David Korten on The Great Turning: from Empire to Earth Community


FrancescaRheannonSea Change Co-Host Bill Baue speaks with David Korten about his book, The Great Turning.  It describes how current ecological, social, and economic crises create opportunities to transform from a dominator-based to a community-based model for organizing society.  And Co-Host Francesca Rheannon brings us the Sea Change ViewPoint that digs deeper into the controversy behind Van Jones‘ resignation as Special Advisor on Green Jobs for the White House Council on Environmental Quality.


The Great Turning.  It’s a response to the collapses we’re witnessing in our ecological, social, and economic systems.  Despair is one natural reaction to these turns of events.  But hope is another.  Hope that the problems prompt us collectively to identify the dysfunction in our systems, and choose to change how we organize our lives.  David Korten helped crystallize the idea of The Great Turning in his 2006 book by that name.  For an in-depth explanation of the Great Turning, Sea Change Co-Host Bill Baue recently chatted with Korten from his home near Seattle.

Korten discussed the genesis of The Great Turning concept, coined by Joanna Macy (who we’ll hear from in two weeks on Sea Change.)  He credits Riane Eisler’s The Chalice and the Blade as the inspiration for the framing of his conceptualization of The Great Turning.  He then cites three modern developments that set the stage for The Great Turning: the founding of the United Nations as a global governance body; the first pictures of Earth from space, which allowed humans to see themselves as one people on one planet with one destiny; and the Internet, which weaves the world in a seamless communications web.

Korten also defines the Jungian concept of the “shadow,” and how the US must take full responsibility for its national shadow of racism and slavery, Native American genocide, and economic colonialism, among many other things.  He says that we must awaken from our “cultural trance” by stepping into a more mature collective consciousness and telling new stories to shape our culture.

The middle break features “The Great Turning,” a song written and performed by Lisa and Brett Brumby.  They’re among the growing community of people inspired by the concept.

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2 Responses to “David Korten on The Great Turning: from Empire to Earth Community”

  1. Yirgach says:

    Another interesting interview with Mr. Korten.
    I absolutely loved the quote about “Internet access is essentially free”. Who you talkn’ to homey? I live in Southern Vermont, USA and pay $80/mo for 1MB satellite access, because there is no other high speed infrastructure being built in this area. BTW, Skype, because of the latency, doesn’t work over a satellite link. I wonder what an Ethiopian farmer would/could pay? Glad you could get Skype to work in Ethiopia. I worked in Uganda for 4 years and only recently have seen a decent Internet connection. Sheesh.

    And then there’s the problem of “Self fulfilling prophecy” and limited resource.
    Hey dude – why do you think the Old World “discovered” the New World??

    I have a 6 year old grandson. I hope when he gets to be my age (60), HIS son is making a lot of money mining asteroids or heading towards another solar system.

    And he will be working for a corporation, oops, I meant “tribe”.

    Don’t you get the basics about human history? You sound like this is the first economic “bubble”. I bet the Phoenicians had one in amphorae.

    The point being, if you look at human history, you will find an unrelenting drive to reproduce, expand and explore.

    How does that compare with your thinking?
    Sounds like Old World should’ve stayed at home.

  2. Bill Baue says:


    Thanks for your comments — as I mentioned on the comments page for the Agenda for a New Economy show, I’ll invite David Korten to respond.

    For my own part, I agree that internet communication is not “essentially free,” though I agree with David Korten’s basic premise that the Internet has greatly expanded globalized communication such that practically any person on earth can reach another without having to overcome insurmountable obstacles.

    On your other comments, it’s possible that the future holds promise of developing the kind of technologies needed to mine asteroids or travel to other solar systems, but my personal sense is that that kind of technology has been driven in large measure by easy accessible to abundant fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources, and my reading of the data suggests that we are heading into a world of declining availability of these resources, or at least the ability to access them affordably in both economic and environmental terms.

    Bill Baue
    Sea Change Radio Co-Host/Producer