When Corporations Rule the World, Second Edition (5 new chapters) by David C. Korten.
David Rivard, President, Steel Reinforcing, Inc.
"Probably the most important economics book to come out since The Wealth of Nations."
When Corporations Rule the World explains how economic globalization has concentrated the power to govern in global corporations and financial markets and detached them from accountability to the human interest. It documents the devastating human and environmental consequences of the successful efforts of these corporations to reconstruct values and institutions everywhere on the planet to serve their own narrow ends. It also reveals why and how millions of people are acting to reclaim their political and economic power from these elitist forces and presents a policy agenda for restoring democracy and rooting economic power in people and communities. This new edition is expanded with new information, including a new preface, a new introduction, a new chapter on The Global Democracy Movement, and a new epilogue.
About the Author
David C. Korten is board chair of the Positive Futures Network, publishers of YES! A Journal of Positive Futures, and founder and president of The People-Centered Development Forum. He is a former faculty member of the Harvard Business School and the author of nine previous books including the bestselling When Corporations Rule the World and The Post-Corporate World.
Editorial Reviews (First Edition)
Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu, Nobel Peace Laureate
This is a 'must-read' book-a searing indictment of an unjust international economic order, not by a wild-eyed idealistic left-winger, but by a sober scion of the establishment with impeccable credentials. It left me devastated but also very hopeful. Something can be done to create a more just economic order.
John Cavanagh, Fellow, The Institute for Policy Studies, and coauthor of Global Dreams
If you can read only one book on how to understand and address the enormous challenges of our time, When Corporations Rule the World is it....
Bella Abzug, Co-Chair, Women's Environment & Development Organization
Required reading for women who want to peek behind the curtain of the global economy and figure out how to save ourselves and respond to the global SOS.
Beginning in the 1960s, social, economic, and political observers have expressed concern over the role of multinational corporations. As the global economy has evolved, it is the transnational corporation that provokes apprehension. In The New Realities (1989), Peter Drucker issued the early warning that the advent of the transnational company heralded a structural change in the world economy. Now Korten sounds loud the alarm. He blames the corporate quest for short-term financial gain for creating a "market tyranny that is extending its reach across the planet like a cancer, colonizing ever more of the planet's living spaces, destroying livelihoods, displacing people, rendering democratic institutions impotent, and feeding on life." The solution, he argues, is to "re-create societies that nurture cultural and biological diversity [and get] corporations out of politics . . . creating localized economies." Korten's critique and his solutions are bold and unequivocal. David Rouse
Midwest Book Review
The harmful effects of international corporations are explored in this hard-hitting title, which shows how increasing concentrations of economic, social and political power are being held by a few strong companies. Human and environmental consequences of these concentrations are outlined in this strong title.
Squarely addressing the controverial issue of modern corporate power, this book explains how economic globalization has concentrated the power to govern in global corporations and financial markets, detaching them from the human interest. Korten presents a policy for restoring democracy and rooting power in people and communities. "A must-read."--Archibishop Desmond Tutu.
An alarming expose' of the devastating consequences of economic globalization and a passionate message of hope. Insightful reading for business people, activists, and ordinary citizens who want to restore the balance of power in the world. DLC: Corporations - Political aspects.
THE primer on capitalism vs. the market, December 30, 2000
Reviewer: lisa (see more about me) from Portland, OR
This book is the most complete and concise volume on the continuing synergistic attempt by the corporate powers-that-be to completely overwhelm the cultures, markets and resources of the peoples of the world. This is no "conspiracy theorist"- he backs up all his claims in great detail, and invites the reader to find the proof in their own observations of the market, media, and political realms. Most interesting is his proposal that the corporate form of globalization is (paradoxically) ideologically opposed to the ideas set forth by Adam Smith and David Ricardo. The last chapters deal with locally-based market alternatives to global capitalism A must read for anyone for or against the global trade agreements. Also highly recommended is "The Case Against the Global Economy". A huge tome, but highly compelling.
Reader Reviews (First Edition)
A well written proponent of Democratic Pluralism, December 30, 2000
Reviewer: John Jackson from Ames
David C. Korten does a fine job mixing both analysis with history. This well referenced book cites the inherent flaws found within both the systems of Marxism and Free-Market Capitalism. The author clearly demonstrates a repulsion for these two "extremist ideologies."
Korten puts forth a well stated argument for Democratic Pluralism, while criticizing the inherent flaws of western societies growing economic system. Ironically, Korten uses Adam Smith (among many others) to support the ideas of a "regulated-market economy." An idea which recognizes the important roles that the Civic sector, Government sector and the Market sector all play in operating society. Korten propose a way to improve the quality of life for majority (not he minority) of people on this planet.
While doing so he repeatedly stresses the importance of creating economic sustainability, through ecological sustainability. The reviewer frmokehee 's comments regarding Korten as a communist, and his long drown out environmental criticism seem blatantly unfounded with in the texts of this book. Although his review seems to have some facts straight (regarding the environment), in regards to this book he does not. Whether or not this individual has even read this book or anything about it, aside from some negative reviews, seems questionable.
An Important Time to Read this Book, September 28, 2000
Reviewer: Kenneth G. Johnson from Bremerton, WA USA
Korten has great credentials and experience in the working and academic world to cover this topic. Not an idealist or rebel, just a qualified individual who's writing about what he's experienced and studied. The history and development of our corporate-run world is explained, and the results examined. This is a subject that affects us all. People must be careful to note that this is not an anti-capitalist piece of work, but an axamination into what corporate-globalism is doing today and will continue to do in the future. (Were the WTO protesters in Seattle, IMF protestors in DC, London, and Prague malcontents? Yes, some of them were, but the right, center and left were united.) As for a lack of humanism in globalism it is paramount. And to the left, the Communist nations were exploitive and destructive as well. The Soviet Government was a corporation itself.
This book makes us want to go back to a decentralised, locally controlled way of life, and that is something that will not return. I highly recommend this book. It is excellent, and provides a basis for further reading.
what if communists ruled the world?, September 8, 2000
Reviewer: frmokehee from Alaska
Though the author never comes out and says he's a communist he certainly sounds like one. Of course this is funny because communism and environmentalism mix about as well as oil and water. National geographic (hardly a mouthpiece for Capitalism) has called Siberia the "most polluted place on earth." (see the March 1990 issue). Imagine, all the downsides of environmental destruction with none of the material gain. Just another one of the many evils attributed to communist/socialist practice to add to a long list - events that resulted in 50 - 100 million murded human beings and economic stagnation.
Of course the old Soviet Union isn't the only polluted place. China is severely polluted. I remember traveling through East Germany in 1989 - the whole country was covered with an orange sky. Yet to Korten corporations are the big evil.
Korten also ignores the importance of wealth. With money people are housed and fed and can spend time thinking about environmental issues. In fact, they may even have the means to do something about it. As for Korten I agree with a fellow reviewer - it's a shame that Stamford wasted an education on this guy. He has no redeeming value.
Conspiracy theorists' unite, June 27, 2000
Reviewer: email@example.com from UK
Mr Korten displays an breathtaking lack of historical and economic knowledge. This appalling book is a badly written collection of conspiracy, misunderstanding and Politically Correct blame. Korten never lets historical fact get in the way of philosophy.
Apparently, 'Europe thrived on the backs of its colonies', while Japan 'colonised through aid and investment'. No doubt a surprise to the relatives of the 40 million raped, murdered and enslaved by the Japanese empire, one of the most brutal in history.
There are too many historical and economic inaccuracies to mention. It is plain, however, that Korten is not a stickler for detail. By nit-picking through history, pulling out individual events, it is possible to prove almost anything. Yes, corporations are very very bad; but so are businesses and individuals. Trying to shift the blame onto one section of society is as futile as it is silly. But every conspiracy theorist needs a scapegoat. One could equaly blame problems on men/Europeans/cpaitalists....or your favorite ethnic group.
Korten is, in essence, a socialist with centrist leanings. Almost all European socialist government have been thrown out of office. Countries that practised the very beliefs he espouses, have universally rejected them. Do the voters know something he doesn't?
Perhaps most ludicrous, despite endless harping on world hunger and poverty, is the omission of population growth, undoubtedly the most important issue facing the 3rd world today. If America had India's population growth, it too would be facing great poverty. Not fitting his comspiracy theory, this is rejected. Rather like a lung cancer specialist refusing to mention tabacco.
This fairy tale view of good poor countries, verses bad rich counties, displays a simplistic, childish world view. Little attention is paid to corruption, mismanagement and population that are the true causes of poverty in the 3rd world. If all world debt was eradicaed tomorrow, its effect would be limited. One of the best kept secrets is that 75% debt has alreaady been forgiven, (100% in the UK).
Though important and oft-repeated issues are raised in this book, Kortenn's fixation with one section of business denies any validity of his argument. Undoubtedly, the IMF and World Bank have wreaked terrible damage and need to be severely restricted; few would despute this. But dressed up in neo-socialist pipe dreaming, this criticism looses validity. Korten harks to a socialist era, where the thrust of capitalist endevour is tamed and social planning takes presidence.
If corporations are all powerful, all corrupting, why are environmentalists, feminists, race campaigners, safety campaigners and liberals infinitely more powerful and popular than 40, 60 or 80 years ago? Because conspiracy theories, are just that.
This book will warm the hearts of any liberal ready to blame their woes on sinister corporations. But do little for those with a rudimentary understanding of world politics and history. A missed opportunity.
A Must Read, April 27, 2000
Reviewer: eaglefeather from Seattle, Washington
David Korten has done an admirable job of defining the challenges presented by the emerging global economy. He leads us through the root causes of these challenges and he shows us the outcome if our course does not change. Yet, while Korten helps the reader understand the reality of our predicament, he also helps us see this is not the inevitable result of forces outside our control. He provides models for living in a healthy, sustainable manner and provides the encouragement to do so. This book should be read and discussed by concerned people throughout the world.
Great Book, March 21, 2000
Reviewer: Eric Jacobsen from Denver, Colorado
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and learning about our recent economic and political history. Especially enlightening was his point that Adam Smith is often incorrectly applied in support of neo-liberalism while he would actually support an extremely more localized economy.
Korten also makes a good case for a balanced society -- with civic society, government, and markets (in that order!) each playing an important role. The two extremes of liberalism (where markets rule) and communism (where a centralised government rules) don't have this balance and most importantly don't put a democratised civic society at the forefront.
Unfortunately, for one to believe and work towards this goal of a democratic pluralism, one really has to be a humanist...putting the welfare of all humans before other goals...something that we often find hard to do, because we think its unrealistic (utopian) or because we just don't have the life experiences to think this way. But whether its utopian or not...if it's worth attaining, it's worth fighting for. Korten does a great job describing what can be done.
well researched but not balanced, January 26, 2000
Reviewer: A reader from Seattle, WA
In general, I thought the author did a good job researching his topic. That being said, he was nowhere near balanced. Furthermore, he never presented reasonable solutions (the final two chapters are full of loopy ideas) for the problems he outlined.
Finally, he never addresses the observation that countries can still choose to *not* become part of the global economy if they so desire (globalization doesn't have to happen). Similarly, with regards to IMF and World Bank loans, he lobbies (presumably) for debt forgiveness, but never convincingly addresses why the debt should be forgiven when it was voluntarily assumed (BTW: the author makes the bizarre argument that the debt was *not* assumed voluntarily and therefore should be exempt from repayment). In general, the strangest thing about his book was that he ignored the obvious--several of his egregegious examples (ie the Philippine gold mine) were perpetrated by the government against their own people (again, the balance thing).
If you're in the choir that believes corporations are evil and should be severely restrained, Mr. Korten is your preacher and this book is your Bible. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
An eye opener, December 5, 1999
Reviewer: A reader from United States
I must say that this book makes me look at the world in a different and more disturbing light. We have been brought off course by greed and cunning stupidity. Korten is honest and does not seem to be pushing an agenda for any purpose but to make the world a better place for all people. I recommend it to anybody who has hope for the future and wants to know where the past has brought us.
People should wake up, September 21, 1999
Reviewer: A reader from Gaithersburg, MD
I got a good laugh from the reviewer who viewed environmental degradation, social disintegration, worsening inequality, and the domination of our governmental institutions by corporations to be "non-existant problems" that are getting "better, not worse." WAKE UP! Korten's book is absolutely correct, his analysis is impeccable. I don't care where he went to school or what he did before he wrote this book... people often resort to attacking the messenger personally when they don't like the message. Buy the book, read it, and then think about what you can do to help make things better!
More of a threat...., April 22, 1999
Reviewer: firstname.lastname@example.org from California, USA
This book is more of a threat to the established order than thousands of armed men could ever be. You'll learn more from this book than you would after getting a degree in International Relations. If you happen to be in college and want to have some fun, start dropping the facts from this text on your economics and politics professors. There's nothing like seeing old, fat white men soil their union suits!