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The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  300 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
*Sweeping survey of world history offering a new understanding of the key challenge of our time
*Offers a positive message of hope for a sustainable and just future and a practical strategy for getting there
In The Great Turning, David Korten argues that "Empire," the organization of society through hierarchy and violence has always resulted in misery for the many and fortu
Paperback, 402 pages
Published October 1st 2007 by Berrett-Koehler Publishers (first published 2001)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Bill Scarvie
Feb 01, 2009 Bill Scarvie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book changed my life. Before reading it, I was in despair over the likely future of my twelve grandchildren. Global climate change carries the threat of massive human dislocation, widespread drought and famine, and given the current condition of world politics, the prospect of violent conflict over land and water. Peak oil carries the threat of financial chaos and violent conflict over dwindling fossil fuel resources. Finally the official position of the Bush administration was to ignore cl ...more
Giving Thanks to Inspiration
Alex Knight

David Korten, long-time global justice activist, co-founder of Yes! Magazine, and author of such books as When Corporations Rule the World, lays out the fundamental crossroads facing the world in his 2006 book The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community. In response to global climate change, war, oil scarcity, persistent racism and sexism and many other mounting challenges, Korten argues we must recognize these as symptoms of a larger system of Empire
Keith Akers
I actually led a book discussion group on this book last year. The discussions were interesting but the book is, I think, inadequate. For anyone with vaguely leftist inclinations, It's sort of like going to see a romantic comedy starring (oh, say) Meg Ryan. You know what to expect, and you will probably enjoy it, but the plot is predictable and it is not going to really challenge you or add to your knowledge.

He's pretty sharp about social inequality, but less so about the environment. But the w
Meghan Humphreys
I'm an environmentalist tree-hugger. It's what I do all day, every day. But this book was too woo-woo for me, if you know what I mean. I believe there are those of us, especially here in Portland that could band together to create Korten's "earth communities". But it's, sadly, going to take a major crisis like declining oil supply or other catastrophe to make it happen. And we're just as likely, given Americans' penchant for guns and self-centeredness, to devolve into Mad Max-style Darwinism.

I t
Jennifer Joy
May 04, 2008 Jennifer Joy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Korten provides an excellent overview of Empire and how we've arrived where we are today. He exposes the infancy of America's 'democracy' and encourages the questioning and stretching that has to occur in order for the human race to move forward. A stimulating must-read. My only advice -- don't read this alone! Establish an 'Earth Community' to dialogue with as you move through it.
Polly Trout
Korten reads like George Lakoff rolling on a tab of ecstasy: American society is gripped by a polarized culture war between Empire (what Lakoff would call the Patriarchal Authoritarians) and the Earth Community (Nurturing Parents) -- and the good guys are definitely going to win, any second now.

Here's the polarized divide as Korten sees it. In the worlview of Empire, life is hostile and competitive, humans are flawed and dangerous, order is maintained through a dominator hierarchy, we must comp
Nov 12, 2014 Dave rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the many books out there that basically gets what's wrong but doesn't go far enough with solutions. Although it's a little New Agey, similar to Charles Eisenstein's stuff, he at least does a pretty good job trying to make his explanations tolerable to different audiences. He points out the need for balance between science and religion, liberals and conservatives, competition and cooperation, "the feminine" and "the masculine" (I generally find these good female and bad male stereotypes th ...more
Eric Nelson
Nov 25, 2011 Eric Nelson rated it liked it
Shelves: library
Any reader of The Great Turning must remember one key fact: You're not reading this book because Korten is a noteworthy psychologist or theologian or anthropologist. Korten has some keen insights and his experience with international NGOs and in academia ensure that the telling of his vision is effective, grounded in reality, and at times inspiring. He finds great metaphors to convey concepts that otherwise might hover just above true comprehension. Korten not only defines and describes a new ec ...more
Korten uses the metaphors of "empire" and "earth community" to signify the essential choice we must make as human beings between relationships based on power (dominance/hierarchy/violence) and those based on partnership (democracy/community/stewardship/). And now, as we reach the global limits of ecological sustainability, it is just as critical that this relationship extend to all living creatures and the living systems that support them. After 5000 years of Empire, our only real hope is to tur ...more
Jun 04, 2014 Daniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty good. Does a good job documenting the course of human evolution and the choices made for culture along the way. Provides a good framework on empire. Great job on applying psychological, biological, and physics to cultural/politics/economics. Leaves some operational definitions unclear but you pick it up eventually through the supporting text. Seems to have a slight misunderstanding of atheism and a couple of questions remain but you can tell he has evolved his views through time and has a ...more
Kate Lawrence
Apr 24, 2009 Kate Lawrence rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: environment
I participated in a five-session discussion series on this book. It gives a good overview of how we can respond positively to the many changes that will be brought about in the not-too-distant future by a deteriorating enviroment and peak oil. Korten has a background in international development and has clearly thought about these issues over many years. Drawing on the ideas expressed in The Chalice and the Blade, by Riane Eisler, about dominator and partnership societies, he points out that the ...more
Feb 09, 2009 Catherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Korten posits that we're on the cusp of worldwide change. He spends much of the book examining history, focusing on humanity's tendency to dominate others, exploit natural resources and value power over all else. The best part of the book comes near the end, when he describes ways to help your community embrace sustainability and equality. I would recommend this book with the caveat of starting a discussion group to go along with your reading. Your debates and real-world solutions will greatly e ...more
I appreciate what Korten has to offer to the future world. I also want to believe that we are in the midst of shifting our view points and perspectives on the world. However, his oversimplistic, repetitive, and theory-only writing had me more often pointing out the flaws in his argument over the possibility and inspiration that it was should have had me thinking about. I think Korten is onto a good idea..and I like what he was trying to say, but maybe it was just too much for a 350 page book.
Apr 25, 2008 Taylor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Yes! I support this book whole heartedly! I feel that it is one of those books that everybody should read... Korten gives a historical review of the last 5000 years in which we have been a patriarchal society. Then he visions about the direction we could be/are going in... which is very hopeful and affected by each of our lives and decisions. Over all, it is just really well written, inspiring, and powerful!
Feb 20, 2009 Rochelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-version
Bill recommended this book. I listened to it during a 1600 mile car trip from Detroit, MI to McLean, Va via Toronto; Freeport,ME; and New York City. It was very good. I've been trying to find time to go back and listen to it again ever since. I haven't felt that I could give it the proper attention yet. One day I will!
Rebecca Hecking
I once had lunch with Korten at a conference. He's a nice guy, very soft spoken in person and a great speaker and writer. The premise of the book is completely valid in my opinion, and I would parallel his "empire" to Riane Eisler's dominator societies and his "Earth community" to her partnership societies. I am less optimistic than Korten but that's neither here nor there.
Oct 07, 2012 Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social-justice
A Road Map for Change. People fear change and politicians are afraid to scare away voters by talking about change. Earth community must lead from below to remove power from Empire. People fear change for the most part, therefore, politicians who promise maintenance of the status quo retain power, even when the status quo is bad for the majority of earth'e people.
Mar 11, 2009 Christian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good exposition of the proposition that a "drive to empire" is not innate to humans, rather an historic phenomenon. Coupled with a picture of an evolution of consciousness, well-presented, with most of us in a middle state, on one side or the other of a labile center, the "younger" side being self-centered, the other more actively social.
Aug 17, 2008 Bill rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Picked up this book because I liked his last book "The Post-Corporate World." Some interesting points on how we got where we are and some interesting ideas on what a more just world might look like. But, way too simplistic and too heavy on rah rah without any practical ideas.
Peter Thijs
I'm sure the book was written with the best of intentions and some of the material is interesting, though not really new. But the author went on and on repeating himself. In the end I got very annoyed hearing the same things over and over again, sorry.
Jun 10, 2008 Stephanie marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I have given up on reading this book right now. Will have to return to it later - when I am out of my food stage.
I am very curious to see how we can change the way we have done things the last 5000 years and get ourselves pointed in the direction of Earth Communities...
T Collins
Spends a lot of time skimming the surface of needed change, but without really understanding (IMO) the underlying structures that have led to this crisis, or how to evolve them. Disappointing.
Feb 16, 2008 Kelda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: social-justice
XOXO David Korten!! Thank you for giving the male and modern version of many ideas stewing since Eisler! I STILL want to talk about this book with everyone I know!
Nov 14, 2012 Darnell rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Mostly rhetoric, little fact. It articulates some useful lenses for looking at history but otherwise doesn't have very much to offer.
Pam Rasmussen
This book was provocative, and inspiring, but a bit preachy and overly simplistic in spots, in terms of what has to be accomplished.

Mar 21, 2007 gooch marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
empire sucks, earth communities rock
Oct 30, 2008 Tara marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I heard this author speak on New Dimensions radio program. He was fantastic. I have the MP3 if anyone wants I could copy it and mail it to them (otherwise it costs $3.95).
Aug 26, 2008 Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just go to and and enter Korten the great turning...see the 45 min. greenfestival video of Korten's summary presentation for free
Sep 29, 2014 Karin rated it really liked it
I highly recommend this book. The solution sounds utopian, but Korten makes it seem realizable. I can start where I am. We can all start where we are.
Joe Sherman
Give yourself a healthy dose of optimism by reading this book. Civilization as we know it will soon collapse. Korten offers some hope that something good will follow.
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Dr. David C. Korten worked for more than thirty-five years in preeminent business, academic, and international development institutions before he turned away from the establishment to work exclusively with public interest citizen-action groups. He is the cofounder and board chair of YES! Magazine, the founder and president of The People-Centered Development Forum, a board member of the Business Al ...more
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