The Post-Corporate World: Life after Capitalism

Posted: 24 July 2001

Author: David C. Korten
Kumarian Press and Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc, Connecticut, USA, 1999, US$27.95

When Adam Smith, a moral philosopher, advocated the importance of letting the free market become the mechanism of economic activity, it was a different world. Strong families, strong rural communities, strong market towns, strong small cities and strong nations were in place. The political and economic systems were much more decentralised and international trading was like icing on the cake.

But now, at the end of the twentieth century, the idea of Adam Smith and the mechanism of the free market, has been hijacked by a few clever corporations. As a result, the free market has actually been destroyed and capitalism has taken over the world economy. No wonder that George Soros, one of the world's big financial players, has declared that the capitalist system poses danger to an open society. But David Korten goes a step further and believes that in the 1990s capitalism has already triumphed over democracy and the market economy. Under capitalism, democracy is for sale to the highest bidder and the market is controlled by global corporations, larger than most states.

This is a radical statement that laments the curse of Midas, a Greek mythological king, who was given power to turn anything he touched into gold. But when his touch turned his food, drink and even his beloved daughter to gold, he realised that his assumed blessing was in fact a curse. He had gold without limit, but no life, no food, no clothes - nothing. The modern world of money is facing a similar problem, the industrialised western world, in particular, is living under the dictatorship of the dollar, and democracy has become mirage.

The problem for Korten is not the market, it is the capitalism that is like a cancer growing, growing and growing. Consumerism, materialism and greed, guide the policies of the new-world order. But the tragedy is that what is in reality a cancer is seen as a desirable growth. And in the name of economic growth, this growth of this cancer is promoted as progress. One billion dollars a day, seven billion dollars a week, 365 billion dollars a year, are spent on advertising. Economic growth has become an obsession. Consuming has become a patriotic duty. Capitalism has been successful in brain-washing everybody into thinking that money is the source of happiness. Capitalism is the religion of our time.

But David Korten, first through his book When Corporations Rule the World and now through this book, is speaking the truth and pointing out that the Emperor has no clothes. Capitalism is depleting the natural capital, the human capital, the social capital, and the institutional capital. Thus capitalism is bankrupting itself.

The answer is to move from such destructive capitalism to community-based, small-scale and fair market economy; where self-organisation, sharing, inclusiveness, co-operation, cultural diversity and respect for the environment become the guiding principles.

The Post-Corporate World doesn't just curse the darkness, it lights the candles. It proposes a positive and constructive programme for transformation, it inspires and encourages action to rebuild a true market economy.

Korten is the right man to expose capitalism and advocate a fair market because having been through both Stanford University and Harvard University, he knows the theory and practice of the corporate world. Also, having worked in a number of third world countries he has first-hand experience of societies oppressed by inequity, exploitation and western domination. He has produced an authentic and challenging book.

Reviewer: Satish Kumar

Reviewer Info: Satish Kumar is Editor of Resurgence magazine.