Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Round in Circles: a review of David C. Korten’s The Great Turning

Part One: Politics By Another Name

Over the last few months, as my posts on this blog have strayed from the brass tacks of dealing with peak oil’s consequences, and wandered deeper into the murky territory of mythic narratives and cultural history underlying the predicament of industrial society, quite a few people online and off have asked about my opinion of David Korten’s 2006 book The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community. The questions come naturally, since Korten deals with many of the same issues I’ve tried to address in The Archdruid Report – the centrality of the stories we tell about the world, for example, and the role of history in defining the choices we face in the present – but proposes a different and, to many people, more appealing response than the hard road of personal responsibility and acceptance of natural limits I’ve advocated.

Still, most often up to now I’ve ducked questions about Korten’s book. My initial take on it – based, I freely admit, on nothing more solid than a few minutes spent flipping through its pages at a local progressive bookstore – was that it was just one more naive utopian fantasy projecting its author’s dream of a world he likes onto the inkblot patterns of the deindustrial future. But I finally made time to read it, and it turns out I was quite wrong. The Great Turning is anything but naive, and though it uses the rhetoric of Utopian fantasy it does so in pursuit of a far more pragmatic agenda.

This may be less of a ringing endorsement than it sounds, because that agenda actually has nothing constructive to offer the world as we approach the difficult years in the twilight of the industrial age. Still, it answers a question of some importance to the peak oil movement. For several years now I have been wondering when the first significant figures on the edge of the political mainstream would start trying to coopt peak oil as a weapon in the quest for political power. With the publication of The Great Turning, that moment has arrived.

You have to read The Great Turning carefully to make sense of its political dimension, because the basic narrative that provides its structure obscures that dimension very effectively. The narrative starts by defining two organizing principles for human culture, leading to two possible futures. The first principle Korten calls “Empire.” He spends many pages defining exactly what Empire is and what it does, but those can be summed up readily by describing it as an early 21st century progressive Democrat’s version of evil incarnate. Thus it predictably includes every policy supported by the current US administration. The inevitable future of Empire is what Korten calls the “Great Unraveling,” something not too different from the model of catabolic collapse I’ve proposed here and elsewhere.

Korten’s second principle is Earth Community, which can be summed up with equal facility as everything an early 21st century progressive Democrat considers good. The future toward which Earth Community moves, in Korten’s view is the “Great Turning,” a worldwide change of heart in which people everywhere up and abandon all their Empire-derived bad habits and create a peaceful, just, and sustainable society for all. While Empire has had things pretty much all its own way since before the beginning of recorded history, Earth Community is inherently stronger because, well, it’s so much nicer than Empire, not to mention the Great Unraveling. And this, Korten says, is why believers in Earth Community need to adopt the tactics lately used by the neoconservative movement, seize control of the cultural dialogue, and convince the masses to follow their lead into the brave new world of the Great Turning.

It’s a remarkable scheme, though not an especially original one, and some of its features deserve attention. Notably, it defines the world with a level of moral dualism strident enough to make a third-century Gnostic blush. In place of the sloppy and richly human realities of politics and culture in the world we actually inhabit, The Great Turning offers up a one-dimensional morality play in which Empire and Earth Community are the only options, and the choice between them is a choice between absolute evil leading to planetary suicide, on the one hand, and radiant goodness leading straight on to utopia on the other. Third options and moral ambiguity apparently do not exist in Korten’s cosmos.

His scheme also has a problem, a massive one, with reification. (Those of my readers who aren’t philosophy geeks may want to know that this is the logical mistake of treating an abstraction as a concrete reality.) The concept of “Empire” is a textbook example. In effect, Korten’s simply taken everything he doesn’t like about contemporary industrial society, piled it in a heap, and dressed up the resulting mass in a Snidely Whiplash costume, as though it’s an active and villainous presence in its own right rather than an abstract label for one end of a complex spectrum of human social behavior. Granted, reification is one of the most widespread bad habits in current political discourse, and so it’s not surprising to see it here, but The Great Turning relies on it to an extent few other recent books can match.

Yet the point that seems most important to me about all this is the way it moves at once into what, to students of history, is an uncomfortably familiar kind of doublespeak. In Korten’s view, what makes the tactics of today’s neoconservatives wrong is not that these tactics are morally despicable in themselves; they’re bad solely because the neoconservatives are using them on behalf of Empire, and they become good when proponents of Earth Community take up the same tactics and use them instead. In the same way, a belief system that belongs to Empire is an ideology while a belief system that belongs to Earth Community is an “emerging values consensus,” and when one group of people tell another group of people what to do, it’s the domination of an imperial elite if they speak for Empire, but inspired leadership helping to birth a better world if it serves the interests of Earth Community.

That Earth Community will have leaders, by the way, is something Korten states explicitly. He even sets out exactly who those leaders will be, by way of a political redefinition of developmental psychology that takes up a substantial portion of The Great Turning. The short form is that there are five stages of human psychological and spiritual development. The first, Magical Consciousness, is normal for children from two to six, and focuses on a belief in powerful, magical beings, some benevolent and others malevolent. The second, Imperial Consciousness, is normal from six to twelve and focuses on the ability to control one’s surroundings without any regard for others. The third, Socialized Consciousness, is normal from twelve to sometime after thirty, and focuses on the values and mores of the prevailing culture. The fourth, Cultural Consciousness, can (but does not always) emerge after thirty, and focuses on an inclusive world view founded on liberal political principles. The fifth, Spiritual Consciousness, is only achieved in old age by those whose sense of the oneness of all creation leads them into an even greater commitment to liberal ideals.

What turns this scheme into a political weapon is Korten’s argument that under Empire, most adults remain stuck in immature developmental stages. The more someone’s values and opinions differ from Korten’s, the more firmly he labels them “developmentally challenged” – not exactly a value-free term, given that it’s currently an accepted euphemism for what, in my school days, was called mental retardation. Now the astonishing arrogance implicit in the claim that anyone’s level of psychological and spiritual development can be measured by the extent to which they agree with some particular ideology – excuse me, an “emerging values consensus” – is one thing, but the political implications of a scheme that assumes that some people are naturally suited to lead, and others ought by rights to follow them, is something else again.

Go through The Great Turning with an eye to Korten’s comments about leadership, and a very clear picture emerges of the people he thinks ought to be running the world. They belong to the upper two levels of consciousness, of course, which means that they agree with the “emerging values consensus” of The Great Turning, and also means that all of them are of middle age or older – people below thirty, remember, are by definition stuck in a lower level of consciousness. They have spent time with people of many different cultures, and thus – in terms of today’s world – belong to the middle and upper classes, the people who have the opportunity to travel widely. They do not have influential positions in current economic and political systems; rather, they are attracted to leadership roles in social movements opposed to Empire. Compare each of these points to the details of David Korten’s own biography and it’s hard to miss the conclusion that he thinks the world basically ought to be run by David Korten.

Now as it happens, I fill pretty much all the qualifications Korten outlines for leaders of Earth Community. I was raised in a multicultural family, I’ve traveled abroad, I’m well past thirty, I don’t have a high-ranking or –paying position in business or government, and I serve without salary as the Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America (AODA), a church of Druid nature spirituality with a strong environmental focus. My social and political views, for that matter, are a good deal closer to Korten’s than the above critique might suggest. With all this in mind, I have to say that Korten’s claim that people like me are uniquely suited to lead the world would likely scare me silly if it didn’t make me laugh so hard.

Intellectual idealists like the two of us are, if anything, uniquely unsuited to leadership roles in political life. Politics, as the saying goes, is the art of the possible; it demands a facility for compromise, a readiness to find common ground with people of radically divergent ideals and interests, and a willingness to make room for moral complexity and human fallibility. Idealists are notoriously bad at all these things because they get caught up in the play of abstractions, and too often fail to notice that the real world doesn’t necessarily follow the abstract models we define for it. The results, as a glance at history shows, range from comic-opera ineptitude to Hell on earth.

Yet the seductive notion that the intelligentsia ought to run the world has a long history behind it. In next week’s post, I plan on exploring that history as a way to put Korten’s project into perspective and see how such projects promise to play out as the deindustrial age dawns.


Erik said...

I wonder if he would also banish the poets from his crunchy Republic?


New.Tribal.Orangutang said...

At the same time as considering what you say to be true, and believing that any vision based on a mind shift to global kindness is overly idealistic (even I wouldn't go that far), I would have to disagree with your final statement. I think idealists have a very important role to play in future leadership precisely because they are no good at politics. I don't see politics having a big place in the future, and idealists are so important because they have the big ideas that could lead us forward.

Dmitry said...

I too appear to have all the right qualifications for a planetary leadership role on Planet Korten; too busy, though. Also, don't you think there is a bit of reification going on in ascribing any specific meaning to words like "lead" and "world" in the context of Planet Korten? These words apparently mean something in the Imperial context, where we have all these "world leaders" who gather at Davos. Do you think there would be a Davos conference on Planet Korten? If so, I might be able to find a slot in my busy schedule.

gaspezio said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John Michael Greer said...

Erik, you get the gold star today. But I'm very much afraid that instead of banishing the poets, he'd have them, shall we say, re-educated until they gave up their developmentally challenged ways and embraced his emerging value consensus. More on this in Part Two.

Orangutang, I certainly didn't say that idealists have no role in shaping the future! My point is that they -- myself very much included -- aren't suited to political leadership. Their job is coming up with new visions of what could be; communities then decide whether to embrace those visions, and the politicians hash out the details -- that's what politicians are for. More on this in a later post.

Dmitry, of course there will be a Davos Conference in Korten's utopia; equivalent meetings already take place today among the class of well-heeled social change executives to which Korten belongs, and for whom his book speaks. But I doubt you or me should hold our breath waiting for an invite.

John Michael Greer said...

And a reminder to all -- I know my attitudes on this subject are hopelessly old-fashioned, but insulting language isn't appropriate in public discourse and any comment including it will be deleted, period.

Jim said...

It may be useful to distinguish among different types of power - there are many ways to lead. One is like a military commander or a corporate CEO. But maybe a poor street beggar can also lead society, e.g. by displaying dignity free of material wealth. Poets and philosophers also lead, by pioneering new paths in language and ideas. Commanding is not the only style of leadership.

Of course this is all tricky semantic territory. And the distinctions get very cloudy. Look e.g. at powerful religious leaders like the Pope.

Sabretache said...


Your comment re. the likely treatment of the poets in Korten's Brave New World reminded me forcefully of the treatment of dissenting artists and scientists in the Old Soviet Union. Honest talents of genius subjugated and treated appallingly for declining to bend their creativity to eulogizing the Soviet State and world view - Dimitri Shostokovich, Andrei Sakharov, Alexander Solzhenitsyn and many more.

Korten's vision may well have much to commend it but, in terms of its likely ability to deal fairly with honest dissent, it seems it would fair no better than any other inspired by a non-negotiable world view.

LizM said...

Yes, well, the trouble with idealists (guilty) is the same thing that makes them (us) dabble in dualism and reification. They (we) insist on trying to improve human nature by improving social institutions. You can understand why; it is actually possible for social and politcal institutions to improve the human condition. The US government saw to it that I was immunized against polio; result: I did not contract polio, nor did any member of my family, nor indeed any Americans of my generation. And so when I hear about horrible diseases (leprosy, river blindness, ebola) I imagine what it would be like if governments worked to eliminate this suffering. It's almost impossible to stop the mind slinking off in that direction.

But there is a difference between assuaging aspects of the human condition and improving human nature. Conservatism would work nicely if everyone were generous, ethical, tolerant, fully informed and community-minded, which millions from all points on the political spectrum refuse to be every day. The same can be said of progressive philosophy. It would work if everyone were frugal, responsible, and prepared to live with some inconvenience. But even those of us who are idealists have a hard time seeing the rubbish we leave in our wake, or the vapor trail.

I watch a lot of samurai films, and one of the first things you learn is that the Tokugawa Shogunate, although very bad, was not worse than the warring states period that preceded it. There are no heroes or villains; just those who use their abilities well, or badly. History seems to be this terrible game of tennis, where everyone and everything gets batted back and forth between competing institutional nightmares. I think Korten is trying to imagine something better, while still staying in the game. That means he's trusting people to be good, and not, say, form a concensus that slavery is acceptable. And there's the problem. What do you do with a planet full of creatures not all of whom are good Kortens?

However, let's be fair to David Korten. Yes, he reifies Empire. But let's face it: greed, malice, ineptitude, indifference, arrogance and contempt for others dressed up as Snidely Whiplash pretty well describes Dick Cheney, no? I mean you can hardly do justice to the grand guignol of the current administration without lapsing into reification.

Now, if there were a way to talk them down from the gallows and get them to relinquish their cartoon ambitions, I'd like to hear it.

Jerry McManus said...

Thanks for taking the time to elucidate your thoughts on such a regular basis, your writings are well crafted and I've been a fan of your work going back to your essay on catabolic collapse.

I think your dismantling of Korten and his ilk is spot on, for as much as I too share their love of the ideal of environmental utopian bliss I often find myself repulsed by the idealists themselves, they can often be a self righteous bunch. I was amused when a neo-conservative strategist remarked recently that environmentalists are just plain "mean people" and for that reason alone he refuses to talk to them.

I look forward to seeing where you are going with your thoughts on myth and magic, although I must admit your teasers to date have not quite rung true for me. Your recent writing on Hitler and Ghandi, his "retelling of the myth of colonial empire" for example, seem to me to be a little off the mark.

First, on a superficial level, it seems to me that our choice is not so much a Ghandi or Hitler future, but could better be framed as a choice between a Cuba or North Korea future. Both are contemporary examples of countries that faced a sudden reduction in energy resources and the consequent failure of their industrialized agriculture, and yet two very different outcomes: Cuba with it's socialist response of community gardens and social health services, in stark comparison to North Korea and it's totalitarian police state response of forced labor and famine. Which then begs the question: which country does the US more closely resemble? I fear the answer does not bode well for our future.

Second, on a more philosophical level, I feel the idea of "retelling of myth" speaks more about the telling of stories, and about the storytellers themselves (the word myth itself having roots in ancient oral traditions) and not enough is said about where those stories actually come from.

At the risk of seeming to split rhetorical hairs, I would argue that it is our collective consciousness, ala Jung and his archetypes, that is ultimately the source of the events of our daily lives. Yes, Ghandi gave voice to ideals of non-violent non-cooperation that resonated with a population that yearned to be free of British oppression, and yes Hitler expressed ideals of Aryan supremacy that resonated deeply with a population weary of economic depression and yearning for lost glory reclaimed, but those ideals already lived in the collective consciousness of all involved and, I would argue, merely found natural expression in those charismatic leaders who 'tuned-in' to that collective desire.

And so I ask you, was the Age of Reason a myth told by enlightenment thinkers, or was it a collective desire to be free of Catholic dogma? Was the civil rights movement a myth told by Martin Luther King Jr., or was it a collective desire to be free of racism and social injustice? Was the fall of the Berlin Wall a myth told by Eastern Europeans, or was it their collective desire to be free of Soviet dominance? Is democracy a myth told by Libertarians, or is it a collective desire for individual liberty? Is limitless progress a myth told by industrial civilization, or is it a collective desire for ever greater opportunities to live a better life?

I thought it was interesting that Al Gore recently made the observation that politics often resembles the non-linear behavior seen in the climate record, namely that some ideas will seem to make extremely slow progress in the halls of power, and then some sort of tipping point is reached and suddenly swift action is taken all at once. This would seem to support the notion that ideals, or myths, or archetypes, or what have you, can percolate in the collective consciousness for a time until some sort of critical mass is reached, whereupon they emerge spontaneously into our societies through our arts, our religions, and our politics.

The climate crisis itself is a fine example of this sort of sudden realization dawning on the world, and I believe the same idea also serves to explain the almost religious belief in a technological fix for our predicament, which is at its heart a natural expression of the intense collective desire for things to at least keep going the way they are, and to not get any worse.

I've rambled on for far too long already, so let me conclude with the thought that it is not so much a question of our replacing the myth of progress, which seems to imply that if we just tell the right story then people will be inspired to act on it, but instead it is a question of what ideals will spontaneously emerge from our collective consciousness as we enter the post industrial future?

Will it turn out that the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were really only luxuries in an age of relatively abundant resources?

Loveandlight said...


He'd banish all of them except for The People's Poet!

Loveandlight said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jerry McManus said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John Michael Greer said...

Please note the above comment about insulting language. Jerry, thank you for your efforts, but I can and will screen posts here for relevance; you don't need to stoop to the level of the people you criticize.

John Michael Greer said...

Jim, of course you're right that there are many ways to approach issues of leadership, and again, I'm speaking here of political leadership. Some of the others will come up for more discussion in future posts.

Sabretache, you're using that darned crystal ball again -- getting into the details of next week's post in advance!

Lizm, I'd suggest that the best way to start making sense of the current US administration, or anyone else labeled "enemy," is to spend some time realizing that we all have the same Snidely Whiplash potential inside us. Granted, some of us have embraced our inner Snidelys a little more enthusiastically than others, but the habit of demonizing one's political opponents leads nowhere useful.

As for the Tokugawa shogunate, my take is that though it had its problems, like every social system, it was worlds better than the brutal chaos of the sengoku jidai (period of warring states) that preceded it. Tokugawa Ieyasu won the loyalty of a very large part of the common people and bourgeoisie of 17th century Japan because he brought centuries of feudal warfare to an end, and established a peace in which cultural initiatives could flower. As an example of a thriving literate culture running on very little energy, it's actually a good source of inspiration for what a postpetroleum world might look like.

Jerry, I don't think I suggested a "Gandhi or Hitler future" -- simply that Gandhi and Hitler represent two ends of a spectrum of creative mythmaking. As our current myths die around us, new myths will emerge, and the character of the people who shape those myths will have a lot to do with the way they shape the world.

I don't agree with your suggestion that we are basically passive recipients of myths that boil up from the collective unconscious -- or, rather, people in the modern world tend to be passive recipients of myth, but we don't have to be. Myth can be crafted consciously by those who learn the art of symbolic engineering...otherwise known as magic. More about this after the Korten review finishes.

All -- I know I've ended up saying "more about this later" a lot. That's because quite a few of you are running ahead of me! One step at a time...

Rabbit said...

"Cuba with it's socialist response of community gardens and social health services, in stark comparison to North Korea and it's totalitarian police state response of forced labor and famine."

I find this unquestioning belief in the absolute truth of the Cuba film rather alarming. It is worth considering that miles and miles of footage got edited out before its release. What we know of Cuba's peak oil survival is filtered through the Community Solutions' political, cultural, and economic goals. What got cut, and why?

Erik said...

"Vegetable rights and peace!"
I used to watch that... hadn't thought about it in years, though.

"...embraced our inner Snidelys"
I am so stealing that line... you almost made me snort my tea. :)

LizM said...


I don't think I'm demonizing the current administration, I'm just gobsmacked by the absurdity and violence of their behavior. And yes I'm sure I have an inner Snidely, but the human race survives because most of us keep him pretty thoroughly contained. What stuns me is that we haven't been able to stop or even slow the efforts of those who do not. Nothing we're doing is working, and I include confronting our own inner Snidely. We sit in meditation; the go on killing sprees just the same. I'm just looking for something else to do that might be more effective. And no you don't have to provide the answer right now or even next week. I'm just throwing it out there.

I agree that Japanese History, and the Tokugawa period in particular, has a great deal to offer as an example of living large within a solar and hydropower budget -- although their toilet arrangments could be seriously improved on. Having said that, I am not a fan of aristocracies, and the injustices of the Tokugawa will do as well as any to illustrate why.

I did once hear a joke of sorts that interests me. It was that the Danish monarch has been given absolute power as long as she promises not to use it. An elegant arrangement that places the dangerous object of ambition and desire in a box. I wish we could do something like that.

In most of life's endeavors, it works well to let those who crave a certain kind of work do it. It works to let those who love to practice an instrument all day be the musicians, and to let those who really want to spend their days making wine be the vintners. But we do seem to run into trouble when we let people who are especially obsessed with power have it.

John Michael Greer said...

Rabbit, agreed -- The Power of Community was heavily edited to support a particular political agenda, and to play down the fact that one of the main things that allowed Cuba to deal with the oil shortage was a command economy and a political dictatorship. On the other hand, it's also true that Cuba's response worked a lot better than North Korea's, and there are things to be learned from that.

Erik, swipe away.

Lizm, I don't see the current US administration's policies as absurd -- immoral and ultimately self-defeating, yes, but rational within the context of today's political realities. The vast majority of Americans aren't willing to accept a reduction of their standard of living to Third World levels, which is what a transition to sustainability would require, and any politician who even attempts to move in that direction is writing RIP to his career. That's backed the American political class into a corner, and the Oil Wars are one predictable result.

You're quite right that this won't be changed by meditating. It will be changed when most Americans accept that the petroleum age is over and their expectations and sense of entitlement have to be reined back to deindustrial levels. Since this will most likely happen about the same time as pigs sprout wings, the Oil Wars are likely to go on for quite a while yet.

This is one of the reasons why I tend to argue against the idea that political action can solve the peak oil problem (which isn't a problem capable of being solved, anyway, but a predicament that must simply be faced and accepted). Changing our own lives and helping others see that the alternative works is the one option we've got at this point. Today's politics are the product of yesterday's personal choices -- and today's personal choices will define the politics of tomorrow. That, it seems to me, is the handle we need to grab hold of.

Jerry McManus said...

As our current myths die around us, new myths will emerge,...

Isn't that the same thing I said?

I don't agree with your suggestion that we are basically passive recipients of myths that boil up from the collective unconscious...

That's not really what I said, or at least that's not what I meant. It's interesting you chose the word 'unconscious' and equated that with something that we are passive recipients of. Clearly you've been reading Freud, but like I said I don't want to split hairs.

The idea I was getting at is that anyone can stand on a soapbox and yell about this or that, but it is only the one in a million that yells what people want to hear that becomes a leader. Viable alternatives to our current predicament have been clearly articulated for decades now, but very few people have been listening. When that changes then all else will follow. In the meantime I'll be quiet and enjoy reading your thoughts on "symbolic engineering". Ciao.

Raymond said...

Depressing article all around.
I agree, Korten is a liberal(whatever that word means nowadays)
elitist.Scratch him, and you'll probably find an aristocratic despot.

I find it difficult to believe all humans will completely revert to base peasant savagery by 2150.There are too many unknowns.

I _do_ believe the next 20 years will make or break our transition into whatever brave new world we end up in.

John Michael Greer said...

Jerry, thanks for the clarification. My question might be better phrased as whether a new myth gains power because it's what people already want, or because it's told in such a way as to help people redefine what they want and how they want it. No, I don't have a conclusive answer, but I want to explore the possibilities of the second approach.

Raymond, I agree with you -- the claim that "all humans will completely revert to base peasant savagery by 2150" (or any later date) doesn't stand up to close examination. As I've suggested more than once, decline is a complex process. As for Korten, my guess is that given power, he'd become a despot for the same reason so many well-meaning people have done -- because he's convinced he knows how to fix the world, and that the importance of his goals justify the means he uses to make them happen. I'm sure his intentions are good, but I trust we all know where the road paved with good intentions leads.

Jan Steinman said...

I'm troubled that you come down so hard on Korten. Is it because he's a publisher, and thus "in the belly of the beast?"

I think we need to avoid that fatal malady of the left: self-division. Most of what the right has accomplished recently can be chalked up to getting their troops in a line. The left has never been good at that, bickering with each other and poking holes in each other's arguments, which the right merrily take up, having saved them the work of doing it themselves!

Having heard Korten speak in public, I'm impressed. I don't have to agree with everything he says (I don't) in order to cheer him on and to hope he can reach an audience who might be a bit aloof from someone who calls himself "The Grand Archdruid." We only need look within to find elitism!

John Michael Greer said...

Yes, I was wondering when a comment of this sort would arrive. No, I'm not particularly concerned that Korten is in the publishing industry; I'm a professional writer by trade, and though I've been known to have unkind thoughts about editors and publishers I don't think their political ideas are a load of hooey on principle!

My objection to Korten's ideas is centrally that I think they're bad ideas. As part 2 of the review ought to make plain, they're not new ideas, they consistently don't work, and if people concerned about the coming of the deindustrial age adopt them, a lot of energy, resources, and time will be wasted. Suggesting that the Left ought to fall in rank behind them anyway, just because Korten belongs to that end of the political spectrum, seems hopelessly counterproductive to me.

As for the moniker "Grand Archdruid," that's been the official title of the head of the Ancient Order of Druids in America since it was founded in 1912. It wasn't my idea; it came with the package when I was elected to that office in 2003. Tell me, do you consider the Dalai Lama an elitist because he also has a colorful title inherited from his predecessors?

Alan2012 said...

J M Greer wrote:

"What turns this scheme into a political weapon is Korten’s argument that under Empire, most adults remain stuck in immature developmental stages. The more someone’s values and opinions differ from Korten’s, the more firmly he labels them “developmentally challenged” –not exactly a value-free term, given that it’s currently an accepted euphemism for what, in my school days, was called mental retardation." end quote

No, Korten is not talking about
mental retardation. This has nothing
to do with intelligence. It has
to do with developmental
altitude. Read Wilber.

J M Greer wrote:

"Now the astonishing arrogance implicit in the claim that anyone’s level of psychological and spiritual development can be measured by the extent to which they agree with some particular ideology – excuse me, an “emerging values consensus” – is one thing, but the political implications of a scheme that assumes that some people are naturally suited to lead, and others ought by rights to follow them, is something else again." end quote

It is not a matter of "agreeing
with a particular ideology". Gads!
You've missed his point completely.

You're drawing a cartoon picture
of Korten. It is most unbecoming
of you.

Read Wilber!


Alan2012 said...

Second thoughts, the morning after:

"Korten is not talking about mental

Right, he isn't.

"This has nothing to do with

Not quite right. Intelligence is
permissive, here. It is necessary
but not sufficient. An easy example
for me is ME: fairly high
intelligence, but developmentally
challenged and still struggling.
My intelligence CAN be helpful, but
it is up to me to make it so. It is
not automatic.

In any case, the characterization
of Korten as an arrogant, elitist
asshole is unfair and foolish, if
you take his words in proper
context. John and others seem set
on portraying him as a green
neo-fascist, or stalinist (!), and
I am not seeing that. Where is
the evidence of it? Repress poets,
etc.? Where the hell did that come

Give me some evidence, and maybe
I will believe. The acknowledgement
(by Korten) of the existence
of developmental levels,
and that not everyone is on the
same level, does not constitute
evidence. It just constitutes an
appreciation of psychologic


PS: Dmitry wrote:

"don't you think there is a bit of reification going on in ascribing any specific meaning to words like "lead" and "world" in the context of Planet Korten? These words apparently mean something in the Imperial context, where we have all these "world leaders" who gather at Davos."

Yes! By George you've got it!

Those words mean **something
else**, in the Imperial context,
than what they mean by Korten's
intention. "Leader" does not mean
tyrant-wannabe or elitist asshole.
IOW, it is possible to be an
authentic leader. Hard to imagine,
I know, but true.

Alan2012 said...

Korten, here:

"Over a lifetime, those who enjoy the requisite emotional support traverse a pathway from the narcissistic, undifferentiated magical consciousness of the newborn to the fully mature, inclusive, and multidimensional spiritual consciousness of the wise elder. The lower, more narcissistic, orders of consciousness are perfectly normal for young children, but become sociopathic in adults and are easily encouraged and manipulated by advertisers and demagogues. The higher orders of consciousness are a necessary foundation of mature democracy. Perhaps Empire's greatest tragedy is that its cultures and institutions systematically suppress our progress to the higher orders of consciousness." End quote

Yes. Well said. I'm looking for
the Stalinism there, but not
finding it. Can anyone help?

Korten continues:

"Given that Empire has prevailed for 5,000 years, a turn from Empire to Earth Community might seem a hopeless fantasy if not for the evidence from values surveys that a global awakening to the higher levels of human consciousness is already underway. This awakening is driven in part by a communications revolution that defies elite censorship and is breaking down the geographical barriers to intercultural exchange.
The consequences of the awakening are manifest in the civil rights, women's, environmental, peace, and other social movements. These movements in turn gain energy from the growing leadership of women, communities of color, and indigenous peoples, and from a shift in the demographic balance in favor of older age groups more likely to have achieved the higher-order consciousness of the wise elder." End quote.

Mixed bag.

Global awakening already underway?
Yes, some evidence of that --
combined with evidence of
global ensleepening. It might
boil down to whether you
see the glass as half empty or
half full -- except that the
glass might be more like 1/4 and
3/4. More empirical study is
required, and much more wise
interpretation of said study is

There is unquestionably "a
communications revolution that defies elite censorship" underway,
and it is mostly good, but also
(like everything!) a mixed bag.

"The consequences of the awakening
are manifest in the civil
rights...", etc. -- kinda sorta.
This is to some extent green
hubris (Korten himself should
read Wilber, especially
Boomeritis!), but there is also
some reality to it. Give credit
where it is due.

MIXED BAG, friends. This guy ought
not be reduced to an arrogant,
crypto-fascist windbag as he has
been portrayed, above. That's
really really stupid, sorry to say.


Alan2012 said...

BEGIN QUOTE from Korten's

Community Initiatives/Port Townsend
Local 2020, Port Townsend, Washington
Submitted by Frank Hoffman

Port Townsend is a rural, seaport community on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. There are about 27,000 people in the entire county. It's on Puget Sound, with views of the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges. It's a pretty place, attractive to tourists and retirees. The paper plant is still a large employer and fishing boats still work out of the port.

Inspired by Brian Weller's (WELL) description of economic localisation efforts in Willits, CA, the founders of the Port Townsend EarthDay Everyday festival and the Jefferson Energy Council helped formed Local 20/20. Our mission is: Working together to create a thriving local culture that balances economy, ecology and community.

Local 20/20 quickly evolved into 12 Action Groups:

Economic Localisation
Emergency Preparedness
Health and Wellness
Community Outreach
Wild Areas
Waste and Recycling
Giving Back

People have been moving back and forth among the groups trying to find a right fit of interest and personalities.

...snip... END QUOTE

Hmmm. Sounds excellent. No
arrogant elitism evident.
No crypto-fascist undertones. No
extravagant Pollyanna-ish
plans to save the world. No
Bolshevik revolutions. Just
common sense and well-grounded,
local/regional practical
response to obvious looming

Here here!