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The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community Paperback – October 1, 2007

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Editorial Reviews


"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

The Great Turning
From Empire to Earth Community
By David C. Korten

"We stand at a critical moment in Earth's history, a time when humanity must choose its future.... To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth Community with a common destiny."
--The Earth Charter (2000)

David Korten's classic bestseller, When Corporations Rule the World was one of the first books to articulate the destructive and oppressive nature of the global corporate economy. Now, ten years later, Korten shows that the problem runs deeper than corporate domination, and with far greater consequences.

In The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, Korten argues that corporate consolidation of power is merely a contemporary manifestation of what he defines as "Empire"--the organization of society by hierarchies of domination grounded in violent chauvinisms of race, gender, religion, nationality, language, and class. The result has been the same for 5,000 years--fortune for the few and misery for the many. Now, thanks to modern technologies, the way of Empire is increasingly destructive to children, family, community, and nature itself, rapidly leading us all to the brink of worldwide environmental and social collapse.

Korten makes the case that we are a species with the power of choice, and that at this defining moment in history, humanity faces both the opportunity and the imperative to choose our future in a conscious collective manner. A mounting perfect economic storm is fast approaching. A convergence of climate change, the fast approaching peak and decline in oil production, and the financial instability inherent in an unbalanced global trading system will bring an unraveling of the corporate-led global economy and a dramatic restructuring of every aspect of modern life--whether we like it or not.

This unraveling cannot be avoided. We can, however, turn a potentially terminal crisis into an epic opportunity to bring forth a new era of Earth Community grounded in the life-affirming cultural values shared by most all the world's people and eloquently articulated in the Earth Charter.

The Great Turning is an essential resource for those who understand the need for fundamental change. It cuts through the complexity of our time to illuminate a simple, but elegant truth. We humans live by stories. We are held captive to the ways of Empire by a cultural trance of our own creation--indeed, one need look no further than our popular culture and the way it is magnified in TV, movies, and other mass media to see how this paradigm is reflected back upon us all everyday. Changing our future begins with changing our stories in a way that includes our capacities for compassion, cooperation, responsible self-direction, and self-organizing partnership. This is a work already underway, and to succeed, it ultimately will call for the participation of every person on the planet. In The Great Turning, David Korten points the way to the inspiring outcome within our reach.


"Here's 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.'"
--Joanna Macy, author of Coming Back to Life

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

"The Great Turning is a work of amazing scope and depth. This is a wise and much needed book that shows we can create cultures where our enormous human capacities for joy, caring, and cooperation are realized."
--Riane Eisler, author of The Chalice and the Blade

"Employing history, psychology, economics, spirituality, and common sense, Korten not only critiques the dilemma we are in as a species, he also shows us doable and workable ways out of our morass. This book is a kind of Bible to the 21st century, a revelation of where we might travel if we have the moral imagination and the courage to choose and act wisely. Bravo!"
--Matthew Fox, educator and theologian, author of Original Blessing and A New Reformation

"David Korten has produced a masterpiece! Fascinating, compelling, wonderfully readable, and broad reaching in its arc of history and significance, The Great Turning will keep you up nights reading, fill your notebooks with insights, and give you the ammunition to win the water cooler wars."
--Thom Hartmann, Air America Radio talk show host and author of Screwed: The Undeclared War on the Middle Class

"I love this book! David Korten has done it again--created a masterpiece of big thinking to help us find our way in this death-or-life historical moment."
-- Frances Moore Lappé, author of Hope's Edge and Democracy's Edge

"What a gift David Korten has given us with this prophetic book! This is a must-read for activists, for lovers of contemporary American studies, and for Cultural Creatives."
--Paul H. Ray, co-author of The Cultural Creatives

"A must read for everyone who yearns to create a positive human future. The Great Turning is a wise, profound, and practical book filled with fresh insights and is destined to be even more influential than Korten's previous contributions"
-- Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Kumarian Press (October 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1887208089
  • ISBN-13: 978-1887208086
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #154,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

In addition to an active schedule of writing and speaking on global and national issues, I serve as president of the Living Economies Forum, chair of the board of YES! Magazine (, co-chair the New Economy Working Group (, founding board member emeritus of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (, and a member of the Club of Rome ( I hold MBA and Ph.D. degrees from the Stanford Business School, taught at the Harvard Business School, served as a captain in the U.S. Air Force, and have 30 years experience as a development professional in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

My books include the international best seller, When Corporations Rule the World (watch for the 20th anniversary edition to be released in June 2015): Change the Story, Change the Future: A Living Economy for a Living Earth; Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth; The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community; and The Post Corporate World: Life After Capitalism.

For more information and periodic updates, visit my website You can also follow me on Twitter - @dkorten - and Facebook.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Bugs on December 2, 2006
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).
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74 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Peter on April 26, 2006
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.
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82 of 93 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Upson on June 1, 2006
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....
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