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Turning from Empire to Earth Community

The Great Turning is must reading for social activists. It is full of insights and inspirational visions. But there are also serious oversights and a few important illusions. Consequently, nobody should read the Great Turning without also reading at least a few books and articles which point out the oversights and illusions. A good place to start is Mark Satin's review of the Great Turning ( Mark Satin, " What can we learn from the antiglobalists?" Radical Middle Newsletter, August 1,2006, www.radicalmiddle.com/x_korten.htm.).

In my opinion, the three most valuable insights offered by Korten are (1) his discussion of levels of consciousness, (2) his review of the world and U.S. history of the exploitation of the average person by power-grabbing elites, and (3) his argument that the elites manage to exercise that dominance with "stories" that justify the exploitation. The current prosperity story, for example, is that globalization led by unfettered corporations will yield greater prosperity for all.

The most impressive inspirational visions in The Great Turning are the three "stories" of a better future which Korten presents. There's a vision for an economic future, a vision for a personal security future and a vision for a future with more meaningful lives for all.

Because of the oversights and illusions, The Great Turning tends to demonize society's elites, the large corporation and big government. The prominent social psychologist Roy Baumeister argues that such demonization is common among idealistic social reformers and usually causes them to eschew practical problem solving ( Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty, 1997,1999). That appears to be the case with the Great Turning. One has to look elsewhere for a fuller or more accurate diagnosis of what ails society and what can be done about it.

Where can the interested reader go beyond Mark Satin's review and the references found there? On matters of economic injustice, three excellent sources are Paul Krugman's most recent book, Conscience of a Liberal ( 2007), and two books by Robert Kuttner ( Everything for Sale, 1997; The Squandering of America, 2007). In contrast with Korten, these three books argue that the United States was making significant progress toward economic and social justice until "movement conservatism" seized political power in 1980. In agreement with The Great Turning, these three books argue that "movement conservatism" rose to power with false stories about how to achieve economic prosperity, security and meaning. But in contrast with The Great Turning Krugman and Kuttner propose practical political actions that can move the U.S. closer to Korten's inspiring visions.

Despite their strengths, these three pragmatic books overlook a number of the key insights of The Great Turning and Korten's earlier book about corporate abuses of power ( When Corporations Rule the World, 1995). David Korten's books remain "must reads" for all serious social reformers. (text by Richard Hattwick)

More information on these subjects is available at the these links.

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