David Korten Awtt Portrait

David Korten

Economist, Writer, Publisher : b. 1937

“. . . our economic crisis is, at its core, a moral crisis. Our economic institutions and rules, even the indicators by which we measure economic performance, consistently place financial values ahead of life values. They are brilliantly effective at making money for rich people. . . . Our children, families, and communities, and natural systems of Earth have paid an intolerable price. If the world is to work for any of us, it must work for all of us.”


David Korten is a leading critic of corporate globalization and a visionary proponent of a global system of local economies. His international best seller, When Corporations Rule the World (1995), helped frame the argument for worldwide resistance against corporate globalization. The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community (2006) illuminated the significance of this resistance by placing it in the historical context of five thousand years of empire building and the organization of human relationships by “dominator” hierarchies. Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth (2009) offered economic proposals that address the underlying cause of the recent economic collapse, not just its symptoms. Change the Story, Change the Future: A Living Economy for a Living Earth (2015) documented Korten’s “search for a story that reflects the fullness of human knowledge and understanding and provides a guide to action adequate to the needs of our time.”

Korten was born in Longview, Washington, in 1937. During his professional career, he became increasingly discouraged that the values he learned as a child and believed to be conservative – family, community, peace, justice, and nature – were ignored or suffered as a result of policies and directives of the very institutions he served.

Korten served in the U.S. Air Force, acquired M.B.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and was a professor for five years at Harvard Business School. He also worked for the Ford Foundation as a project specialist and as the Asia regional adviser on development management to the U.S. Agency for International Development. Thirty years working as a development professional in Asia, Africa, and Latin America eventually opened his eyes to the devastating consequences of an economic system designed to make rich people richer without regard to the human and environmental consequences. He left the foreign aid establishment and joined the global resistance against flawed development models.

While many people refer to Korten as an economist, he is by training and inclination a student of psychology and behavioral systems. From the time he began his graduate studies at Stanford in 1959, he has been seeking to deepen his understanding of how cultures and institutional structures shape human behavior and to search for ways by which we humans can do a better job of supporting one another in achieving the higher order potentials of our nature.

While at Stanford, Korten met and married his life partner, Fran Korten, who was a Ford Foundation program officer for twenty years in the Philippines, Indonesia, and New York and then publisher/executive director of YES! magazine.

Korten is co-founder and board chair of the Positive Futures Network, which publishes YES! magazine; founder and president of the People-Centered Development Forum; and founding board member of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. He served as co-chair of the New Economy Working Group, seeking to frame the Agenda for a New Economy and build support for transformational change through grassroots and media outreach.  He is also a founding associate of the International Forum on Globalization and a major contributor to its report Alternatives to Economic Globalization.

Korten once said to a reporter, “The work that’s involved in creating a new economy and a new human civilization calls us to be our most creative and innovative, and it puts us in contact with the world’s most wonderful people. And it is a whole lot more fun and satisfying than allowing oneself to sink into the depths of despair and cynicism.”


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