voluntary Action and the Global Agenda, 1990, Kumarian Press
  • The Post Corporate World: Life After Capitalism, 2000, Berrett-Koehler Publishers
  • When Corporations Rule the World, 2001 (2nd edition), 1995 (1st edition), Berrett-Koehler Publishers
  • Alternatives to Economic Globalization: A Better World is Possible, 2004 (2nd edition)
  • The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, 2007 (2nd edition), Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2006 (1st edition), Kumarian Press, Bloomfield
  • Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth – A Declaration of Independence from Wall Street, 2010 (2nd edition), 2009 (1st edition), Berrett-Koehler Publishers
  • Globalizing Civil Society, 2010, ReadHowYouWant

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]