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When Corporations Rule the World
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When Corporations Rule the World

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  799 ratings  ·  65 reviews
When Corporations Rule the World has become a modern classic. Korten's warnings about the growing global power of multinational corporations seem prophetic today. This new edition has been revised throughout to make it more accessible to the general reader, and features a new introduction, a new epilogue, and three new chapters. While Korten points out that the multination ...more
Paperback, Second Edition, 400 pages
Published May 14th 2001 by Berrett-Koehler Publishers (first published January 1st 1995)
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This is an extraordinary book. It has taken me longer than usual to read it because it's not the kind of book you can race through and really grasp the concepts. Korten's writing is dryish, but clear. His arguments meticulously defined, logical and thorough. He traces how we, in our economic structuring of the social order, have created a world of continuing and increasing want even as the same capitalistic solutions---touted and installed over and over again---continue to perpetuate that want a ...more
Brian Griffith
Korten gives a powerful overview of the dangers inherent in the corporatization of global society, and the forces for maintaining balance between public and private interests.
C. Scott
Apr 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a towering achievement. A devastating critique of modern day corporate capitalism - the best I've read since Michael Parenti's "Democracy for the Few." There is a reason that there are a gazillion editions of this book - it is fantastic.

Korten's argument has an incredibly wide focus that sharpens down to very fine detail. The shape and scope of his critique are easy to follow and understand. I'd very highly recommend this book to anyone.
Dec 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
what shitty little people we are
Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership
One of Cambridge Sustainability's Top 50 Books for Sustainability, as voted for by our alumni network of over 3,000 senior leaders from around the world. To find out more, click here.

When Corporations Rule the World suggests that the promises of the global economy are based on a number of myths: that growth in GNP is a valid measure of human well-being and progress; that free unregulated markets efficiently allocate a society's resources; that growth in trade benefits ordinary people; that econo
Oct 12, 2011 rated it did not like it
When Corporations Rule the World is a testament to the misunderstanding and lack in knowledge of economics. The author needs to understand the difference between free market capitalism and crony capitalism. The author thinks he is describing the ill wills of free market capitalism, but in reality, it is crony capitalism. Crony capitalism is soft fascism, the only difference there is no dictatorship. Sure, some corporations are mischievous and rapacious but only with the help of government. Gover ...more
May 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, dark
A disturbing review of the history and present of the corporation. Should be required reading.
John Allen
Nov 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
David C. Korten is basically an economic realist. His work rests on meticulous research dating from the 1950's, and the recurring idea in his study of American economics is pretty sound: any one period of excess has a detrimental, sometimes devastating effect on the soundness of the economy. Total excess destroys and only gives wealth to the already privileged.

He is not right or left. He has never written during a time that capitalism has gone viral like a meme, and this is a reprint of a book
Jan 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For anyone who has doubts about how pervasive corporations are in global politics, this is a book you need to read. Korten published the original edition, which is the bulk of this 20 year anniversary edition, in 1995, but it is as fresh as it was then in unveiling the make-believe world of phantom wealth--money that is not based on any useful product or service. The mantra of continuous growth that, according to libertarian economic theory, will eventually lead to the end of poverty is a myth, ...more
Mar 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a great book, even for those who disagree with everything it says. People should read this book, along with Bastiat's THE LAW, and then download Eric-Charles Banfield's article BUSINESS-GOVERNMENT COLLUSION. cuz you see, the government is the enabler for what gets by in Korten's book. Also read the article Welfare for the Rich, by Robert Murphy i think. both articles can be found at

If big gov and big bizness can continue to combine powers, we can continue to screw the world.
Nov 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Not amazing but certainly pokes huge holes in the libertarian ideals of free trade, lower taxes, global corporations, and monopolies. His best arguments center around the creation of “real wealth” vs “phantom wealth.” We do not have an economy built around people creating goods, but rather that of financial instruments creating wealth with magic.
Korten does an excellent job explaining the problems caused by our modern global corporate capitalist economic system, the causes of that system, and some methods by which we can change the system. Good use of examples and comparison to Adam Smith's theories. ...more
Dec 14, 2008 added it
Recommends it for: Everyone
This book is an important read for EVERYONE! It was written back in 1995 and it's amazing how many of the predictions have come true. ...more
Joe Sherman
May 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
An absolute must read. You know that basically everything in the world is wrong, but you don't know why things are so bad. Read this book and you will understand. ...more
Abhishree Rana
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
When Corporations Rule the World - David Korten

In this extremely idealistic proclamation, consultant majorly in development David C. Korten (former USAID official and Harvard Business School professor) argues that “something has gone terribly wrong,” and has presented a powerful critique of corporate capitalism, showing how market economics is undermined and how it destroys the foundations of line on earth. Korten’s diagnosis hits all the right buttons: the fixation of unlimited growth, the adre
Oct 01, 2008 rated it it was ok
This is one of those books that are probably very persuasive to those who already agree with its premise. I was one of them when I first added this book to my list, but now that I've gotten around to reading it 15 years later, I'm not very impressed. It says a lot, but mostly just seems like new ways of re-stating the premise, rather than supporting it with evidence. Here's a typical paragraph:

This is the globally competitive market at work, forcing localities to absorb private costs to increase
The political economy of globalized neoliberal capitalism, in detail.

In a system that consolidates power in the hands of a few inter-generational, wealthy politicians and their mindless ("blameless"), profit-driven businesses, there are no incentives to redistribute that power. Policy interventions that target any one aspect of that system, like welfare safety nets or environmental regulations, may alleviate some suffering and may even offer control of a particular part of people’s lives to the
Beth Barnett
May 28, 2007 rated it liked it
Invaluable resource for understanding the activities of the WTO, IMF, World Bank, and international development and trade policies. Describes the historical development of these aid agencies and the global financial market (globalization), and some of the wrong turns they have taken. Korten also discusses people-centered aide and the pro-democracy movements that are forming in the developing world and the Industrial nations.
As with most non-fiction, I struggled to finish this, but, nonetheless, thought it was a powerful, very worthwhile exercise. Very compelling position on the impact of corporations--kind of a companion to the documentary "The Corporation." ...more
Apr 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
Makes me want to go out and kill a corporate CEO LOL...still reading this though
Alanoud (Anna)
I'd really rather not rate this book. However, here's a review:
I read it for my International Political Economy class for a book presentation and since I had one week to read it and was taking 3 other classes at the same time I decided to split reading the book with a classmate. I read the first 3 parts/chapters. I wanted to get a general info about the author to get an idea of how the book is going to be structured and so I have to say this I felt kinda intimidated criticizing this knowing he w
May 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I have read this book in its entirety at least three times, that is how much I enjoyed it. My PhD friend says that it is not rigorous enough to assign to her students and prefers assigning The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs. To me, this belies a total misunderstanding because first, they aren't comparable texts as they explore issues that cross but are fundamentally different. Second, because Jeffrey Sachs approaches poverty abolition in a way that ignores the forces so carefully explained in K ...more
Feb 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book should be made a text book (not the only one of course!) for all students of Economics, Politics and Journalism.

4.5 starts from me.

There were parts of the book which i do not agree with, and then there were parts which i did not completely understand. Requires a re-read i think. But most of the book is very readable, with analogies from popular culture to explain complicated topics.

David Korten presents a lot of facts before proceeding to make his arguments. Whatever disposition you a
May 17, 2011 rated it liked it
I always get a little fidgety when authors start talking about the spiritual aspect of whatever. Maybe it is my association of this word with religion, maybe I just don't buy it. Whatever the case, Korten uses the word and I cringe. This is not to say that what he writes about drips with god or an appeal to a higher power. Korten is a believer in the markets and maybe has read Adam Smith more closely than the free marketers who reference him all the time. This seems quite likely to me since so m ...more
Lance Hartland
Overall, I thought this was a well thought out book. The author covered a lot of material and was persuasive with his arguments. The premise of the book is about how global corporations are profit driven and that goal usually differs from society's goal of wanting to improve the world and the human life within it. I won't cover all of the author's evidence to support that premise because I don't think I could give it justice. Speaking of justice, it's sad to see, at least in my perspective of th ...more
Silvio Curtis
Sep 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A sort of handbook of anti-corporatism. David Korten doesn't come across as trying to speak for everyone in the social movement he identifies with, but most of opinions seem a lot like those of a lot of people I know - except that they've never systematically explained their opinions to me. I hope to use this as a reference point to compare people's viewpoints to. Though I do have significant reservations, I much prefer Korten's outlook to the mainstream neoliberal one. For me, the most importan ...more
Oct 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Very well written, it feels almost like a textbook. The author really has a grasp on the whole picture, and he uses his masterful economic skills to clearly point out the (deliberate) faults in the world economic system. Very similar to the Super Imperialism book by Michael Hudson.

No conspiracies here either, the clear minded approach precisely points out that economic gatherings of world elite such as the Council of Foreign Affairs and the Bilderbergs are secret for the very purpose of keeping
Apr 05, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: gave-up
I spent about six months reading this very long, dense book. I'd pick it up, read a chapter, put it down for a few weeks, then do the same thing again. I got about half way through it before finally giving it up for good. It's a well written, frightening book...but it's very dated. The original version came out in 1992 or something, and the second edition followed in 2000. The general thrust of the book--corporations suck, and are destroying the world--is still very applicable, but the data is j ...more
Aug 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: corporations
I read this book in my first year of college and it catalyzed my perspective on corporations, placing their rising power in their global and historical context.

Perhaps most critically, Korten emphasizes the role of civil society as a balance to both governments and corporations. This adds a critical third element to an equation that is usually reduced to government vs. the market in the political discourse in the United States. Korten rightly points out that the health of this third pole is cri
It's an interesting book.

The diagnosed problem is definitely real, even more today (in 2018) than when the first edition was published back in 1995, but it was a good job to realize this was happening already back in the days.

It's a convincing argument and a coherent framework to discuss this topic. I cannot say I agree with all the solutions proposed, but the author makes his case well. Still, I'm glad I read this book, because even if we disagree on the best solutions, diagnosing the problem a
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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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