The Forum's Defining Books
These books represent the progression of my primary contributions to framing a New Economy grounded in living system principles. Agenda for a New Economy, The Great Turning, The Post-Corporate World, When Corporations Rule the World, and Getting to the 21st Century defined critical stages in the Forum's now more than 20 year campaign to change the stories that frame the economic discourse of our time. <See The Forum and the Economic Story Revolution> Note that this list puts the most recent first. To follow their story in chronological sequence, start from the bottom with Getting to the 21st Century.
Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth.
A Declaration of Independence from Wall Street.
-- Peter Barnes, cofounder of Working Assts and author of Capitalism 3.0
This updated and expanded 2nd edition of Agenda is my most current and comprehensive effort to lay out a holistic New Economy agenda and a path to its realization. It brings together the spiritual, evolutionary, and historical perspectives of The Great Turning, the living systems perspective of The Post-Corporate World, and the critical organizational systems analysis of the failings global corporate capitalism of the 1st edition of When Corporations Rule the World, and the insights into the emergence and dynamic of global civil society of the 2nd edition of Corporations. The underlying message is clear and simple: Wall Street is corrupt beyond repair and serves no useful functions now better addressed in other ways. It must be replaced.
This new edition of Agenda is issued as a report of the New Economy Working Group (NEWGroup), which I helped to form following the financial crash of 2008 to take to the next level the policy framework outlined in the first edition of Agenda. The result of a year and a half of NEWGroup effort is a considerably more coherent and holistic systems agenda. It launched on June 12, 2010 in Washington, DC in the shadow of the capital building.
Perhaps the most significant advance is in the treatment of the money system as a system of power and the examination of critical money system design options and their implications. This provides the basis for a more systemic and nuanced treatment of key design choices needed to shift the values focus from money to life and the locus of power from global financial institutions to people and place based communities—call it a transition to real markets and democracy.
(2006) I wrote The Great Turning to put the economic crisis in its deeper spiritual, evolutionary, and historical context. It became evident following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Towers that the global citizen movement that emerged in response to the devastation wrought by corporate globalization needed a larger organizing framework. Events following the attack, drew attention to the fact that the rise of modern corporate power is only a modern manifestation of much deeper psychological, cultural, and institutional forces that have shaped the dominant human societies for 5,000 years. I joined with Nicanor Perlas from the Philippines and Vandana Shiva from India to examine the implications. We presented our conclusions in a discussion paper titled "Global Civil Society: The Path Ahead" released in November 2002. This paper in turn became a foundation for The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community. For more on this book and why I wrote it see "Everybody Wants to Rules the World: David Korten on Putting an End to Global Competition," an interview by Arnie Cooper published in The Sun, September 2007.
David Korten never fails to shake me out of my complacency, and reveal complacencies I didn't even know I had. This work is a stunning and compassionate tour de force, calling on history, science, economics and our human goodwill to illuminate the fact that we are at a fundamental choice point. I can't stop thinking about the issues he raises nor what I'm going to do with my awakened consciousness. Thank you David.
—Margaret J. Wheatley, author Leadership and the New Science
The International Forum on Globalization (IFG) played a defining role in exposing the reality of corporate globalization and inspiring the global resistance movement. It was one of my primary affiliations during this period and a major influence on my work. The IFG formed around a shared critique. As that critique gave impetus to popular mobilization around the world, other IFG members joined my call to move beyond resistance and seize the initiative by framing and advancing a positive alternative to the free-trade, market deregulation regime being advanced by the world's transnational corporations. We decided to produce a book length report presenting such a framework. I was an active member of the international team of 21 movement leaders who produced Alternatives to Economic Globalization under the editorial leadership of John Cavanagh and Jerry Mander. Our report spells out a more coherent and fully developed alternatives to the current rules and institutions of economic globalization than any previous such effort.
As the emerging global resistance movement against corporate globalization's assault against democracy, community, and the natural environment gained momentum, it became clear that any individual victory would be only temporary until the life-destructive economic system is replaced by a life-serving system. We needed a compelling framework to demonstrate the power and natural potential of a radically decentralized community rooted economic system that defines a positive alternative to the ills of both capitalism and socialism.
I found the needed framework in insights from a small band of biologists working at the cutting edge of biology who were unraveling the secrets of life's extraordinary capacity self-organize, innovate, and ever advance the boundaries of the possible. Their path breaking findings about life's capacity for creative self-organization became the foundation of The Post-Corporate World: Life After Capitalism, which makes the translation from biological systems to economic systems to demonstrate the true potential of rule-based market economies that honor the foundational assumptions of grounded market theory.
When Corporations Rule the World (1995 & 2001)
As Fran and I moved from Manila to New York City in 1992, it was becoming ever more clear that the economic dysfunctions we witnessed in Asia were systemic, global, and a consequence a global consolidation of corporate power. Far from bringing universal prosperity, peace, and democracy, corporate globalization was spreading deprivation, violence, and political corruption.
I flew back to the Philippines in October for a ten day retreat in Baguio with a small group of Asian NGO leaders to reflect on Asia's development experience and its implications for future NGO strategies in the region. The conclusions of this retreat became the basis of a collective report titled "Economy, Ecology & Spirituality: A theory and Practice of Sustainability," which outlined many of the ideas developed in my subsequent books and served as the foundation for the first edition of When Corporations Rule the World. One conclusion of this retreat that has shaped the work of the Forum ever since is that the need is not for an alternative theory of development, but rather a theory of a just and sustainable society that embraces the spiritual dimension of life and community.
I became involved in the earlier gatherings of the International Forum (IFG) in 1994 as I was completing the manuscript for the book, which was in turn influenced by those conversations with many of the leaders of what was to become a global resistance movement against corporate globalization, which was in turn shaped in part by the messages of the book. The first edition was launched in the Fall of 1995, just before the historic IFG teach-in at New York's Riverside Church that brought the issue of corporate globalization to the fore of the consciousness of progressive leaders from throughout North America.
The first edition makes no mention of a global resistance movement, because it was not yet visible by the time of the launch. From the Fall of 1994 forward the resistance quickly grew in size and visibility. The success of the November 1999 demonstrations against the WTO in Seattle gave the movement global visibility, disrupted the process of multilateral trade negotiations, and energized ever larger protests. By 2000, When Corporations Rule the World had become an international classic. At the urging of my publisher I wrote an updated 2nd edition that launched in early 2001 with five new chapters on the further advance of the global corporate takeover and the nature and dynamic of the then powerful global resistance.
I wrote or edited 6 books prior to Getting to the 21st Century, all addressed primarily to people working on problems of Third World development. This one represents a critical transition to a focus on global systems failure and the essential role of citizen action in addressing it. I was critical of the drive for growth at all costs, but growth was so at the forefront of the consciousness of the audience I hoped to reach that I equivocated with a call for a different kind of growth that begins with policies to increase equity and builds growth on that foundation. I largely finessed the larger issue, as so many economists still do, of what Herman Daly famously called the "impossibility theorem" that infinite growth is possible on a finite planet.
I continue, however, to hold to the book's central message that our most powerful government institutions lack the capacity for self-transformation. Therefore, the essential transformational system change necessarily depends on the leadership of people willing to forgo conventional institutional financial and political rewards. Getting to the 21st Century thus anticipated the emergence of global civil society as a people power counter to the forces of corporate empire and framed the initial guiding vision of the People-Centered Development Forum (PCDF).