Book Review

CoverThe Post-Corporate World
by David C. Korten
published by Berrett-Koehler
ISBN 1887208038
Review by Anitra Freeman
Originally published in Real Change

"To create a world in which life can flourish and prosper we must replace the values and institutions of capitalism with values and institutions that honor life, serve life's needs, and restore money to its proper role as servant."
-David C. Korten,
from a presentation in Canada, 11/98

The Post-Corporate World is basically a book for people who are already unhappy with our current economic system and are looking for a practical replacement. Korten proposes creating a new life-myth for our culture to replace the Capitalist Ideal, then living as if that vision was here. This idea is philosophically and psychologically sound. In both his poetic images and his accounts of real people doing real projects, Korten is inspiring and encouraging.

the lines about rising planetary consciousness and shifting paradigms, I got queasy, and I grew up on theosophy.

If you are looking for pragmatic arguments to persuade your Libertarian friends that you're not an idealistic airhead, hide this book. With all

To be fair, Korten has solid facts and critique. He points out, for instance, that Adam Smith's "free market" that capitalists so passionately defend as the foundation of democracy was based on these essential elements:
  • Buyers and sellers must be too small to influence the market price.
  • Complete information must be available to all participants and there can be no trade secrets.
  • Sellers must bear the full cost of the products they sell and pass them on in the sale price.
  • Investment capital must remain within national borders and trade between countries must be balanced.
  • Savings must be invested in the creation of productive capital.
If you want a detailed explanation of how what we have does not fit those criteria, Korten provides it. He also details the alternative, the "mindful market," which includes:
  • An index of economic prosperity based on the standard of living, high literacy rate, low infant mortality and child hunger, health of the environment - not stock prices and amount of money being spent.
  • Businesses bearing the cost of their own decisions, not pushing them off on the government in corporate bailouts or on the consumer in government-subsidized prices.
  • Encouraging locally-owned, small-scale firms, run by people who have a stake in the effect of the business on its community and environment.
  • Maintaining an ethical culture.
  • Actively working for equity.
  • Honoring government's necessary role in enforcing equity and ethics in the market.

Seattle is currently experiencing the results of a runaway capitalism that has no mechanisms to make it mindful. Several thousand millionaires driving prices up while the wages of the majority of our residents do not rise to meet them is a textbook illustration of shareholders making monetary wealth by draining the living wealth of the stakeholders. A perfect example of the corporate market versus the mindful market is Boeing's decision to move its corporate headquarters to another location. Because they won't be living here anymore, Boeing's executives will be able to make business decisions that affect Seattle without being distracted by considerations of the effect on the community.

"The market is a sophisticated, but somewhat fragile mechanism for organizing economic life," writes Korten. "[...] Each individual contributes to the whole while meeting their own needs with maximum freedom in the exercise of responsible choice. The healthy market thus encourages diversity, individual initiative and creativity, and productive effort."

It worries me that the dense language and mystical, poetic imagery of David Korten may prevent these core ideas from reaching the people we really have to convince. Perhaps if we read and apply it ourselves, we can reach them.

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