Walking Away from Empire; Living Community into Being
by David C. Korten

Part I: Introduction

The great work of humanity at this historic moment is to negotiate a transition from an Era of Empire to an Era of Community. Economic transformation from a global suicide economy to a planetary system of living economies is an essential centerpiece of this transition.

Part II: Corporate Pathology and the Suicide Economy

The publicly traded, limited liability corporation is the defining institution of a suicide economy driven to destroy life to make money for those who have money. It is by design an institution of domination and the champion of a materialistic consumer culture that has no evident place in healthy societies.

Part III: Natural Succession and the Step to Maturity

Margaret Wheatley


Living systems are self-organizing, emergent, and predominantly cooperative. Transformative change in ecosystems commonly occurs through processes of succession and displacement that offer important insights into the processes of economic transformation toward the healthy, mature societies of the future.

Deborah Frieze

For excellent essays on advancing large scale social change through the analogous processes of emergence and displacement see Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze, “How Large-Scale Change Really Happens – Working with Emergence” and “Using Emergence to Take Social Innovations to Scale.



Part IV: Awakening Consciousness and the Human Possible

Humanity is experiencing a deep awakening of cultural and spiritual consciousness that opens the way to a conscious recreation of human culture and institutions. This awakening opens the way to human possibilities that the culture and institutions of Empire have long denied.

Part V: Mature Communities and Living Economies

The step to the cultural and institutional maturity of an Era of Community has become a human imperative. The living economies of the new era will be comprised of life serving living enterprises that function as communities of people engaged in the creation of meaningful livelihoods.

Part VI: Living the Future into Being

Millions of life serving, community rooted for profit enterprises, nonprofit organizations, and public programs already exist as potential building blocks of living economies. Many are reaching out to one another, growing into being the webs of relationships of emergent living economies. This is a key to transformational change.

NEXT: Introduction


See also:

Dialogue on “Living Economies for a Living Planet” by Betty Quick, Joanna Macy, Richard Perl, Elisabet Sahtouris, Tom Atlee, Judy Wicks, Sarah van Gelder and Ernie Lowe.

Supporting Essays on Living Economies by Elisabet Sahtouris, Hans-Peter Duerr, David Korten and Victor Bremson.

The Path to Living Economies
A collaborative working document of the Social Ventures Network

I’m indebted to Victor Bremson, Richard Perl, Elisabet Sahtouris, John Steiner, Judy Wicks for their ideas and feedback and for subsequent commentary by Tom Atlee, Hans-Peter Duerr, Charlie Kouns, Ernie Lowe, and Joanna Macy. [See dialogue]In its present form this essay assumes the reader is familiar with the evidence and the argument that humanity is in deep crisis and that the legal institutional form of the publicly traded, limited liability corporation bears major responsibility. Readers who seek further documentation and analysis on these underlying premises are referred to David C. Korten, When Corporations Rule the World and The Post-Corporate World: Life After Capitalism and other documents and archive materials available on this website.For other resources on living economies see The Path to Living Economies, a collaborative essay prepared by a working group of the Social Ventures Network (SVN). The website of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), a new organization launched by SVN in late 2001 is a particularly important resource  — especially for those seeking to organize living economies in their own communities. YES! A Journal of Positive Futures is also a rich source of material on economic alternatives and will publish a special theme issue on living economies in Fall 2002.


March 2002